One of the first South Florida companies to unveil their 2015-2016 season, theMaltz Jupiter Theatre revealed its choices to the theater press this week at a Fort Lauderdale luncheon. By now, artistic director Andrew Kato has mastered a winning formula that marries traditional audience-pleasers with more eccentric choices: The season always begins with a fusty comedy or mystery that Kato’s team handsomely enlivens, then continues with a familiar family-friendly musical, a more unusual musical, an intimate and hard-hitting play, and finally a venerated musical warhorse.
Next season will be no exception to this approach, though on further inspection it feels more challenging and surprising than recent seasons. It opens with “The Mousetrap” (Oct. 25-Nov. 8, 2015), the 1952 Agatha Christie mystery, which has survived some less than enthusiastic reviews to become the longest-running play in West End history, with its 25,000th performance taking place in 2012. If done right, you’ll never anticipate the twist ending; expect the Maltz to bring the same unflagging attention to lighting, sound and set design that helped elevate recent selections like “The Foreigner” and “Dial M for Murder” into beautifully assembled productions.
Next up will be the South Florida regional theater premiere of “Billy Elliot” (Dec. 1-20, 2015), a much-anticipated “get” for the Maltz, which fulfills its categories of a child-centered musical and an out-of-left-field choice. Elton John penned the music and Lee Hall the lyrics and book, which centers on the title character, a motherless child who eschews boxing for ballet, breaking with tradition while coal miners in Northeastern England likewise challenge the status quo by striking in County Durham. This is where Maltz’s choreographic acumen should really shine.
It will be followed by “The Will Rogers Follies” (Jan. 12-31, 2016), a show I must admit I’d never heard of—which is a good thing: It means Kato is continuing to dig the Broadway archives for shows rarely performed in the region. It dramatizes the life and career of Rogers—the cowboy actor who lassoed every medium from newspapers to stage and screen in the early 20th century—against the backdrop of a show he frequently hosted, the Ziegfeld Follies. As far as lavish showmanship goes, it’s hard to imagine the Maltz topping its recent production of “The Wiz,” but of all the productions in its next season, “The Will Rogers Follies” will likely bring the most razzle-dazzle.
Its final play of the season will be “Frost/Nixon” (Feb. 7-21), which, like its current run of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” is a hard-hitting drama about clashing ambitions and egos, which much of its audience will have seen as a film. But this series of tet-a-tets between Richard Nixon and television host David Frost lives most vibrantly on the stage, and will resonate at a time when American presidents have arguably continued to overstep their authority in the years since Nixon left office in disgrace. The Caldwell Theatre produced the regional premiere of “Frost/Nixon” in 2009, but it’s due for another interpretation.
Finally, and considering the Maltz does sweet, frothy musicals better than just about anybody else in the region, I expect a successful conclusion with “Kiss Me, Kate” (March 8-27), an ingenious cocktail of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and the effervescent wit of Cole Porter. This 1949 Tony Winner for Best Musical was a landmark for Porter, the first show in which his lyrics were firmly tied to the story, and the only of his shows to reach more than 1,000 Broadway performances. It’s the show that gave us “Tom, Dick and Harry,” “Why Can’t You Behave,” “Too Darn Hot” and the reference-filled “Brush Up on Your Shakespeare,” sung by two gangsters. It’s a must-see musical comedy, no matter how well you know it.
Subscriptions for Maltz’s 2015-2016 season begin at $198. For tickets and information, visit jupitertheatre.org or call 561/575-2223.