The Merry Wives of Windsor
Sept. 26-Nov. 2
The Plot: The bulbous, rowdy Falstaff (from Henry IV Parts 1 and 2) takes center stage in this Shakespearean comedy as he attempts to lure married women into his indecent embrace with little success. The Twist: Set in post-WWII Windsor, Wisconsin, this interpretation casts Falstaff as a failed Hollywood bigwig looking to snatch some dough from the locals to finance a comeback. "I have tried to stay faithful to what I think Shakespeare's intent with the piece is — his themes, ideas and the narrative track," says director Tracy Young. "But I also always keep in mind when I work on Shakespeare that [he] was himself a populist writer and wrote for his time." The Flip Side: Good thing it's funny, or else all that cheating and jealousy would be a real downer. "There's a lot of misery with a lot of the characters," says Young. "Which is part of what makes it funny."
Oct. 3-Nov. 9
The Plot: A tragic tale of loss, poverty and revolution based on the expansive novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, this musical follows ex-con Jean Valjean who agrees to care for a factory worker's daughter. The Twist: Typically a production with a huge cast, this version is forgoing all the goings-on. Instead, a more actor-centered approach is used, with some playing four or more roles each. "I wanted to get back to really telling the story," says director Victoria Bussert. "I feel like it has less of a spectacle kind of look at the story." The Flip Side: In a world of perpetual death, despair and heartbreak, there is always room to merrily screw others over. Especially if, like the Thenardiers, you're a pair of thieving innkeepers. "I think the writers were very smart in realizing that there had to be some relief from the depth and seriousness of the story," says Bussert.