The Queen Bee onstage this fall is Tina Fey's "Mean Girls" musical, getting its pre-Broadway premiere at the National Theatre starting on Halloween. Let "Girls" eat cake: Washington theater is always buzzier when the National is in first-look mode.
Fey is a pop culture darling, and her 2004 movie "Mean Girls" is a cult favorite, but it's hard to measure how good this might be. Fey's husband, Jeff Richmond, is writing the music, with lyrics by Nell Benjamin ("Legally Blonde the Musical"); the busy Casey Nicholaw ("The Book of Mormon," "Something Rotten!") directs and choreographs. The show is unlikely to pioneer brave new teen territory the way "Dear Evan Hansen" did at Arena Stage and eventually on Broadway, but you can't argue with Nicholaw's comic track record, and you want to watch Fey take this shot.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2008 Tony winner "In the Heights" belatedly has caught Washington's fancy (thanks, "Hamilton"), with last spring's U.S. Spanish-language premiere at GALA Hispanic Theatre now followed by a substantial co-production. The Olney Theatre Center and Bethesda's Round House Theatre have lured "Heights" Broadway veterans to their production (now at Olney), including director-choreographer Marcos Santana and lead actor Robin de Jesús.
Plays to watch: A blanket pick here is the second Women's Voices Theater Festival, continuing Washington theater's aggressive move to produce new works by female writers; companies across the city will take part in this January-February event. This month, there's promise in the double bill of early Harold Pinter works "The Lover" and "The Collection" (Sept. 26-Oct. 29). Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn, who brought his classical ear for fraught dialogue and cool infighting to Pinter's "Old Times" in 2011 (and whimsically to "Cloud 9" last year), takes on these erotically charged dramas.
At Round House, "I'll Get You Back Again" is a world premiere by Sarah Gancher about a stand-up comedian roped into playing with her late father's 1960s hippie band. Directing is D.C. native Rachel Chavkin, fresh off her Broadway triumph "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812."
Trump drama, anyone? See Jon Robin Baitz's "Vicuña & An Epilogue," a comedy about a Trumplike Republican presidential nominee who needs a fancy suit for his last debate. The play debuted last October in Los Angeles; Mosaic Theater Company premieres Baitz's new epilogue Nov. 1, when the latest White House headlines will be anyone's guess.
Offbeat British comedian Daniel Kitson is a catch for Studio Theatre ("the Salinger of standup," according to London's Guardian newspaper), and Kitson is tailoring his new show for Washington. The title, "A Short Series of Disagreements Presented Here in Chronological Order," suggests a quirky/contentious night. Also worth flagging is "Nina Simone: Four Women," a music drama featuring the civil rights singer's famous songs and a dramatic angle that situates Simone in the Birmingham, Ala., church where four African American girls were killed in a 1963 bombing. Christina Ham's show arrives at Arena Stage after its recent premiere in St. Paul, Minn.; Harriett D. Foy plays Simone.
The brightest holiday delights should be where the dancing's best, and where George and Ira Gershwin rule. The musical theater specialists at Signature Theatre will test their terpsichorean mettle with the toe-tappin' "Crazy for You," the show that clinched Susan Stroman's reputation as a gleeful and inventive choreographer; Denis Jones (Broadway's "Honeymoon in Vegas") choreographs at Signature. An even surer thing glides into the Kennedy Center in December with the Broadway tour of "An American in Paris," directed and choreographed by the ballet world's Christopher Wheeldon. Fingers crossed for a stairway to paradise.
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