Film favorites and plenty of dramatic new ideas on tap in theater companies’ plans for 2023-24

It’s been said that “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear” and no one would know better than Buddy, the cheerful namesake of the Stage Company’s holiday show “Elf, the Musical!” (Nov. 30-Dec. 24) based on the cult favorite film of the same name.

Kicking off the new year is a 2019 show with an unusual focus, young conservative Catholic intellectuals form its quartet of main characters. With “Heroes of the Fourth Turning,” (Jan. 25-Feb. 18) playwright Will Arbery, who himself had such an background, looks at the reunion of four friends who met at a Catholic college and how they reckon with their lives seven years after graduation.

The Thornton Wilder classic celebrating the endurance of the human spirit “By the Skin of Our Teeth” (April 11-May 5) takes on a new familiarity in its tale of a long-lived family who have survived several millennia of disasters, only to find that a massive glacier is now headed toward their home.

A stage adaptation of Mel Brooks’ perfectly silly horror spoof “Young Frankenstein” (or is that Fronk-en-steen?) closes out the season (May 30-June 23) with its tale of the heir to the Frankenstein estate trying to navigate his father’s monstrous legacy.

The Pear

Going into its 22nd season, The Pear Theatre continues its Pear Pairings format, running two shows with complementary themes in repertory, for several offerings in 2023-24.

The season kicks off with a classic comedy, Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” (Sept. 8-Oct. 1), which takes the “door-slamming farce” genre — and little else — very seriously in the tale of an eccentric theater troupe staging a pretty terrible play.

Heading into the holidays, a pairing of dark comedies take us to Shakespearean-inspired alternate universes: Aaron Posner’s “District Merchants,” looks at the complexities of life in American society through members of Black and Jewish communities living in a time and place that draws elements from Reconstruction-era Washington D.C., as well as Shakespeare’s time and our own. Its companion piece, “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead” is a “true” account of a zombie plague in Elizabethan England. The shows run Nov. 17-Dec. 10.

Sarah Ruhl’s “For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday” (Feb. 9-March 3) tells of four adult siblings reckoning with life after their father’s death.

Spring 2024 sees the pairing (April 19- May 12) of Lloyd Suh’s “The Chinese Lady,” based on the true story of 14-year-old Afong Moy, who in the early 19th century was put on display as allegedly the first Chinese woman in the U.S., and A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” which follows the lifelong correspondence of two friends briefly turned lovers.

The season closes with Greg Lam’s “Chaplin and Keaton on the Set of Limelight” (June 28-July 21) based on the true story of the one project in which silent comedy masters Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton worked together.

The Pear Theatre will kick off its 2023-24 season with the farce “Noises Off.” Seen here are actors Jennifer Chapman, Alex Draa, Charles Woodson Parker, Barbara Heninger and John Stephen King in a past production at The Pear of the classic comic farce “Present Laughter.” Courtesy Michael Kruse Craig/Pear Theatre.

Palo Alto Players

Palo Alto Players has a very cinematic season planned for 2023-24, kicking off Sept. 8-24, with “Matilda The Musical” based on both the children’s book by Roald Dahl and a film about a unique little girl who has psychokinetic powers who must use her wits, bravery — and yes, maybe her powers — to face down a cruel school headmistress bent on punishing her young charges.

There’s nothing like a visit to Oz to remember, just in time for the holidays, that there’s really no place like home when beloved musical “The Wizard of Oz” takes the stage Nov. 3-19.

Heading into January is a tale perhaps perfectly named for the dead of winter (and set in it, too), “Misery – The Play” based on horror master Stephen King’s chilling story of a famed author’s prolonged and torturous stay with his “number one fan.” “Misery” runs Jan. 19- Feb. 4.

Next up, with “The Music Man,” (April 26-May 12), ultimate huckster Harold Hill stirs up trouble (right here in River City) from absolutely nothing with his bid to convince a small town that buying the instruments, uniforms and all the accoutrements for a boys’ band is the only way to stave off juvenile delinquency.

The season closes with Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie mystery “Murder on the Orient Express” (June 14-30).

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley

Just in time for the most mysterious month, TheatreWorks opens the season with a look into the unsolved mystery around the brief disappearance in 1926 of mystery writer Agatha Christie in the West Coast premiere of Heidi Armbruster’s “Mrs. Christie.” (Oct. 4-29).

Tony Award-winning actor James Monroe Iglehart, well-known to TheatreWorks audiences, helms the quirky musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (Nov. 29-Dec. 24). In the new year, TheatreWorks Artistic Director Tim Bond, who was a friend of acclaimed playwright August Wilson and is a renowned interpreter of his works, directs Wilson’s theatrical memoir “How I Learned What I Learned” (Jan. 17-Feb. 11).

A fitting choice for spring is “Queen,” (March 6-31) a drama by San Jose-born playwright and filmmaker Madhuri Shekar about PhD candidates and best friends studying the worldwide collapse of honeybees, until a flaw in their research threatens their personal and professional lives.

Mike Lew’s “Tiger Style!” (April 3-28) takes a big satirical swipe at the fallout of “tiger parenting” in a story of high-achieving siblings.

Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley returns to TheatreWorks for the world premiere of “Being Alive: A Sondheim Celebration,” teaming up with the company’s Resident Musical Director William Liberatore to honor the works and legacy of deeply influential composer Stephen Sondheim. Throughout his 50-year tenure at TheatreWorks, Kelley showed a true affinity for the works of Sondheim — the company has staged 21 productions of Sondheim’s work, according to a press release. The show, which runs June 5-30, closes the season.

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