Nov. 27, 2007 — One of Charlottesville's most beloved summer theater traditions is back this year when Heritage Repertory Theatre returns from a construction-induced one-year hiatus with its trademark mix of classic and contemporary favorites.
"We could not be happier to be returning after taking a very rare season off," said Robert Chapel, Heritage Repertory Theatre's producing artistic director. "It has been extremely gratifying to hear from people throughout the year who expressed how much they missed Heritage last summer and how excited they are to come back this year."
The hiatus was due to construction issues surrounding the Culbreth and Helms Theatres which would have caused significant parking and access issues for Heritage patrons. Construction on a new parking garage adjacent to the theaters is due to be completed in the spring and will allow theatergoers ample — and free — parking for the first time in the theatre's history.
The 2008 Heritage Repertory Theatre season will feature a lineup of five shows that have collectively captured 17 Tony Awards, including three for best play and one for best musical.
Leading off the year is a musical in the classic Heritage tradition, "City of Angels," winner of six Tony Awards. The 1940's era noir-themed Broadway hit combines its memorable score with groundbreaking design elements. The musical follows the story of novelist-turned-screenwriter Stine as he struggles to bring his book to the silver screen. Audiences are transported from Stine's own tale to the one he has weaved for the screen until the once-parallel universes converge and Stine's classic 1940's hard-boiled detective becomes the writer's true hero.
"This is a big, fun musical with great music," Chapel said. "I think audiences are in for a treat with the story-within-a-story format and the wonderful film noir feel."
Speaking of Heritage traditions, the one-person-show format, so popular in past years with "The Syringa Tree" and "Fully Committed," is back this year with "I Am My Own Wife." Starring dynamic and accomplished British actor Malcolm Tulip, this show is based on the true story of a German transvestite who killed his father as a young boy, then managed to survive the two most oppressive regimes in modern history while staying true to what he believed was a mismatched genetic makeup.
"This show not only won two Tony Awards, but a Pulitzer Prize as well," Chapel said. "It promises to be the kind of theater experience that will keep people talking long after they leave the building."
The Tony-winning theme continues with Terence McNally's "Master Class," which captured a trio of awards in 1996. The play captures the life and loves of one of the opera world's most legendary divas, Maria Callas. In the midst of casually evaluating a group of young singers there to perform for her, Callas pauses to return to the spotlight she so brilliantly owned throughout her career. She speaks directly to the audience, recalling her early, awkward days, her glorious triumphs on the stages of the world's most prestigious opera halls and her well-documented romantic history — including her relationship with one of the world's richest men, Aristotle Onassis.
"I have been interested in bringing this play to Heritage for a long time," Chapel said. "It is an intense, engrossing and thoroughly entertaining sneak peek into a truly fascinating character."
Just over a year removed from the close of its triumphant run at Lincoln Center Theater, "The Light in the Piazza" (six Tony Awards) will offer HRT audiences exposure to one of the most acclaimed musicals in recent memory. The show is set against the ultimately romantic backdrop of Tuscany and tells the story of a traveling mother and daughter and the young Italian man who comes between them. "The Light in the Piazza" features a book by renowned playwright Craig Lucas ("Reckless," "Prelude to a Kiss") and music by Adam Guettel, the grandson of Richard Rodgers.
"This is a show in the tradition of previous Heritage productions like 'The Spitfire Grill' and 'Sunday in the Park with George,' shows that are somewhat edgier and provide our audiences a window into what's happening in the world of contemporary musical theater," Chapel said.
Finally, the season will offer audiences a delightful case of déjà vu with the return of "Forever Plaid," one of the most successful shows in the theatre's history.
"Every year I am asked when we are going to bring this show back," Chapel said. "And while it is rare for us to repeat shows, the fact that our audiences are still talking about this years later is proof that the time is right to hear from the Plaids' heavenly harmonies once more."
"Forever Plaid," an off-Broadway and international sensation, is the story of a quartet who are killed in a bus accident just prior to the biggest performance of their career. They learn that they will not be admitted through the Pearly Gates until they return to perform one last big show. Complete with the sweet sounds of an array of memorable 1940's and 50's era songs, this is an evening filled with great laughs, great tunes and fun.
The box office for the 2008 Heritage Repertory Theatre season will open June 2. For information, visit the Web site at www.uvahrt.org. All titles are subject to availability of rights.