The Children's Theatre Company is presenting two new plays next year in a season that will fill the stage with singing pirates, baseball players, the Mad Hatter, the Grinch and Pinocchio. Two shows for preschoolers on the CTC's small stage round out the 2012-13 season.
The season features seven shows, one more than in the previous two seasons. Between 2008 and 2010, in the aftermath of the recession, the theater lost nearly a third of its audience and more than a quarter of its revenue. Two shows were cut in the 2010-11 season to make budget, but things are looking up.
"We had a fantastic year last year," said artistic director Peter Brosius. "We ended very strongly in the black and we're on target to do the same this year. In the case of the next season, there were several things that were very important to us, and one is that we continue to do world premiere work."
To that end, the season opens with "Buccaneers!" (Sept. 11-Oct. 21), a new musical commissioned through an ongoing collaboration between the CTC and New Dramatists, a consortium of New York playwrights. The script is about a girl who is kidnapped onto a pirate ship and organizes the crew and ousts the cruel captain.
For its holiday show, the theater will revive "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Nov. 6-Dec. 30). First produced in 1994 in Minneapolis under an exclusive agreement with the Dr. Seuss estate, the adaptation became a hit on Broadway and toured nationally. Every few years, CTC dusts it off and breathes fresh life into its hard, green heart.
The other world premiere will be a retelling of "Pinocchio" (Jan. 15-Feb. 24). Brosius had been reading Pinocchio scripts, but hadn't found anything he liked until English director Greg Banks proposed retelling Italian Carlo Collodi's 19th century allegory as a tale within a tale, with audience interaction. Banks already had reinvented several other classic stories for the CTC including "Robin Hood" and "Romeo and Juliet.
"He reimagines Pinocchio as a story about group of painters who are inside painting the theater and then are asked by the audience to perform Pinocchio," Brosius said. "These ne'er-do-well storytellers tell it in a way that you've never seen. It's so theatrical and so fun."
The theater is inviting local director Marion McClinton to direct "Jackie and Me" (March 12-April 14, 2013), about the first African-American player in major league baseball. It premiered at Chicago Children's Theater in spring 2011 to great reviews.
The spring show is a revival of "Alice in Wonderland" (April 30-June 15, 2013). A new set and new music are planned for Sharon Holland's adaptation of Lewis Caroll's book. As the father of a teenage daughter, Brosius said he's excited to direct a show about a girl who doesn't just sit passively when strange things come her way.
The season also includes two works for very young kids on the small Cargill stage. A British adaptation of "The Cat in the Hat" (Sept. 25-Dec. 2) turns the Dr. Seusss' book into a screwball comedy. First produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain, the U.S. premiere will be directed by Twin Cities director Jason Ballweber using the British set and props, designed to look like the book's line drawings.
The second piece for toddlers and preschoolers goes for coziness rather than chaos. The company is bringing back its 2010 production of "The Biggest Little House in the Forest" (Jan. 30-March 24, 2013). It's an intimate show with a sweet message of inclusivity performed by one actor and six animal puppets in a set the size of a big dollhouse.
Maja Beckstrom can be reached at 651-228-5295.
Season tickets go on sale today; single show tickets go on sale Aug. 7. Children's Theatre Company, 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls.; 612-874-0400 or childrenstheatre.org.