Atlanta Life and Culture

The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.

The skinny on six musicals bringing verve to Atlanta's dog days

The hills (and flatlands) of metro Atlanta are alive with the sound of music here in the dog days of summer, as the city demonstrates once again how much it loves musicals.

Actor’s Express recently extended its run of “Rent” a second time. And Aurora Theatre continues the regional premiere of “Memphis” through August, after which it will be remounted in September with the same cast by coproduction partner Theatrical Outfit.

Meanwhile, True Colors Theatre Company’s “Chasin’ Dem Blues: The Untold Story of Paramount Records” and Serenbe Playhouse’s “Evita” also continue successful runs, and Georgia Ensemble Theatre enters the final week of its two-years-later remount of “Almost Heaven, John Denver’s America.”

And right around the corner, the national tour of “Motown: The Musical” will stop for the first time in the ATL, for a week-long Fox Theatre run starting Aug. 18, presented by Broadway in Atlanta.

If you haven’t made plans yet, here’s a quick look at the shows that have toes tapping:


Citing strong demand, Actor’s Express recently extended its run of Jonathan Larson’s Tony-winning rock musical, a story of New York bohemians living in the shadow of AIDS that’s loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème, through Aug. 22.

The original cast will remain with the Freddie Ashley-directed production through this second extension, except for Greg Hunter, who will be replaced in the role of Tom Collins by Kevin Harry for the final week.

The AJC review gave it a grade of B. Critic Bert Osborne’s bottom-line summary: Exuberantly rendered, if not for all tastes.

8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St., Suite J-107, Atlanta. Tickets, $20-$37: 404-607-7469,


At Aurora in Lawrenceville, the Tony Award-winning, 1950s-set show from Joe DiPietro and David Bryan follows a white DJ who falls for R&B music and a magnetic black singer who’s chasing stardom.

Critic Osborne wrote that leading man Travis Smith “simultaneously anchors and buoys the production as Huey Calhoun, the wholly endearing ‘redneck’ who defiantly rebels against the outdated social conventions of the day.” Theatrical Outfit artistic director Tom Key directs.

AJC review grade: A-. Osborne’s bottom line: The music rocks — and so does actor Travis Smith.

Through Aug. 30. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 10 a.m. Wednesdays (Aug. 12 and 19 only). $20-$65. Aurora Theatre, 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. 678-226-6222,

Theatrical Outfit’s run: Sept. 10-20. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; $20-$50. Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St. N.W., Atlanta. 678-528-1500,

“Chasin’ Dem Blues”

True Colors Theatre Company’s production of Kevin Ramsey’s “Chasin’ Dem Blues: The Untold Story of Paramount Records,” a musical about how a record label in a tiny Wisconsin town in the 1910s ushered in the sound of the early 20th century, continues through Aug. 9.

Osborne praised the “rousing renditions” of 1920s standards such as “St. Louis Blues,” “Tain’t Nobody’s Business,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Handy Man” and “Motherless Child.”

AJC review grade: B. Osborne’s bottom line: Soars musically, falters narratively.

8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays (also 11 a.m. July 15 and July 23). $15-$60. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road, Atlanta. 1-877-725-8849, or


The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice Tony-winning musical about the Argentine actress who used the high drama of political theater to craft the persona of a queen continues at Serenbe Playhouse in the south Fulton County community of Chattahoochee Hills through Aug. 16.

Critic Wendell Brock called Playhouse founder-director Brian Clowdus’ outdoor production a “visually opulent, thoughtfully detailed effort” and wrote that leading lady Randi Garza “delivers a stellar performance.”

AJC review grade: B. Brock’s bottom line: An ambitious, beautifully appointed show.

8:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. $20-$35. At the Open Air Room at Serenbe, 10950 Hutcheson Ferry Road, Chattahoochee Hills. 770-463-1110,

“Almost Heaven, John Denver’s America”

Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s remount of its 2013 Denver jukebox musical has moved to a site that offers a measure of the natural beauty that so inspired the late singer-songwriter, Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell.

The show is being presented through Aug. 8 under the Ben Brady Pavilion, with the audience allowed to bring a picnic or pick up pre-ordered meals from caterers Talk of the Town.

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays. (The nature center opens at 6:30 p.m., allowing ticket-holders to take in the exhibits and grounds.) $15 lawn seating, $30 reserved table seating under the pavilion. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. 770-641-1260,

“Motown: The Musical”

A veritable hit parade — the 40-plus songs include “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” — couches the story of soul music star-maker Berry Gordy.

The national tour visits the Fox from Aug. 18 to 23.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. $50-$150. 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499,

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The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.