With awards season ramping up in cinema and media, people are flocking to movie theaters to watch stars they know and love taking up roles both familiar and uncharted. Local theater, however, offers the unique experience of packing into dark theaters to be whisked away in stories crafted by the people living in our very own communities. The stories they tell are timeless and new, funny and heartbreaking, and the work put into them is painstaking and passionate. We reached out to the Aurora Arts Theatre and the Harbor Playhouse to see what productions audiences can catch now or look forward to seeing throughout the year.
Cabaret on stage at Aurora Arts Theatre
Commencing its “Season of Classics,” Aurora Arts Theatre kicks off its 2023 season with Cabaret, which will see its run from January 27 through March 12. Made all the more famous by the 1972 film starring Liza Minnelli, Cabaret holds a well-beloved place in many a theater lover’s heart. The musical centers on a Jazz Age Berlin nightclub caught in the political turmoil between the late Weimar Republic and the ominous rise of the Third Reich in Germany. Fans of glitz, glamor and romantic period pieces cannot miss this one.
Assistant director Alex Chapa’s experience with the production highlights the unique opportunities community theater offers. “I’ve been involved with community theater for the last thirteen years,” Chapa said, citing her beginnings with Aurora itself,—a place founded by her family, inheriting its name from her grandmother, Aurora ‘Loli’ Chapa Taylor. “I’ve been able to watch [Aurora] grow from the ground up.” Chapa went on to gush about the unique ability of Cabaret’s cast and crew, who rehearsed tirelessly across seven weeks and will perform for seven straight weekends. “The process is long but it’s so worth it,” Chapa said, before going on to express her excitement for the community itself to witness the gifts this production has to offer. “These actors are incredible … their talent is going to blow everyone away. They make you fall in love with theater,” Chapa said. What better time of year to fall in love than at Cabaret?
Other shows theater-goers can look forward to catching at Aurora this year include Mystery of the Super-Sparkly Diamond written and performed solo by Alex Garza (April 22) as well as Noises Off (March 31- May 7th) and other titles to be announced for this “Season of Classics.” Tickets for productions at Aurora Arts Theatre can be purchased online or at the box office.
Avenue Q on stage at Harbor Playhouse
Ever the busy community theater, Harbor Playhouse has a promising season lined up for 2023. Its first production, Jeff Whitty’s musical theater fan favorite Avenue Q, opened on January 20 and will run through February 19. Avenue Q, a sort of adult-oriented spoof of Sesame Street, is a must-see for fans of raunchy musicals and puppets alike.
The challenges of putting on a production based around puppets singing, dancing and making highly inappropriate jokes are not lost on its director, Bryan Davis. “One of the most unique things with putting together Avenue Q is learning to block and stage a play around puppets,” Davis said, “making sure the audience focuses on and accepts the puppet [and not the performer behind the puppet] as the character.” Davis cites the success of the show in its talented and hardworking cast. “I was blown away by the talent that came out to audition—actors who can bring the characters to life with their voices, expressions, mannerisms,” Davis said. “I’ve been so lucky to get to work with them, and so grateful for what they have created.”
In addition to the bits and gags of Avenue Q that will surely have audiences rolling with laughter, Davis also shared his excitement for upcoming productions like James and the Giant Peach. Theatergoers can also look forward to Harbor’s future productions this year: James and the Giant Peach (Mar. 24-Apr. 30), Frozen Jr. (May 26- Jun. 25), School of Rock (Jul. 21- Aug. 27), Spongebob The Musical (Sept, 22- Oct. 29) and A Christmas Carol (Nov. 24- Dec. 23). Tickets for Harbor Playhouse productions can be purchased on their website, by phone or at the box office.
This season of theater has something for everyone: puppets singing about hot-button social and political topics, falling in love amid the rise of a dictatorship featuring great sequined dance numbers … the works! Run— don’t walk —to your local box office.