Center REPertory Company’s Artistic Director Michael Butler has unveiled the company’s 45th subscription season. Running from September 2, 2011 to June 23, 2012, the season will be continuing Center REP’s programming to include eight productions to be performed in all three theatres of the Lesher Center for the Arts.

The diverse season moves from the inner workings of Pablo Picasso’s mind to the goofy dreams of a Venice Beach sidewalk chalk artist, from the social commentary of Dickens and Shaw to the killer tunes of Smokey Joe’s Café, from the fast-paced farce of Neil Simon to the provocative Off Center offerings.

“The real excitement for me, and I think for our audiences, is the breadth of themes and ideas, styles and periods,” says Center REP Artistic Director Michael Butler. “I like to open the season with a real one-two punch and get a little rambunctious right from the get-go.”

Director/Choreographer Robert Barry Fleming (REP’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ and All Shook Up) returns to kick off the season with Smokey Joe’s Café (September 2 – October 9, 2011). This high-energy revue features 39 rock and roll and rhythm and blues hits penned by legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  “Stand by Me,” “Fools Fall in Love,” and “Spanish Harlem” lead an unstoppable line up of great tunes. With its rich context of the early days of pop rock and its nod to the great groups of the era, the all-singing, all-dancing Smokey Joe’s Café has become a classic of the genre.

From music to art, REP’s second show of the season explores the mind of Pablo Picasso, the most astonishingly prolific and influential artist of the 20th Century. A Bay Area premiere, A Weekend with Pablo Picasso (October 21 – November 19, 2011) is written by and stars Herbert Siguenza of the nationally renowned Culture Clash. “A genius playing a genius,” says Butler, “Herbert is one of the most awesome, crazy-talented comedy/theater artists in America. He is also a trained painter and not only plays Picasso, he paints Picasso, whipping off a couple of the master’s paintings before our eyes. It’s a genuine coup de theatre.”

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (December 8 – 18, 2011) heralds the holiday season with colorful costumes and delightful music. Directed by Center REP Managing Director Scott Denison, the annual feast for the eyes and ears includes stunning special effects as the curmudgeonly Scrooge learns that it is better to give than to receive.

One of George Bernard Shaw’s most romantic comedies, Arms and the Man (January 27 – February 25, 2012) turns the notion of idealism in love and valor on its head when an overly romantic young woman hides an enemy soldier only to find herself inexplicably attracted to this man who carries chocolate rather than cartridges for his gun. “This is a delightful, almost screwball comedy of opposing characters vying for the hand of our heroine set against Shaw’s very keenly observed opinions on war and marriage,” Butler says.

When a modern master of comedy turns his hand to farce, the result is Rumors (March 30 – April 28, 2012), Neil Simon’s hilarious clockwork comedy set in the excessive late 80s. “Something in us enjoys a thing that is perfectly designed and built, whether it’s a sports car, a cathedral, or a comedy. Comedies are much cheaper and give you a lot more bang for the buck,” says Butler. The host is injured, the wife is missing, and four well-do-do couples are about to experience a severe attack of farce as Simon’s comedic genius turns a posh dinner party to total chaos.

Center REP closes the mainstage season with the Broadway cult hit musical Xanadu (May 18 – June 23, 2012). Based on the Universal Pictures film starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, with a cheeky, hilarious book by playwright Douglas Carter Beane, this musical adventure features an Olympian Muse who disguises herself with a bad Australian accent to inspire a struggling artist fulfill his roller disco dreams. Of course, love blossoms despite the intervention of Zeus and others. With back-to-back chart-topping hits (“Magic,” “I’m Alive,” “Have You Never Been Mellow”) this is inspired lunacy at its most buoyant and hilarious.

In addition to its six-show mainstage season, Center REP’s season also includes its popular Off Center series. Designed to present new, challenging works to its audience, the Off Center series has been a hit with audiences for the past two years. “We’re very gratified that Off Center has been so successful,” says Butler. “Last season’s Becoming Britney, played to packed houses and brought a lot of new audience into the theater.”

Off Center kicks off its third season with the West Coast premiere of The Storytelling Ability of a Boy (October 27 – November 20, 2011). Written by Carter W. Lewis, it is a turbulent, stingingly funny story of two teenagers – Peck, a gifted writer and bullied geek and his best friend, Goth-girl Dora – and the idealistic teacher who befriends them. “Our second Off Center show is so hot, we aren’t allowed to announce it yet,” Butler teases. “But it’s a multiple Tony Award-winning musical that explores the journey from adolescence to adulthood.” The surprise show, which will be announced in September, runs April 19 – May 13, 2012.

