Plaza Theatre Co. are busy hanging stockings with care and taking whatever other preparations are necessary to gear up for their upcoming annual Christmas play, which this year is “White Christmas” and kicks off Nov. 15.
This year’s Yuletide season also includes a staging of “Frozen Jr.” and an Elvis Christmas concert as presented by Presley tribute artist Kraig Parker.
In between all that, Plaza Artistic Director JaceSon Barrus is well chuffed over the season upcoming and confident Plaza patrons will share in his enthusiasm.
“For starters, this is the first time we’re bringing 11 shows to our stage,” Barrus said. “Up until now it’s been 10.”
The new season brings other firsts as well including the North Texas area debuts of several productions.
“When we picked this season we were very aware of trying to pick titles that were new to our stage so that our patrons were getting to see new shows,” Barrus said. “We always want to give the season a little bit of flavor. Always do a few big musicals and then a few intimate straight plays.”
Plaza’s 2020 season looks to be no exception. Nor, for longtime patrons who might be apprehensive, does it lack for proven Plaza fan favorites. The new season’s revisits include return stagings of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” and “Smoke on the Mountain.”
“We’ve never done “Shakespeare” as a main stage show before,” Barrus said. “But we’ve done it as a late-night show after our performances on Friday night and it was so well received that we’ve decided to tackle it as a full performance.
“It’s just a zany, crazy slapstick type show that takes all of William Shakespeare’s 37 plays and puts them into one show with three guys playing all the roles. That’s our first show of the new season and we open on New Year’s Eve as we always do and I think that’s a perfect show for ringing in the new year.”
“Smoke on the Mountain” returns for a fifth Plaza go around but for the first time since 2012.
“We love it and it’s probably our favorite show that we’ve done,” Barrus said when asked what keeps bringing the Plaza crew back to “Smoke.” “It’s an all around classic. The story is very meaningful. But also just the chance to sing those old-time gospel songs with the wonderful harmonies is so much fun. It’s also the most popular show we’ve ever done and it’s the second show we ever staged.”
Past those two productions it’s a season of firsts for Plaza starting with “Ronald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,” which follows “Shakespeare’s” run.
“It was a book first, of course,” Barrus said. “Then it was a movie in the ‘90s. Then they made it into a Broadway show about five years ago so it’s very new the stage version, and we’re one of the first theaters in the area to get to do it.
“It’s about a little girl whose parents kind of neglect her but she finds her own way and loves to tell stories and read books and is quite an amazing little girl. She goes to school with a headmistress who hates all children but it’s actually a very funny story.”
Next up is “Little House on the Prairie,” which takes its cues both from the TV show and the original books.
“They distilled the story from both and added original music,” Barrus said. “It was a touring, not a Broadway show, and the music in it is phenomenal. Melissa Gilbert played the mom in one of the productions. We’re the first in the area to get to produce it so we’re excited about that.”
On a more somber and serious note “The Diary of Anne Frank” follows.
“It’s a straight play,” Barrus said. “An emotional but also fantastic play adapted directly from her diary.”
The entertainment takes a turn toward the absurd from there with the arrival of “Big Fish the Musical.”
“So that was a Tim Burton movie in the ‘90s that came to Broadway in the early teens,” Barrus said. “It’s another quirky, zany comedy about a father who’s always telling his son stories that, perhaps, are big fish stories.”
“Smoke on the Mountain” follows “Big Fish” then comes “Sherwood the Adventures of Robin Hood.”
“Another production that we’ll be the first in the area to bring to the stage,” Barrus said. “It’s an adventure, not a musical, but it does have wonderful music that accompanies the story. It’s very action packed as you can imagine with Robin Hood, but it’s also very funny.”
The next production up, “Once on this Island,” brings another Plaza first.
“The entire cast are African American actors, which will be the first time we do that on our stage,” Barrus said.
Next comes “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
“Pretty much exactly like the move with all the same songs and, of course, the flying car,” Barrus said. “It’s another show we’ve never done.”
A dramatic musical — much of the cast die — comes next courtesy of “Titanic the Musical.”
“It’s actually a beautiful musical,” Barrus said. “It’s not the movie as a lot of people think. It’s not about Jack and Rose. It’s actually about the historical figures on the ship. The whole event is depicted through the company as they sing these original songs, which are magnificent.”
The 2020 season wraps with yet another annual Christmas play, in this case “Elf the Musical.”
Which also marks two more firsts for Plaza. The first being that this will mark Plaza’s first staging of the show. The second being that, for the first time ever, Plaza won’t be staging “A Christmas Carol,” as they have since their opening on alternate years.
“We’ve deviated for the first time because “Elf” is a very sought after property and the company that owns it has made it available only for this year and next,” Barrus said. “After that they plan to put it back in the vault and who knows when they’ll make it available again? So we thought we better get it while we can.
“We couldn’t do it this year because we had already locked in “White Christmas” so that’s why we’re doing it next year in place of “A Christmas Carol.”
Sadly Zooey Deschanel won’t be on hand to reprise her role as Jovie but the play abounds with holiday cheer and upbeat music, Barrus said.
In other news, the schedule of Plaza Junior shows remains to be announced and the popular Fam Jam and ImPlazables series remain on hiatus.
“Our intent is to bring both back, maybe in a little different form,” Barrus said. “At this point we’ve not determined what or when that will be.”
It’s a bargain
Two recent changes spell savings for patrons, Barrus said.
“We’re trying to get word out about our student pricing,” Barrus said. “If high school and college students come to the door the day of the play and show ID we’re doing student rush price, which is $5 off the student price, which is regularly $23. But if they come during the rush they can get in for $18. We’re also working on expanding our rush options and we’re planning to do a year-round discount for military but we’re still working out the details on those.”
Season tickets are available as are other options.
“We have our packages, which were very popular,” Barrus said. “So basically that’s gift certificates, which can be used for any show. Those are good for people who don’t want to buy the entire season. In addition you get our signature cup, which is good at the concession stand, popcorn vouchers and things like that.”
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