Lawrence Toppman

Theatre Charlotte still goes to strange places at 90

You know how acquaintances get set in their ways as they get older, reliving the happiest moments of the past over and over? Not Theatre Charlotte.

Its 90th season begins this fall. Instead of using the anniversary to take a nostalgic voyage, the state’s oldest active community theater will do five shows it has never put on. Plus “A Christmas Carol,” of course: Revenues from that holiday outing underwrite other shows.

It’s a bold, often dark season: betrayal, executions, suicide, teen pregnancy, a botched abortion – and those are just the musicals. But there are laughs and warmth, too. Ticket packages go on sale April 10; learn more at 704-376-3777 or Here’s the roster:

“Aida,” Sept. 8-24 – The Elton John-Tim Rice version follows the story of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera about an Ethiopian slave and Egyptian warrior who pursue a forbidden love. But it adds a prologue and an epilogue to remind us that love may not be circumscribed by time.

“The Grapes of Wrath,” Oct. 27-Nov. 12: Writer-director Frank Galati adapted John Steinbeck’s sprawling novel of Oklahoma sharecroppers coming to the “promised land” of California during the Dust Bowl years and learning they aren’t welcome.

“A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 8-17: In Julius Arthur Leonard’s version of Dickens’ novel, Scrooge, Cratchit and three spirits learn the true meaning....

“The Nerd,” Jan. 26-Feb. 11: Larry Shue wrote two comic hits before dying at 39 in 1985, this one and “The Foreigner.” He broke through with “Nerd,” in which a house-guest from Hell disrupts the life of a timid architect who can’t make decisions about his career or romantic future.

“A Time to Kill,” March 23-April 8: Rupert Holmes adapted John Grisham’s book about an idealistic white lawyer defending a black man who shot two racists in a courtroom.

“Spring Awakening,” May 25-June 10: The Duncan Sheik-Steven Slater musical, based on a play by Frank Wedekind about unhappy German teenagers 125 years ago, will be heady and somber stuff for Theater Charlotte audiences – although it runs in the slot used for “Rent” and “Hair.”

Theatre Charlotte will precede this season with two productions by kids, “The Lion King Jr.” July 6-9 (middle schoolers) and “Cry-Baby” July 14-22 (high schoolers).

Toppman: 704-358-5232