Josh Rittberg

Arts and Culture Editor

With two iconic musicals and two impactful plays, this is sure to be a wonderful season for Millersville Theatre. The year begins with MU Theatre’s rollicking production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” This musical will be directed by Millersville’s director dramatics Tony Elliot, and it promises to be a raucous and enjoyable night of theatre.

Unlike most MU Theatre productions, “Jesus Christ Superstar” includes a couple of much loved alumni members along with the talented group of current students. There are only two or three alumni members among the cast, but according to Elliot, having the alumni members gives “a chance for people to learn from each other.” This rock opera by the legendary composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber focuses on Jesus and his apostles “as a group of rebels against the establishment of that time,”as described by Elliot. He also  says that having even a slight variety of ages in the cast “heightens the conflict between the establishment and these renegades.”

The musical has had some recent resurgence in popularity following the Emmy winning NBC live production. This televised version of the show simulated the live theatre experience vividly with the audience in full view; but Elliot is excited for the student body and local theatregoers to experience the show for themselves.  Although “Jesus Christ Superstar” got back on the public’s radar following NBC’s telecast, the piece actually started out in the 1970s as a concept album. The album became extremely popular and eventually spawned the stage musical that audiences know and love today. The Millersville production, which plays from November 8 through 11 in Claire Hall at The Winter Center of Visual Arts, will try to keep the rock concert atmosphere that this show demands and is ultimately rooted in, but the story itself is still very much going to be at the heart of this rendition of the iconic piece.

The first play of the Millersville season is a quirky little piece from the playwright Beth Henley called “The Miss Firecracker Contest.” The play tells the story of a beauty pageant in a small southern town and the zany individuals who inhabit that world. The production is being guest directed by an exciting talent named Terry Mastrobuono, and promises to be an entertaining yet insightful night of theatre. According to Elliot, “the characters may seem really extreme, but when you step back and look at the experience of the storytelling, you start to see the absurdity within our own lives.” This production is back in the intimate Rafters Theatre from February 22 through March 3, and is sure to be an absolute blast.

The next show of the season is ACMO’s production of the musical “Pippin.” This coming of age musical of a young prince trying to find his “corner of the sky” is a dazzling and thought provoking musical that is sure to be a hit for ACMO when it plays the Winter Center for Visual Arts from March 21 through 24.

The last production of the year is John Cariani’s acclaimed play: “Almost Maine.” This show is different than most, as it is essentially nine different stand-alone two person scenes. These scenes are all about love and ideas that are universal to our own lives.  The scenes all take place in the same cold Maine town, and it is a very quirky and heartfelt work of theatre. The playwright John Cariani is currently starring in the Tony winning musical, “The Band’s Visit.” That show in and of itself is a quiet piece on connection and longing. Fans of his acting work can find the same humor and heart in his play “Almost Maine” as well.

Almost Maine is one of the most produced plays in the country, and that is largely because of its flexible cast size and universal appeal. After a season of the louder rock musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the pop and jazz influenced “Pippin” and the quirky “The Miss Firecracker Contest,” “Almost Maine” will be a nice intimate end to this excellent season of theatre at Millersville. “Almost Maine” plays from April 5 through April 14  at The Rafters Theatre. This will be a season of theatre that audiences will not want to miss.