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Top 10 shows not to miss

Excitement around the corner for theater in the South Sound

Andrew Fry and Cassie Jo Fastabend in The Underpants (TLT). Photo courtesy Jen Ankrum

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Perhaps reflecting the collegiate world in which many stage artists train, theater's "season" ignores the calendar and runs from fall into summer. Thus, companies all over the South Sound are rehearsing their season openers. We take this opportunity to look into our crystal ball and identify the 10 shows most likely to merit patrons' attention, time and money, listed here in chronological order.

Opening Sept. 16: The Underpants, Tacoma Little Theatre (TLT)

Steve Martin - yes, that wild and crazy Steve Martin - penned this bawdy adaptation of a German sex comedy from 1910. Back then, a woman could gain fame from controversy without going the full Miley.

Oct. 21: Dracula, TLT

Playwright Steven Dietz found the scariest way to present the original Dracula was to stick to Bram Stoker's novel. Director Pug Bujeaud is a perfect fit for this disturbing but erudite gore-fest.

Oct. 29: La Bohème, Tacoma Opera

You may know it better as Rent, but the story's exactly the same: a lovable hipster coughs in the first act, then joins the choir invisible two hours later. Puccini's swoonable music, however, is eternal.

Dec. 2: The Physician in Spite of Himself, Theater Artists Olympia (TAO)

As evidenced by last season's Tartuffe, Molière plays fantastically in the Midnight Sun. Thus commences what TAO, reorganizing after its summer financial crisis, dubs a "season of sex."

Jan. 6: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lakewood Playhouse

Speaking of sex, come up to the lab and see what director Alan Wilkie has in mind for this camp-tastic tribute to schlocky sci-fi movies. "It's just a jump to the left ..."

Jan. 19: My Name Is Rachel Corrie, Harlequin Productions

Here's an idea for Christmas gift certificates: Literally every show opening in January has promise. This show, the first of its scale in Olympia somehow, is a passion project for producer Jeff Painter.

Jan. 27: Starry Messenger, Olympia Family Theater (OFT)

Director Brian Tyrell, now retired from Centralia College, helms this semi-musical look at Galileo Galilei, the astronomer who pushed us inadvertently on the path toward secularism. And it's for kids!

Feb. 16
: Or, (comma included), Olympia Little Theatre (OLT)

Once each year, OLT goes out on a limb, running the risk of shocking patrons with R-rated material. This year, it's Liz Duffy Adams' sexy profile of Aphra Behn, a 17th-century writer/libertine/spy.

July 7: Disney's The Little Mermaid, Tacoma Musical Playhouse (TMP)

Look at this play. Isn't it cute? Doesn't it make TMP look astute? Wouldn't you say they're the troupe, the group who'll make seafood sing? Your kids would never forgive you for skipping this one.

Aug. 24: August: Osage County, Harlequin Productions

The movie was so-so, but don't let that fool you. When Tracy Letts' mammoth, Oklahoma-set family dramedy debuted in 2008, everyone pretty much agreed it was the play of the decade. That includes the Pulitzer committee and Tony and Drama Desk Award voters, all of whom named it best play.

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