- May 2019
The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic scenes, and is best known for Shylock and the famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech. Also notable is Portia's speech about "the quality of mercy".
The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and most famous character. This is made explicit by the title page of the first quarto: The most excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreme cruelty of Shylock the Jew towards the Merchant....
- January–February 2019
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king. It has been widely adapted for the stage and motion pictures, and the role of Lear has been coveted and played by many of the world's most accomplished actors.
The play was written between 1603 and 1606 and later revised. Shakespeare's earlier version, The True Chronicle of the History of the Life and Death of King Lear and His Three Daughters, was published in quarto in 1608. The Tragedy of King Lear, a more theatrical version, was included in the 1623 First Folio. Modern editors usually conflate the two, though some insist that each version has its individual integrity that should be preserved.
After the Restoration, the play was often revised with a happy ending for audiences who disliked its dark and depressing tone, but since the 19th century Shakespeare's original version has been regarded as one of his supreme achievements. The tragedy is particularly noted for its probing observations on the nature of human suffering and kinship. George Bernard Shaw wrote, "No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear".
- January 2019
Bye Bye Birdie is a stage musical with a book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse.
Originally titled Let's Go Steady, the satire on American society is set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the Army in 1957. The rock star character's name, "Conrad Birdie," is word play on the name of Conway Twitty. Twitty is best remembered today for his long career as a country music star, but in the late 1950s, he was one of Presley's rock 'n' roll rivals.
The original Broadway production was a Tony Award-winning success. It spawned a London production and several major revivals, a sequel, a 1963 film and a 1995 television production. The show also became a popular choice for high school and college productions.
- December 2018
Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. Cats also introduced the song standard "Memory".
Directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne, Cats first opened in the West End in 1981 and then with the same creative team on Broadway in 1982. It won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards. The London production ran for twenty-one years and the Broadway production ran for eighteen years, both setting . Actresses Elaine Paige and Betty Buckley became particularly associated with the musical. One actress, Marlene Danielle, performed in the Broadway production for its entire run.
Cats is the second longest-running show in Broadway history, and the fourth longest-running West End musical. It has been performed around the world many times and has been translated into more than 20 languages. In 1998, Cats was turned into a made-for-television film.
- November–December 2018
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 1979 musical thriller with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and libretto by Hugh Wheeler. The musical is based on the 1973 play Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond. Set in 19th century England, the musical tells the story of Benjamin Barker, aka Sweeney Todd, who returns to London after 15 years' transportation on trumped-up charges. When he finds out that his wife poisoned herself after being raped by the judge who transported him, he vows revenge on the judge and, later, the whole world. He teams up with a piemaker, Mrs. Lovett, and opens a barbershop in which he slits the throats of customers and has them baked into pies.
Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway in 1979 and in the West End in 1980. In addition to several revivals the musical has been presented by opera companies. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
- August 2018
The History Boys is a play by British playwright Alan Bennett. The play premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London on 18 May 2004. Its Broadway debut was on 23 April 2006 at the Broadhurst Theatre where 185 performances were staged before it closed on 1 October 2006.
The play won multiple awards, including the 2005 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play and the 2006 Tony Award for Best Play.
- March 2018
Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's 1953 premiere. It was voted "the most significant English language play of the 20th century". Waiting for Godot is Beckett's translation of his own original French version, En attendant Godot, and is subtitled "a tragicomedy in two acts". The original French text was composed between 9 October 1948 and 29 January 1949. The première was on 5 January 1953 in the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris. The production was directed by Roger Blin, who also played the role of Pozzo.