Jim Johnson, the artistic director of Susquehanna Stage in Marietta, is pleased with the upcoming season.
“It worked out really well, everything fell into place,” he says. “We are doing shows we wanted to do, shows actors had talked about wanting to do.”
It will be Susquehanna Stage’s 12th season and the second in its new home at 133 W. Market St., a former church.
“It’s great,” Johnson says. “We are trying to figure out how to utilize all the space we have — we have a lot of space.”
Two areas are dedicated theater areas: the main stage — the former sanctuary — and a smaller gallery area in the very large lobby.
Shows for the new season, which begins Feb. 14, will be held in both.
First up is “The Mountaintop” (Feb. 14-23.)
Set in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel on the eve of Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, the play consists of two characters: King and the hotel maid, the spirited Camae, who brings King a pot of coffee.
The two flirt and discuss all kinds of topics. Camae is more than she seems at the beginning of the play and will bond with King on many levels.
“You see the man behind the myth,” Johnson says.
“The Last Five Years,” (March 13, 14, 20, 21) will be performed in the gallery.
“It’s a perfect space for this intimate show,” Johnson says.
Jamie, a rising novelist, and Cathy, a struggling actor, meet, get married and break up. But Jason Robert Brown (book, music and lyrics) has set the story in two perspectives. Cathy’s begins at the end of the relationship and Jamie’s begins at the beginning. Their scenes go back and forth, and the only time they are at the same place is in the middle, when they get married.
“There is a cult following for the show,” Johnson says. “The way the story is told is so creative and clever.”
Things get chirpier with “Bye Bye Birdie,” (May 8-17.)
This production will be performed by a cast of young actors.
Set in 1958, teen heartthrob Conrad Birdie has been drafted. His agent, Albert, and his girlfriend, Rosie, come up with a publicity stunt to send him off. A fan club member will be chosen at random, and Birdie will sing his new single, “One Last Kiss,” and kiss her.
But mayhem rules Sweet Apple, Ohio, when Birdie arrives in town.
“I think “Bye Bye Birdie” is a great vehicle for kids,” Johnson says. “While our cast is entirely made up of kids, this is not the junior version. This is the full musical, with an orchestra.”
“Children of Eden” (July 24-Aug. 9) is the story of creation and Adam’s tough decision to honor God or honor his wife. He chooses Eve first and they are banished from Eden.
The second act is about Noah and the flood.
“If you strip away the Biblical references, it is really about family dynamics: honoring your family, moving the culture ahead, making hard decisions as a father,” Johnson says.
“The music is beautiful. You’ll have ear worms in your head for days,” he adds with a laugh. “
Challenges in the production include creating creation — the world, water, the fish and the people. And the second act is about creating a worldwide flood.
“We’re hoping to keep it tight and efficient,” Johnson says. “It’s definitely the biggest show of the year.”
“Tigers Be Still,” (Sept. 25, 26, Oct. 2, 3) is a four-person comedy Johnson’s son, Asher, has been asking to do for several years. It will be performed in the gallery.
“It’s about a couch potato lady who thinks she has nothing going on in her life,” Johnson says. “Then a tiger escapes from the local zoo, which serves as a turning point in her life. It is quirky and weird and it’s got great dialogue. The show crackles”
Another musical hits the boards with “Cabaret” (Oct. 23 to Nov. 1). Three different versions are available.
The original production, the 1987 revival and the 1998 revival all frame the show in different shades, though the story about the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin as the Nazis begin to rise is still the power of each version.
Johnson says he hasn’t decided which version to use and is still deciding among several directors, all of whom have their own ideas.
“People are very passionate about Cabaret,” he says.
The seventh and final show of the season is “All is Calm” (Dec. 10-20.)
“It’s not a typical Christmas show, but it is stunning,” Johnson says.
The show is set on Christmas Eve on the Western Front in 1914, during the height of World War I. Spontaneously, a German soldier steps into the common no man’s land, and starts singing “Stille Nacht.”
This simple action begins a night of camaraderie, music and peace between these “enemies.”
Johnson did the piece four years ago and remembers the intensity of the audience as the soldiers sang a cappella and read actual letters from soldiers in the war.
“It’s very sparse, with little set,” he says. “They sing ‘Greensleeves,’ ‘Silent Night’ and English carols. It’s intense.”
For more information about the season and tickets, go to susquehannastage.com.