Center Rep - Walnut CreekCenter REP 2011-2012 Season

Smokey Joe’s Café
September 2 – October 9, 2011
Opening Night – September 6, 2011
Lesher Theatre
Book, Music & Lyrics by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
Smokey Joe’s Cafe is the hottest joint in town. This Tony Award winning tribute to legendary songwriters Leiber and Stoller will have you “dancing in the streets.” Smokey Joe’s is a fast paced nostalgic trip through 39 of rock and roll’s greatest hits from, “Stand by Me” and “Fools Fall in Love,” to “Spanish Harlem” and “Yakity Yak.”

A Weekend With Pablo Picasso
October 21 – November 19, 2011
Opening Night – October 25, 2011
Lesher Theatre
Written and Performed by Herbert Siguenza
Picasso’s opinions and creations gripped the public imagination and forever changed 20th century art. Siguenza brings his virtuosic writing, acting and design skills to explore Picasso’s proclamations about ambition, destruction, creativity and art as an agent of social change.

A Christmas Carol
December 8 – December 18, 2011
Opening Night – December 10, 2011
Hofmann Theatre
Brimming with music and dance, love and laughter, spectacular special effects and scary ghosts, it’s no wonder the critics have called it “THE Christmas Carol to see in the Bay Area.” Join the thousands who make this theatrical event part of their annual holiday traditions.

Arms and the Man
January 27 – February 25, 2012
Opening Night – January 31, 2012
Lesher Theatre
By George Bernard Shaw
The master of wit and social comedy at his most entertaining and romantic. What makes a hero? What makes a good husband? Raina must choose between Captain Bluntschli, the practical man who prefers chocolates to cartridges and Sergius, the dashing hero of the mistaken cavalry charge that sent Bluntschli climbing into her bedroom window at night. Shaw’s most popular play is a charming tale of romance going awry with unexpected turns, mistaken identities and of course, the author’s always surprising opinions – on war and marriage, and everything else!

March 30 – April 28, 2012
Opening Night – April 3, 2012
Lesher Theatre
By Neil Simon
The host has injured himself, his wife is missing and four couples are about to experience a severe attack of farce. As the rumors escalate, so do the laughs. Add in a cook who’s gone AWOL, a damaged car, a recurring back spasm, and you’ve got a preposterous story no one can keep straight. Rumors, widely considered Neil Simon’s funniest play, follows one hilarious evening of cover-ups, confusions and miscommunications.

May 18 – June 23, 2012
Opening Night – May 22, 2012
Lesher Theatre
Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Music & Lyrics by based on the film by Jeff Lynne & John Farrar
Based on the Universal Pictures Film
A young artist is trying to paint his enduring masterpiece (in chalk) on the boardwalk of Venice Beach and before you can say “roller disco!” his Muse appears in the form of Olivia Newton-John to guide him to full artistic satisfaction. Hey, it’s the 80s; they did stuff like this then. Based on the legendary cult film with Newton-John and Gene Kelly, and packed with her chart-topping hits (Magic, I’m Alive, Have You Never Been Mellow), this is inspired lunacy at its most buoyant and hilarious.

Center REP Off Center 2011-2012 Season

The Storytelling Ability of a Boy
October 27 – November 20, 2011
Opening Night – October 29, 2011
Knight Stage 3 Theatre
Book by Carter W. Lewis
This West Coast Premiere is a turbulent, wickedly funny and tough tale of two alienated but oh-so real teenagers – slacker Peck, a gifted writer and frequently bullied geek, his best friend and Goth-girl Dora – and the young, idealistic teacher who intervenes with surprising consequences. A two time nominee for the American Critics Circle Award and recipient of several national playwriting awards, Lewis is one of America’s most dynamic writers. Strong language and situations.

TBA (musical)
April 19 – May 13, 2012
Opening Night – April 21, 2012
Knight Stage 3 Theatre
Our second Off Center show is so hot, they won’t let us announce it yet. Seriously. But this multiple Tony Award-winning musical was a sensation on Broadway and has rocked the musical theatre scene. Don’t miss the chance to see this poignant and passionate exploration of the journey from adolescence to adulthood. Strong language, sexual situations and themes. And a kick ass score.

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