In an announcement ceremony featuring song, dance and homage, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre revealed to a packed house Tuesday night that “Chicago” will be the opening show of its 2019-20 “Rebuild the Rep” season. Bob Fosse and Fred Ebbs’ jazz age feat of razzle-dazzle marks the return of The Rep to a regular season of theatrical programming 10 months after it suspended its operations in April due to funding shortages.
“The community responded,” Board Chair Ruth Shepherd said in a press release about the season. “Since April, we have received more than $875,000 in donations, which the John and Robyn Horn Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation have matched. We have a plan to rebuild The Rep as a stronger organization that will serve our community and state long into the future.”
Who might succeed former Rep Artistic Director John Miller-Stephany, who stepped down May 8, along with most other staff members? Shepherd told the Arkansas Times on Tuesday that the search for a director is “ongoing,” and that an announcement would be made “in the next couple of months.”
The Rep is joining the city of Little Rock in paying homage to founding Director Cliff Fannin Baker by designating the alley behind the 377-seat theater as “Baker’s Alley.” Baker died Sept. 6 after suffering a brain aneurysm. At the time of Baker’s death, Bill Rector, board member and interim general manager, said in a statement issued by The Rep: “Cliff’s counsel has been invaluable these past four months. And when we announce our new season, you will recognize Cliff’s influence in our choices of productions. As we get this theatre back on solid ground, The Rep will be a testimony to the gift that Cliff gave to all of us.”
That rebuilding begins with “Chicago,” directed and choreographed by longtime resident Rep choreographer Ron Hutchins, Feb. 22-March 4. Latinx Theatre Commons founder Karen Zacarias’ “Native Gardens” follows, April 17-May 5 (sponsored by Legacy Termite & Pest Control, cleverly). Next, Hunter Foster directs “Million Dollar Quartet,” the jukebox musical inspired by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, Sept. 4-Oct. 6. For the Christmas season, Joe Landry’s “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play,” goes up, Dec. 4-22. Anna Kimmell, who leads the theater’s education department, will direct The Rep’s production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” June 21-30.
Season tickets are on sale at 501-378-0405, and single ticket sales open in January.