Academy Playhouse Wows With 2024 Season Lineup

by Jennifer Sexton-Riley

The Academy of Performing Arts has announced its 2024 season, and audiences have got a lot of reasons to stand up and cheer. With a slate of beloved musicals, a dark comedy musical, a rock opera featuring music from the 1980s, family fare, a murder mystery and a beloved holiday comedy, the 2024 season at the Academy lives up to its theme “A Season for Everyone: Sharing the Wonder of Theater.”

Academy Artistic Director Judy Hamer said she has packed the calendar as full as it can be, so she knows everyone will be working hard.

“We are reaching out to all ages,” Hamer said. “The season ahead is exciting to me! It's very diverse, and I really like that.”

The season kicks off March 21 to April 7 with the perennial favorite and multiple Tony-award winning musical “Annie.” Who hasn’t found themselves humming “Tomorrow” or “It’s the Hard Knock Life” at some point or another? “Annie” is one of those musicals which has worked its way into our everyday consciousness with its rags-to-riches story, iconic characters and unforgettable songs. If you’ve only been familiar with it through its place in our shared lexicon but have never actually seen the show, now is the time.

Hamer is excited about the season’s opening show, and not just because her dog, Aly, is playing the role of the title character’s loyal Sandy. (Aly, who takes the role very seriously, even expressed her feelings about the role in an interview on the Academy Playhouse’s Facebook page.)

“The directors of ‘Annie’ are Jennifer Almedia and Terrence Brady,” Hamer said. “‘Annie’ was the choice of our board chair, Samantha Govoni Roderick. She was unable to direct it, so we thought Jen Almeida would be perfect working with a multi-generational cast, and Terrence Brady said he'd help her. They've made a good team.”

The season continues April 25 to May 12 with “Noises Off,” a Tony-winning farce which hilariously brings the audience in on the aspects of stagecraft which usually go on behind the scenes and in the wings. If you enjoy theater, you will love this glimpse into tech rehearsals, missed cues, irate directors, high emotion among the players and all the chaos that goes into bringing a beautifully executed performance to the stage.

Next up, May 30 to June 16, is a musical which needs no introduction, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “The Sound of Music.” This Tony-award winner has everything we want from a musical: a lovable protagonist in the form of governess Maria, a gaggle of adorable and talented children in the von Trapp family, a handsome and tragic widowed father in Captain von Trapp, and a desperate need to escape an unthinkable fate, all set against the bleak horror of impending Nazi occupation and the beautiful hills of Austria. And, of course, the music. From the title song, accompanied in the mind of the listener by an endlessly spinning Maria in the beautiful Austrian landscape, to “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss” and “Climb Every Mountain,” “The Sound of Music” is a must-see and must-sing-along.

From June 27 to July 21 the Academy switches gears to the incredibly fun and long-running Broadway jukebox musical “Rock of Ages.” A jukebox musical is one which incorporates beloved songs from the realm of popular music, and “Rock of Ages” does it in style, lifting 1980s hits from Journey, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and others from radio play to onstage glory. In the frame narrative, an aspiring rock musician narrates his dream of climbing from the lows of his job as a busboy in a Hollywood club to making it to the big time. Will he make it? Just maybe, and along the way we get to enjoy some of our favorite tunes, some of which we may not have heard since we were using half a can of Aqua Net on our hair before school every morning.

On the subject of the 1980s, next up is “Heathers: the Musical,” from Aug. 1 to 18, based on the darkly comic 1989 film of the same name. If you recall the film you know that the subject matter is not for the faint of heart, with topics like bullying, teen suicide and school violence taking center stage. Laughter provides much-needed catharsis in the face of such tragic events, and when the tale is elevated to the height of a musical, so much the better. Don’t attend “Heathers” looking for ideas about how to address high school bullying; instead come to laugh as the titular trio of cruel, popular Heathers find out that their reign of terror is about to come to a cataclysmic end.

As autumn arrives, the time is right for a mystery. What could be better than the Agatha Christie classic “And Then There Were None,” Sept. 5 to 22? Based on the 1939 tale that created the tropes we have all come to know and love, “And Then There Were None” has everything we want from a murder mystery. A crowd of guests arrive at a rambling mansion on a remote island. A recorded message informs them that they have each committed crimes and — so far — gotten away without punishment. But not for long! As the title promises, the nervous guests begin to drop, one by one, and those who remain must try to deduce who is to blame before the time comes for their own demise. Whodunit? Don’t miss your chance to find out.

The hits just keep coming, as the Tony award-winning “Oliver” hits the Academy stage Nov. 7 to 24. Based on the Charles Dickens tale of Oliver Twist, who encounters The Artful Dodger and criminal Fagin as he survives the mean streets of Victorian London, “Oliver” is another production in the Academy’s 2024 season which bursts with iconic and hummable tunes. From the title song to “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself,” and “I’d Do Anything,” the musical numbers in this uplifting tale of survival will have you singing along.

Finally, as the year nears its end and the holiday season begins we have yet another great musical on the Academy stage, “Elf: the Musical,” Dec. 5 to 22. Based on the holiday comedy film of the same name, which has become an annual favorite for many, “Elf: the Musical” hits all the same hilarious beats, with a whole lot of fun songs you’ll be singing long into the new year. There are a few differences in the stage musical which were not in the film, but all of our favorites are here, including Buddy the Elf, Santa Claus, and many funny scenes as Buddy bumbles his way through New York CIty, which is no North Pole. Can Buddy undo his chaotic goof-ups and help the humans around him in time for Santa’s Christmas Eve rounds?

The Academy will also offer a morning summertime family production, “The Lion King Kids,” July 3 to 27, which will take place on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to enjoy this story of friendship and courage with Simba, Nala, Rafiki, Timon, Pumbaa and the rest, all portrayed by actors under 18. With songs like “Hakuna Matata” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” the whole family will feel the love in this fun and uplifting kids’ classic.

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