If you are by any chance watching the current show Fosse/Verdon on FX, tracing the longtime professional and personal relationship between choreographer-director Bob Fosse and dancer-actress Gwen Verdon, you’ll be primed for Venice Theatre’s production of Chicago next season. Fosse directed and choreographed the original version of the show in 1975, in which Verdon starred, and it’s the second longest-running show in Broadway history, onstage there in a revival since 1996.
But it wasn’t originally supposed to be part of the VT 2019-20 season, which was announced back in January. At that time, the April 17-May 3 schedule slot was going to be occupied by Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which the theater has staged previously. Plans changed because producers of a new version of Mockingbird by Aaron Sorkin, currently on Broadway, have prevented other theaters from presenting Sergel’s version. VT hadn’t been threatened about its plans for it, but in order to be on the safe side, executive producing director Murray Chase and artistic director Allan Kollar decided to change the lineup.
And why not? VT has never produced the “All That Jazz” musical about 1920s murderesses and their razzle-dazzle lawyer before, although not for lack of trying. The company just could never snag the rights at the right time. Now they have.
The mainstage season for VT commences Sept. 20 through Oct. 6 with Garson Kanin’s perennial hit about showgirl Billie Dawn and her introduction to Washington politics, Born Yesterday. That’s followed by a “blockbuster musical” with a title VT can’t officially announce until June (playing Oct. 25 through Dec. 1), but here’s a not-so-subtle hint: It’s by a super Swedish pop group. Hmmm.
Playing Jan. 1 through Feb. 2 on the mainstage is the always popular Menopause the Musical, about four women facing the change of life at a lingerie sale. That’s followed by the Frank Loesser classic Guys and Dolls, Feb. 21 through March 22, where Damon Runyon’s famous Broadway characters include gambler Sky Masterson and Salvation Army “doll” Sarah Brown. Then Chicago closes the mainstage season.
On VT’s Stage II schedule, in its smaller Pinkerton Theatre, you can count on seeing The Bikinis: A New Musical Beach Party (Sept. 27 through Oct. 20), featuring hits like “Heat Wave” and “I Will Survive”; David Lindsay-Abaire’s Boston-set Good People, Nov. 1-17; Assisted Living the Musical: The Home for The Holidays (a sequel to the original), playing Nov. 29 through Dec. 22; and Gulf View Drive, the final play in Arlene Hutton’s Nibroc Trilogy following Raleigh and May, in which the longtime couple moves to Siesta Key. Onstage Jan. 10-26.
Adding to the Stage II season: Yard Sale: A Musical About Junk bows Feb. 7 through March 8; Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet runs March 27 through April 19: and David Harrower’s Blackbird (May 1-17), a “no-holds” drama with adult language and themes, closes it out.
Aimed more at family audiences is the “Generations” series, which features Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr. (July 12-14), the musical Urinetown (July 26 through Aug. 11); Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (Sept. 6-15); A Christmas Carol (Dec. 13-21); and Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (May 15-24).
For information and tickets, call 488-1115 or visit venicestage.com.