Tennessee Rep announces 2008-2009 season


Tennessee Repertory Theatre has announced its 2008-2009 season of live, professional theatre. Included in the upcoming season are a Tony Award-winning musical, two Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas, two hilarious new comedies and an oft-requested holiday favorite.

“Tennessee Rep is very excited about next season’s shows,” says Producing Artistic Director Rene Copeland. “Each play has something special about it, and taken all together we have a terrific cross-section of offerings.

“Our goal is to provide a feast–a buffet–of good, strong, tasty choices for theatergoers, and we can promise audiences variety in the types of plays but dependable consistency in the high level of quality throughout the season,” Copeland continues.  “This season is a combination of comedy and drama, classic and contemporary, reality and fantasy, horror and silliness, and there’s even a very new play and a revival of an old favorite.  I’m very proud and pleased to be able to bring these plays to Nashville audiences, and if there’s a play on the list Nashvillians are not familiar with, we hope they are inspired to take a chance with us.  Good acting, good sets, good costumes, good scripts, guaranteed.  Tasty choices all!”

Tennessee Rep’s 24th season features the following:

  • Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
  • Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson
  • Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
  • Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire
  • Darwin in Malibu by Crispin Whittell

Augmenting the above-mentioned shows, which comprise the season subscription package, Tennessee Rep will also offer a fully-mounted show as a Holiday SpecialThe Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris featuring the Middle Tennessee return of Matt Chiorini in the role of Crumpet.

In addition to its season and the holiday special, Tennessee Rep will see some changes and additions for the 2008-2009 season.  Among these is the addition of “First Night” — a special opening night with a festive party atmosphere. Tuesday night performances have also been added and additional subscription options including subscription options at a lower price.

As with all Tennessee Rep productions, the 2008-2009 season reflects a local product, with local actors, sets that have been designed and constructed locally, and costumes that were designed and crafted locally. 

Play Descriptions:

Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler

October 4 – 18
Johnson Theater, TPAC

When this show opened on Broadway in 1979, it won nine Tony Awards, including Best Book, Best Score, and Best Musical.  Sondheim is regarded as a premiere American composer, and the quality of his work as a musician is so superb it is often presented by opera companies or in concert presentation as well.  

A rare instance of a musical thriller, this chilling, suspenseful, heart-pounding masterpiece of murderous barber-ism and culinary crime tells the infamous tale of the unjustly exiled barber who returns to 19th century London seeking revenge against the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. Sophisticated, macabre, visceral and uncompromising, Sweeney Todd nevertheless has a great sense of fun, mixing intense drama with howlingly funny moments of dark humor: audiences have found themselves laughing hysterically one moment and gasping in surprise the next.

Copeland Says:  “Sweeney Todd is scary and fun and beautiful and awful and exciting and heart-wrenching all at once, and there’s not a more bountiful feast of sheer theatricality to be found.  I mean, it’s a musical about a guy who kills people and his girlfriend who cooks them up into meatpies—it’s like telling scary stories around the campfire, and we relish the prospect of telling you this one!”

Moonlight and Magnolias
by Ron Hutchinson

November 8 – 22
Johnson Theater, TPAC

Set in 1939 Hollywood, Moonlight and Magnolias tells the story of what happened when legendary producer David O. Selznick shut down production of his new epic, Gone with the Wind. The screenplay, you see, just isn’t working. So what’s an all-powerful movie mogul to do? While fending off the film’s stars, gossip columnists and his own father-in-law, Selznick sends a car for famed screenwriter Ben Hecht and pulls formidable director Victor Fleming from the set of The Wizard of Oz. Summoning both to his office, he locks the doors, closes the shades, and on a diet of bananas and peanuts, the three men labor over five days to fashion a screenplay that will become the blueprint for one of the most successful and beloved films of all time. 

Copeland Says:  “The great thing about this play is it’s both a kind of tribute to the driving energies from that era of movie-making while still poking fun at the whole mentality, AND you don’t have to know anything at all about Gone with the Wind to appreciate the satire.  I couldn’t resist it.  Witty dialogue, funny plot, larger-than-life characters, all put together nicely.  You’re in for a treat.”

Glengarry Glen Ross
by David Mamet

February 7 – 21
Johnson Theater, TPAC

This classic of the American theatre is David Mamet at his best.  2009 marks the 25th anniversary of his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, so a celebration is in order.  This scalding comedy-drama took Broadway and London by storm when it opened in 1984, when it also garnered a Tony nomination for best play.  Never has the author’s ear for the rhythms of contemporary speech been more keen than in this tale of cutthroat competition among real estate salesmen.  In the first act, the salesmen vie for position as they gulp their cocktails in the local Chinese restaurant. The second act shifts to the office where the promising Glengarry Glen Ross leads have been filched.  Mamet’s not-so-subtle reflection on how bad things happen when vulnerable people are reduced to targets by unscrupulous sharks unfortunately still resonates today from the current credit card debacle to the sub-prime mortgage collapse.

Copeland Says:  “It’s Mamet, so while it delves into the dark side of human nature it does so with dark humor, so the dialogue is both scathing (adult language alert) and very witty.  It’s an actor’s dream play, so if you especially enjoy terrific, taut, intense acting, you won’t want to miss this.” 

Rabbit Hole
By David Lindsay-Abaire

March 21 – April 4
Johnson Theater, TPAC

A brilliant new play, Rabbit Hole won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for drama.  Becca and Howie Corbett have everything a family could want, until a life-shattering accident turns their world upside down and leaves the couple drifting perilously apart.  Rabbit Hole charts their bittersweet search for comfort in the darkest of places and for a path that will lead them back into the light of day. 

Copeland Says:  “I don’t think there’s better, more believable, more truthful dialogue and characters than what this plays brings to the stage, and you will be amazed by what you see.”

Darwin in Malibu
by Crispin Whittell

May 2 – 16
Johnson Theater, TPAC

One hundred and twenty years after his death, Charles Darwin is hanging out in a beach house overlooking the Pacific with a girl young enough to be his daughter.  His peace is rudely disturbed when his old friend Thomas Huxley washes up on the beach closely followed by the Bishop of Oxford.  And Darwin suddenly finds himself entangled in an enthralling and thought-provoking comedy about God, science, and plastic surgery.  You may think you know how such a discussion would go between the father of evolution and one of evolution’s most outspoken critics in his day, but you will be surprised.

Copeland Says:  “Crispin Whittell’s Darwin in Malibu was just about the most universally popular play among the staff when we were going through the selection process for the season.  It’s a just-published play in America—first produced in England—and I was very drawn to it because it made me laugh a lot and made me think a lot.”


The Santaland Diaries
by David Sedaris

November 28 – December 20
Johnson Theater, TPAC

This hilarious one-man show has been one of Tennessee Rep’s most oft-asked-for holiday productions.  Out of work, our slacker decides to become a Macy’s elf during the seasonal crunch. At first the job is simply humiliating, but once the thousands of visitors start pouring through Santa’s workshop, he becomes battle weary and bitter.  Taking consolation in the fact that some of the other elves were television extras on One Life to Live, he grins and bears it, occasionally taking out his frustrations on the children and parents alike. 

Copeland Says:   “I’m very happy to announce that we have managed to entice Matt Chiorini to come back to Nashville to do the show again, and so for those of you who saw it before and wondered how you could ever love anyone else in that role—Merry Christmas!  And I’m sure I’ll see you at the show.  For those of you who haven’t seen the show before, be sure to grab this chance while you can–you don’t want to miss this hysterical irreverent antidote to holiday sentimentalism.”