ABINGDON, Va. — Flying monkeys, The Man in Black and a flower girl turned lady are just a few of the characters to be featured in productions at Barter Theatre in the 2014 season.
“This season’s really exciting,” said Amanda Leslie Livingston, director of marketing for Barter Theatre. “It’s got a lot of big names that people know.”
The May 11 opening of “The Wizard of Oz” is one show Livingston said will definitely pack the theater house.
Written by L. Frank Baum, with music and lyrics by Harol Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, “The Wizard of Oz” is the classic musical tale of Dorothy Gale, who is transported to the world of Oz.
While on her way to see the Wizard (in hopes of getting back to Kansas), Dorothy encounters Munchkins and witches, and even makes friends with a Tin Man, a Cowardly Lion and a Scarecrow.
A summer production, “The Wizard of Oz” is one of the most popular plays Barter has ever done, Livingston said.
“It’s just the classic story,” she said. “Everybody loves it. It’s family friendly, but it’s just appealing to everyone. I don’t know of anyone who hates ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ ”
Audience members will get to know a little more about the legendary Johnny Cash in Barter’s August Special Feature play, “Ring of Fire: the Music of Johnny Cash.”
“We’re really excited to do that one,” Livingston said. “It is going to be a live band on stage, live musicians. It’s not a Johnny Cash impersonator ... it’s more than that. You’ve got the singers that are telling the stories of Johnny Cash’s life and his relationship with June Carter Cash, who, of course, has the local connection being from this area.”
Another popular production this year will likely be “My Fair Lady.”
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture of the same name, “My Fair Lady” is the story of a cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, who takes voice lessons from professor Henry Higgins, so that she can pass as a lady in society.
“My Fair Lady” is an unlikely love story with some of the greatest songs written for the Broadway stage and filled with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters, Livingston said.
Barter’s 2013 Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights winner “The Dryad: An Appalachian Tale,” will have its world premiere at the theater Feb. 27.
“The Dryad” centers around the Appalachia area during the Great Depression.
One of the main characters, Lena, leaves her husband and moves home to her father’s farm. When the chestnut trees, which are part of the locals’ livelihood, begin dying off, things start to look bleak for the town. Lena and her family meet a mysterious girl who comes to town and changes the family forever.
The word dryad, in folklore and Greek mythology, is a nymph that inhabits a forest or a tree. The legend surrounding a dryad is that if you help free one, you will be rewarded with a kiss.
Livingston said another must-see this year is “The Crucible,” fashioned from the book by Arthur Miller.
In Salem, Mass., a group of teenage girls claim to have been possessed by witchcraft. The town reacts in fear and horror, searching for someone, or some thing to blame. With paranoia raging out of control, John Proctor dares to tell the truth, and risks paying the ultimate price.
“It’s really meant to be seen on stage to be really appreciated,” she said. “(It’s) just a cool drama that is incredibly relevant. Everyone who sees it (may think) about what it takes to stand up for your personal convictions and the cost of that, the price that you might be forced to pay.”
The newest season at the Barter kicks off Jan. 31 with “Don’t Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell” on Barter Stage II. The main stage will kick off its season Feb. 13 with “Man of La Mancha.”
Other plays appearing at Barter this year include “I Do, I Do, I Do” in February, “Welcome Back to Ivy Gap” in May and “A Modern Christmas Carol” in December.
Livingston said picking out the productions each year is about a nine-month process, and said this year’s lineup is something to be excited about.
“We feel like this lineup in the 2014 season is going to just really speak to our audience because it’s this sort of grandness that you expect from Barter. It’s got a little something for everybody,” she said. “We feel like it’s part of our obligation to put on a show that just wows you every time.”
For a complete schedule from Barter Theatre or for more information, visit www.bartertheatre.com.