Arts & Culture

Capital Playhouse veers toward lesser-known shows

This year, there's something a little bit odd in the Capital Playhouse season. That is to say, some strange things are happening in some of the productions.

The season kicks off with "Sweeney Todd" (Oct. 4-27), which blends murder, mystery and meat pies. (We aren't going to tell you how, but even if you haven't seen the 1973 musical, your first thought is probably not far from true.)

Also fitting that theme are "6 Women With Braindeath" (Jan. 24-Feb. 16), subtitled "Expiring Minds Want to Know," a revue that includes a scene with decapitated prom queens and one about Barbie and Ken's secret fantasy life.

And then there's "Side Show" (March 13-April 5), about conjoined twins in the circus.

"Capital Playhouse tries to do some lesser-known musicals," said Stephanie Nace, the theater's marketing and development director. " 'Women With Braindeath' was off-Broadway, and it never really went anywhere. It never became widely popular or widely known.

"A lot of theaters have to do classics or favorites or they won't fill their seats," she said. "We're able to take some risks and put a few lesser-known shows up there. People trust us."

Artistic director Jeff Kingsbury said he enjoys doing contemporary shows when it's possible.

"You look for those things that are coming out of the city that are doable," he said. "And you don't always have good years of that. Sometimes you have to fall back on the stuff you know will work."

And there's nothing wrong with that. Both "Todd" and "Side Show" have previously been produced by Capital Playhouse, but both will get new life and new approaches this season.

The company is abuzz about "Todd" because Jarrod Emick, who won a Tony Award for "Damn Yankees" and who most recently appeared in the short-lived "Ring of Fire" on Broadway, will star.

"Having a Tony winner is exciting," Kingsbury said. "That's not usual for our town or our space."

The holiday show is an interesting choice: "1940s Radio Hour" (Nov. 29-Dec. 22), a comedy about a New York City variety show, which is more than a little reminiscent of Harlequin Productions' annual Stardust shows, set at a nightclub during World War II.

However, "Radio Hour" is a book musical, while Stardust is a revue, Kingsbury said, adding that neither company is concerned about competition between the holiday productions.

"Their audience is cemented," he said. "I go to that every year myself."