South Sound Theaters, Fall 2011 Season Preview

“A delicious pairing.” “Two peas in a pod.” From culinary masterpieces to the best of friends, there’s nothing better than two singular sensations combined to make the perfect pair. That’s especially true this fall on the stages of the South Puget Sound; theaters all through the region are starting the season with a powerful one-two punch of quality entertainment and thrilling storytelling.

Read on for the Fall 2011 theater season, where musical and theatrical pairings will delight and charm, terrify and mystify, or make your heart sing with nostalgia and timeless sentiment.

Two Extraordinary Women and Two Holiday Spectaculars: The Broadway Center for the Performing Arts sets the standard with two unique pairings. Fall brings two women who are masters of their craft: a Celtic musician and an outrageous comedienne. Órla Fallon of Celtic Woman brings her harp and beautifully sung traditional Irish airs to the Broadway Center stage in October. In November, legendary powerhouse Joan Rivers sounds off with her trademark wit and a lifetime of experience in the entertainment industry.

For the holiday season, enjoy the unique pairing of the classical and the whimsical. Gather up your sugarplums and soldiers for Tacoma City Ballet’s Christmas favorite, “The Nutcracker,” and then treat yourself to the Seattle Men’s Chorus: The Big Band Theory. This year’s chorus performance, which has become a Northwest tradition, will combine jazzy Christmas tunes with the geeky shenanigans of characters from TV’s “The Big Bang Theory.” (Get your tickets early for this annually sold-out show!)

Two-Month Celebration: Throughout September and October, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts brings you CenterFest, a festival of community and the arts. CenterFest includes an art show and live auction event, a tea dance, and a grand gala performance you won’t want to miss: Lorna Luft in Songs My Mother Taught Me, a celebration of the songs of Judy Garland. In this acclaimed multimedia spectacle, Luft combines beloved songs with a daughter’s loving reminiscences in a riveting musical event.

Two Lost Souls: Lakewood Playhouse loves to open its season with mystery and intrigue, and in Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” you’ll get a dose of the supernatural too. Two young boys become unlikely heroes as they fight to save their families from Mr. Dark and his thrilling, terrifying carnival for lost souls.

Later at Lakewood Playhouse, another lost soul winds his way through London’s dangerous underworld of thieves and villains: Oliver Twist, the orphan boy of Charles Dickens fame. With unforgettable characters and musical numbers like “As Long as He Needs Me” and “I’d Do Anything,” the play “Oliver!” brings the boy to love and family at last.

Two Ghost Stories With Heart: After beginning its season with the engaging, neurotic overachievers in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (in which the kids are played by adults), Tacoma Little Theatre moves into darker territory just in time for Halloween. In a stylish retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Victorian horror story “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” even the evil Hyde can love and be loved.

For the holidays, another well-known ghost story, comes to life in “A Christmas Carol,” with Charles Dickens himself as host. The story is told in Dickens’ own parlor, with his family and friends acting the parts and reminding us all of the true Christmas spirit.

Two Audience Favorites: Harlequin Productions celebrates its loyal audience this fall, remounting a favorite from the past and continuing a beloved seasonal tradition.

In the 10-year anniversary edition of the classic romance, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” you’ll revisit the man who is everything a hero should be: courageous and eloquent—but ugly. Too ashamed to reveal his love to the beauteous Roxanne, Cyrano helps the handsome but inarticulate Christian win her heart. From battleground to balcony, the play is an elegant, tragic tale you won’t want to miss.

After Cyrano, Harlequin stages “Stardust Serenade,” the next installment in its original holiday series. South Sound audiences have made the Stardust gang a regular part of their holidays for more than 15 years. Join the fun with swingin’ WWII-era tunes, zany comedy and nostalgic holiday cheer for the whole family.

Two Big Dreamers: Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre immortalizes in song two radically different women who both knew how to cause a stir. First up, “Saving Aimee” takes you to 1920s Los Angeles with Aimee Semple McPherson. This new musical uses real events to tell the story of a charismatic evangelist whose famous quest to save a million souls was outshone only by her constant presence in the tabloids.

Next, the 5th Avenue transports you even further back in time, to a very different sort of dreamer. A sumptuous production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” whirls you into a fairy tale world of song, dance and true romance. See it for the first time or the 50th and sing along to all your favorites, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible” and “The Prince Is Giving a Ball!”

With so many exceptional pairings on stage this fall, you’ll want to leave room in your calendar for multiple nights at the theater. After all, one good thing certainly deserves another.

Emilie Rommel