Over the next month in local theaters, there will be numerous opportunities to see shows that have never been staged in the area. Some are world premieres, including a promising pre-Broadway engagement at National Theatre and a musical that reunites some of Signature Theatre’s hit makers. Then there are plays that have gotten a bit of practice and acclaim elsewhere before making their Washington debut: Playwright Richard Nelson’s famously ordinary Apple Family is bringing its dinner table banter our way, and a red-hot South African import will scorch the stage at Shakespeare Theatre.
There might be a certain appeal to lip-syncing theatrical dialogue, but it can’t compete with the thrill of discovering a new gem.
at Signature Theatre
Although he had been acting for ages, Matt Conner had little experience composing before creating “Nevermore” for Signature Theatre in 2006 with the help of Grace Barnes, who wrote the book, and director Eric Schaeffer. Conner couldn’t even read music. But who could tell? The musical, inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, looked and sounded like that of an accomplished veteran. Now, Conner, Barnes and Schaeffer have reunited for another world premiere musical. “Crossing” takes place in a train station, where generations of people from all walks of life cross paths. Signature has even aired a few of the show’s tunes on its Web site, and so far the gospel-tinged numbers sound promisingly rousing.
Tuesday-Nov. 24. Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.,Arlington. 703-820-9771. www.signature-theatre.org. $29-$98.
at Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Washington native Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has made his home town proud since moving to New York. Subversive though his plays may be, Jacobs-Jenkins snagged the first Tennessee Williams Award from the Sundance Institute earlier this year. His new play, which premiered at Louisville’s Humana Festival in March, is making its way to Woolly Mammoth Theatre. The plot may sound familiar to those acquainted with “August: Osage County” or any other number of plays about family dysfunction. Yet Jacob-Jenkins promises something more incendiary with his tale of a group of relatives who gather after the death of the family patriarch. But rather than operating under the pall of low-level discomfort, as with so many other similarly themed plays, the group stumbles upon a sickening secret that throws the family into chaos.
Nov. 4-Dec. 1. Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW. 202-393-3939. www.woollymammoth.net. $35-$67.50. Pay-what-you-can Nov. 4-5.
at National Theatre
National Theatre is emerging as the phoenix of the Washington theater world. After years of middling-to-nonexistent programming, the National is kicking off an exciting season with a world premiere musical. And it’s not just any new play, but the latest venture from the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning team behind “Next to Normal” — formidable composer-lyricist duo Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, plus director Michael Greif and producer David Stone. Adding more buzz to the already notable line-up is Idina Menzel, the powerful vocalist and Tony winner best known for “Rent” and “Wicked.” Menzel plays Elizabeth, a middle-age woman looking for a fresh start and new adventures by moving to Manhattan. “If/Then” also is headed north: After its stint in Washington, the production is scheduled to debut on Broadway in March.