Deep in the swamp of summer, when most theaters in the area are dark until their 2022/2023 seasons, some theaters keep their AC blasting and their lights on for audiences. Since it’s hard to grab theatergoers away from their vacations or capitalize on visiting tourists during this is the time of the year, most theaters are putting up big budget, high-energy musicals. Kennedy Center is showing the famous “Hamilton” this month, but if you need something a little different, there’s plenty of other gems around town. Sprinkled in with musicals are a few light, crowd-pleasing comedies that will be a nice complement to a cold cocktail at happy hour.
“My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” at Theater J
This hilarious one-man show by and starring Brad Zimmerman is exactly what the title implies: a funny and heartfelt journey of Zimmerman’s career trajectory from waiter (a 29-year tenure) to successful actor and comedian. At a sharp and speedy 80 minutes, this is the perfect engagement to take your parents to for a respite from their questions about the job hunt, or them casually wondering if you’ve thought about law school. Theater J: 1529 16th St. NW, DC; theaterj.org // @theaterjdc
“American Prophet” at Arena Stage
A world premiere musical about Frederick Douglass, this play is adapted from and inspired by Douglass’s speeches and written words. Charles Randolph-Wright (Broadway’s “Motown the Musical”) directs, and D.C. native Marucs Hummon created the music and lyrics. Hummon, a Grammy award-winning songwriter, brings an intriguing element to this new musical — he’s most known as a successful country music songwriter (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Bless the Broken Road” and The Chicks’ “Ready to Run” and “Cowboy Take Me Away,” among many others) so it will be interesting to see how his talents translate to the theatre world. Another interesting draw is Cornelius Smith Jr. as Douglass. Smith Jr. is known for his extensive television credits, so it’s an exciting opportunity to see him take on such a weighty figure in a new musical. Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; arenastage.org // @arenastage
“Six the Musical” at The National Theatre
This current Broadway smash makes its way to D.C., supplying infectious energy to the dregs of the District’s summer. This year’s Tony best original score winner tells the tale of the six wives of King Henry VIII, giving them the chance to not only speak their truth center stage, but to sing it in the style and sound of modern pop divas. The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; thenationaldc.com // @broadwaynatdc
“The Color Purple” at Signature Theatre
Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, this hit musical tells the story of the strong, resilient and powerful connection between a group of Black women in the American South over the course of 40 years. Leading this stellar cast is D.C.’s beloved Nova Y. Payton as Celie — a role that demands a strong presence and voice, which Payton will deliver in spades. Signature Theatre shines brightest when producing these moving musicals, and this one will be no exception — very worth a trip across the bridge. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; sigtheatre.org // @sigtheatre
“The Outsider” at The Keegan Theatre
This regional premiere details Ned Newley, the worst candidate ever to run for governor, and his campaign manager who is eager to spin that negative superlative to Ned’s advantage. There are so many — almost too many — easy jokes to make right now about terrible candidates, but as our democracy burns, it might be nice to go to the theatre to laugh about politics — at least for a couple hours. The Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; keegantheatre.com // @keegan_theatre
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