From Harlem to Appalachia to Hollywood, the 19th season at Virginia Stage will offer a broad -- and musical -- view of the American landscape. Said artistic director Charlie Hensley (beginning his fifth season), "I always like to provide our audience with as much variety as possible."
Here's the Virginia Stage Company line-up for 1997-98:
Appalachian Strings by Randal Myler & Dan Wheetman. (Sept. 21 Oct. 12)
Based on oral histories of the region, the show -- featuring homemade instruments -- captures the struggles and joys of those who emigrated from Ireland to the Kentucky and West Virginia mountain.
A Long Day's Journey Into Night (Oct. 26-Nov. 16)
Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical drama, considered by some the greatest of all American plays. Virginia Stage is negotiating with a famous actor to play the lead, James Tyrone. If that falls through, the company will do Patrick Hamilton's Angel Street instead.
The Foreigner by Larry Shue. (Jan. 18-Feb. 8, 1998)
A shy Englishman on vacation pretends he can't speak English -- only to cause more disturbances than he could imagine. The late Shue was also the author of The Nerd and Wenceslas Square. The Old Settler by John Henry Redwood. (Feb. 22-March 15, 1998)
A slice of 1940s African-American life that follows what happens when a handsome drifter comes into the life of an middle-aged spinster.
Dames At Sea (March 29-April 19, 1998)
A musical tribute to 1930s Hollywood, with "blonde bombshells, singing sailors and tap dances galore."
A Midsummer Night's Dream (May 1-May 3)
This special event (presented at Chrysler Hall) will offer Shakespeare's comedy matched with Mendelssohn's orchestral piece, performed by the Virginia Symphony. This concert event will be part of Virginia's second annual International Waterfront Arts Festival.
Artistic director Hensley is also excited about the 1998-99 season, when he expects 10 productions to be on the boards or on tour to local schools. Virginia Stage's current show is the hit musical bio, Always...Patsy Cline.
For tickets (subscripbtions run $45-$130) and information on the 1997-98 Virginia Stage Company season, Sept. 21-May 3, call (757) 627-1234.
--By David Lefkowitz