The Educational Theatre Association has determined the most-produced plays and musicals at high schools nationwide during the 2016-17 school year. More than 25,000 schools were surveyed. The data was expanded for this year's study to include attendance at these shows: 49.4 million!
"The Addams Family" topped the most-produced musicals list for the second year, followed by "Beauty and the Beast," "Shrek," "Seussical," "Cinderella," "The Little Mermaid," "The Wizard of Oz," "Into the Woods," "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Grease."
In Connecticut, you could have found school productions of "The Addams Family" last year in West Hartford, Naugatuck, Montville, Old Saybrook, Mansfield and elsewhere.
The top high school plays were "Almost, Maine," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "The Crucible," "You Can't Take It With You," various versions of "Alice in Wonderland," "Peter and the Starcatcher," "12 Angry Jurors," various "A Christmas Carol"s, "Macbeth" and "Our Town." Note that only two of those titles are less than 60 years old.
The EdTA also compiles a list of most-produced "short plays," where the titles and authors aren't quite as familiar. "Alice in Wonderland" makes that list too, at number four, but the top three are "Check, Please" by Jonathan Rand, "10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse" by Don Zolidis and the David Ives comedy compendium "All in the Timing." The topical "13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview" by Ian McWethy and the large-cast school-based "This is a Test" by Stephen Gregg are numbers five and six on the short plays top 10, followed by a trio of comedies about auditions: Christopher Durang's "The Actor's Nightmare," "Don Zolidis' "The Audition" and Ian McWethy's "Bad Auditions by Bad Actors." And number 10? The sequel to number one: Rand's "Check Please: Take 2."
Nice to see high school appreciating the classics, but just as nice to see them doing contemporary shows that speak to their own concerns, and having a little fun.
Tuesdays Without Morrie
Mitch Albom flew to Massachusetts every week to be with his old professor Morrie Schwartz, and he never had these problems.
The national tour of "Tuesdays With Morrie" — starring Jamie Farr and slated to play in Hartford and Ridgefield this fall — ran into trouble when its director Ron Ulrich and Farr's co-star David Keeley were denied work visas to come into the U.S. from Canada. This week Farr announced that due to the visa snafu he was leaving the tour as well. In a statement he called Ulrich and Keeley "an integral part" of the tour, which had already played Canada successfully.
Producer William Rogers suggested that he could recast the tour and see if there was still demand for it. The Bushnell has canceled its Oct. 15 booking of the show. As of Wednesday, "Morrie" was still listed on the Ridgefield Playhouse schedule for Nov. 5.
Mark Twain Last Night
Hal Holbrook, who for more than 60 years has portrayed Connecticut's own Mark Twain, retired that solo show Sept. 13. Holbrook — who celebrated his 90th birthday in a special ceremony at the Mark Twain House two years ago — began performing "Mark Twain Tonight!" in 1954. He hung up his white mustache and cigar after a show in Oklahoma, canceling a planned fall tour. That makes Holbrook's May 14, 2016, appearance at the Garde Arts Center in New London his last Connecticut night of "Mark Twain Tonight!" Unless, of course, reports of the show's death have been greatly exaggerated.
Update Your Calendar
A slew of new bookings have quietly snuck onto the schedules at some of the state's bigger theaters. One of the Connecticut Forum events, Nov. 18 at The Bushnell, will feature comedian/actors Marc Maron and Fred Armisen chatting with Colin McEnroe. Also upcoming at The Bushnell: a one-night stand of the rockabilly ubiquity "Million Dollar Quartet" March 8. 860-987-5900 and bushnell.org.
Recent additions to the Ridgefield Playhouse schedule include sandpaper-voiced satirist Colin Quinn's "One in Every Crowd" set Jan. 11; the cuddly duo of Judy Gold and Bruce Vilanch touring as "Big and Tall" Jan. 27; cabaret stars Ann Hampton Callaway and Cyrille Aimée March 2; the tribute acts "One Night of Queen" (April 6) and "With Love From Whitney" (April 7); and "An Evening With Bebe Neuwirth" April 14. Details at 203-438-5795, ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
The Garde Arts Center is getting the reliable girls-night-out show "Girls Night" on Oct. 27 and the new tour of "The Wizard of Oz" on May 3 (a month or so after it plays The Bushnell.) 860-444-7373, gardearts.org.
Westport Country Playhouse's just-announced 2017-18 Family Festivities Series will include national tours of the kid-friendly shows "A Christmas Carol" (Dec. 17); "Nugget and Fang" (Jan. 21); "Junie B. Jones" (Feb. 11); "Pinkalicious, the Musical" ( March 11); "How I Became a Pirate" (April 15); and "Harry The Dirty Dog" (May 6). The tours come from such reputable kid-show producers as TheatreWorks USA, ArtsPower and Vital Theatre Company. Some of these tours are already visiting other theaters in Connecticut: The Bushnell, for instance has "…Pirate" on April 17. Details of the Family Festivities Series are at 203-227-4177, westportplayhouse.org.
Back Together Again
And they say there are no repertory companies anymore. Of the six actors playing "Mechanicals" in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Hartford Stage, three were doing similar shtick in the theater's previous Shakespeare show, "A Comedy of Errors."
At Playhouse on Park, two of the residents of "Avenue Q" shared the same stage in "[title of show]" last season.
The upcoming Yale Rep production of Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" has a cast of 17, of which four are current students at the Yale School of Drama and six have appeared on the Rep stage previously at least twice.
For "Enemy" star Reg Rogers, this is his seventh show at Yale Rep.