Waco theater stages normally quiet in the summer weeks before the start of the school year are busy and bustling instead, with a children’s musical, a one-night musical in concert staging, improv comedy and a dinner theater comedy over the next two weeks.
The children’s musical is “Annie, Jr.,” a kid-scaled version of the perennially popular 1976 Broadway musical about the plucky Little Orphan Annie of cartoon strip fame. Tredessa Skeeters Thomas directs a young cast of orphan ragamuffins, a millionaire, his household and several rascally schemers in a Waco Civic Theatre production that opens a two-weekend stand at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Aug. 11-13.
The production follows the successful WCT-Waco Independent School District collaboration on the Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast,” which played to full houses at the Waco High School Performing Arts Center duiring its two weekend-run last month.
Also at the Waco Civic Theatre on Friday is a one-night stand of “Heathers the Musical,” the stage adaptation of the sardonic 1988 film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as high school outsiders who take on their school’s ruling clique, the Heathers.
It’s the theatrical fruit of production company Theatro Akalyptos (Theater Uncovered), formed by several Baylor University students past and present to stage work not found in other Waco theaters. Baylor marketing student Patrick Hill is one of the founders and directs a cast of 15 Baylor students and faculty members in a concert staging of “Heathers the Musical.”
Written by “Legally Blonde — The Musical” team Kevin Murphy and Lawrence O’Keefe, the pop-rock musical tracks the film, whose mix of sarcasm, sex and murder made it a cult movie favorite. New high school student Veronica Sawyer (Leah Beth Etheredge) bumps up against the formidable Heathers — Heather Chandler (Meredith Bennett), Heather McNamara (Christina Austin) and Heather Duke (Juliana Zepeda) — and finds an unlikely ally in outsider Jason “JD” Dean (Andrew Dilday), whose solution to bring the mean elite down gets more and more violent.
It’s the sort of musical that would appeal to young adults with a taste for barbed humor, but whose language and subject matter would keep it off a Baylor Theatre season.
“ ‘Heathers’ is probably not appropriate for a Baylor audience,” Hill said.
A small budget and limited production time combined to make the Theatro Akalyptos version a concert staging, meaning the cast sings and acts without a script, but also without sets, blocking or extensive costuming.
Lauren Weber, directly off her work as music director for “Beauty and the Beast,” handles the same job for “Heathers,” assisted by music collaborator and pianist Guilherme Alemeida, a fellow Baylor theater faculty member.
It’s a change of pace from “Beauty and the Beast” with a cast one-fourth the size, live accompaniment and a rock-flavored score with tricky rhythm. Weber said a talented cast and Alemeida’s musical support have risen to the challenge of limited rehearsal and a single performance.
“If you want to laugh, it’s a good show to come to,” she said. “It’s not ‘Rocky Horror,’ but it’s funny, fun and with a dark tone.”
Those preferring unscripted and unpredictable laughs can find them in the Brazos Theatre Group’s monthly Improv Comedy night, also on Friday at the company’s home base of the Brazos Theatre at 7524 Bosque Blvd. Suite Q. The popular improv night has company members spinning scenes and situations from audience suggestions, starting at 9 p.m. Opening for the improv is the Brazos River Knights, who will play a mix of music from the ’60s and ’70s at 7:30 p.m.
The BTG continues the comedy a week later with its dinner theater performance of “Neil Simon’s ‘Fools,’ ” presented at Brazos Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12-13 and 20, and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 14 and 21. The Neil Simon comedy imagines a visitor to a Russian village cursed by stupidity.
A dinner at 6:45 p.m. precedes the evening shows, 12:45 p.m. for the Sunday matinees, and dinner/play, dessert/play and general admission tickets are available.
For theater buffs whose thirst still lingers after three weeks, they only have to wait a short while for more: The Waco Civic Theatre will present two shows of its “Miscast Cabaret” Aug. 26 at the Waco Hippodrome.