From a crazy king to a wild-and-crazy country-western parody of Wagner's "Ring" cycle to the Tony Award-winning "Crazy for You," Baltimore's 1993-1994 theater season should be full of wacky wonders.
Both the crazy king and "Crazy for You" (May 10-29, Lyric Opera House) will arrive under the auspices of the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts, which launches its season at the Mechanic Theatre with the National Theatre of Great Britain's acclaimed production of Alan Bennett's dark comedy, "The Madness of George III" (Oct. 12-31). Nigel Hawthorne will re-create his award-winning title role. A coup for the Mechanic, "George III" will play the longest run of its limited eight-week U.S. engagement in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, one of the highlights of Center Stage's season promises to be Scott Warrender and Jim Luigs' "Das Barbecu" (Jan. 7 through Feb. 20), a 90-minute sendup of Wagner's "Ring" cycle featuring five actors in two dozen roles. "Barbecu" will receive its first major East Coast production in Center Stage's Head Theater, under the direction of Chris Ashley, who is also scheduled to direct the show off-Broadway later in the season.
In addition, Center Stage has just announced another unusual-sounding offering -- Donald Margulies' "The Loman Family Picnic" (March 25 through May 8, Head). The story of a Brooklyn family whose 10-year-old son is writing a Broadway musical called "Willy!", "Family Picnic" is also scheduled to have an off-Broadway production this fall.
And speaking of Broadway musicals, in addition to "Crazy for You," the BCPA season includes 1992's other Tony Award-winning musical, "Guys and Dolls" (March 22 through April 10, Lyric), which took the honors as best revival; Lorna Luft stars as adenoidal Miss Adelaide.
The Mechanic will also be host to its first Broadway musical tryout in recent years -- "Hoagy & Bix" (Feb. 22 through March 20), a show about, in case you couldn't guess, Hoagy Carmichael and Bix Beiderbecke, produced and co-written by Carmichael's son. In addition, the season includes a salute to another jazz great -- "jump blues" giant Louis Jordan, whose music is celebrated in "Five Guys Named Moe" (Dec. 8 through Jan. 2).
Two straight plays complete the Mechanic lineup -- Wendy Wasserstein's touching account of the reunion of three middle-aged American sisters in London, "The Sisters Rosensweig" (April 12 through May 8), and a yet-to-be-announced replacement for Pirandello's "Henry IV," whose tour has been postponed.
'Camelot' to 'Commie Lesbos'
A few blocks north, Center Stage has chosen the three plays that were originally announced as either/or possibilities. The final selections are: August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fences" (Nov. 18 through Dec. 19, Pearlstone Theater), starring Morgan State alum Gilbert Lewis; Shakespeare's "Othello" (Feb. 11 through March 13, Pearlstone); and Ibsen's "Ghosts" (May 6 through June 5, Pearlstone). And, as previously announced, the season begins with "The Triumph of Love" (Oct. 8 through Nov. 7, Pearlstone), a romantic comedy by the 18th-century French writer Marivaux.
A few more blocks north, the Lyric will offer a musical-lovers extravaganza when, in addition to its subscription shows, the BCPA presents "The Wizard of Oz" (Jan. 4-9), with the original MGM score; return engagements of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (Jan. 10-16) and "Jesus Christ Superstar" (Feb. 1-6); "Camelot" (May 31 through June 12), starring Robert Goulet as King Arthur; and "Les Miserables" (June 28 through July 24), in its third Baltimore engagement.
Also at the Lyric, Performing Arts Productions, the city's other local road-show presenter, has booked four shows: "Lawd Ha' Mercy!!" (Sept. 21-26); "The Sound of Music" (Nov. 30 through Dec. 5), starring Marie Osmond; the 50th anniversary production of "Oklahoma!" (Dec. 27 through Jan. 2); and the elegant and evocative 1991 Broadway musical, "The Secret Garden" (Feb. 15-20).
But getting back to the season's wild-and-crazy theme, few theaters deserve that description more than the Theatre Project, Baltimore's bastion of the avant-garde. The season there begins with Amsterdam-based performers Beppe Costa and Henriette Brouwers in "A Traveling Song" (Sept. 22 through Oct. 10), a work inspired by a turn-of-the-century Samoan chieftain's visit to Europe.
Next comes a late-night attraction, New Yorker Annie Beigel's one woman show about coming out and coming of age, ] "Commie Lesbos From Outer Space" (Oct. 8-24). Also in October, Danceteller of Philadelphia will perform "Reminiscence of a Southern Girlhood" (Oct. 13-31), a piece about growing up fatherless in the American South. A movement theater work directed by the Theatre Project's Philip Arnoult, "Southern Girlhood" was featured in the 1993 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.