The most important thing about Charleston’s arts scene in 2021 is that it’s officially and fully back. After the COVID pandemic put an end to everything in 2020, this year has been defined by reopening and returning.
College of Charleston and local theater companies pioneered outdoor events in April that tested the waters. Spoleto Festival USA proved the audiences were hungrier for live performances than they would ever be for virtual offerings. Summer youth sessions sold out everywhere. And finally the fall brought dance, theater and opera back in force (if constantly shaped by viral surges).
With vaccine protocols in place, arts leaders in Charleston are hoping to weather further spikes and return to business as usual in 2022. The anxieties of this year’s reopenings have given way to a new determination to hit the new year running, and put butts in seats all over town.
The theater companies will be moving and shaking all spring long. The Queen Street Playhouse recently added Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner, to their season schedule, kicking off their spring with a powerful drama that will give meaty acting challenges to its cast. Doubt joins The Legend of Georgia McBride in March and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder for Queen Street’s spring output.
PURE Theatre’s production of Ben Butler opens Jan. 21 at Cannon Street Arts Center, reuniting several of PURE’s core ensemble onstage for the first time in almost two years, for a humorous look at a little-known, but pivotal, moment in American history. This is followed by Mlima’s Tale in March and the world premiere of Clifton Campbell’s Honoria Quietly Drawing Strength From Her Truth in April.
Charleston Stage’s next show is Agatha Christie’s Murder on The Orient Express in February, followed by the Charleston premiere of Black Pearl Sings in March. The company’s family series will feature Charlotte’s Web in March as well, and in April, Charleston Stage will mount the award-winning Kinky Boots on the Dock Street stage. May will also feature Treasure Island, a new musical that places the classic story along the Carolina coast, as part of the CityStage program Charleston Stage has used to bring free theater to local communities.
While not officially starting its full season until 2023, Charleston Playhouse has been making its presence known with a Broadway Cabaret Series out of the College of Charleston’s Chapel Theatre. The first such one-night cabaret recently drew in audiences and students, and this series will continue through June with monthly Broadway performers, starting with Anna Baker on Jan. 15.
Village Playhouse will return this February with A Kiss For Luck, a Valentine’s Day tribute to the Carpenters, at Tradesman Brewing Co. And Flowertown Playersin Summerville will on Jan. 14 continue a rousing season with a production of Steel Magnolias. Beehive: The 60s Musical comes up in April.
Dance companies in Charleston also have a full slate ready to go for the first half of 2022. Dance Lab comes out of the gate in January with B. Free, a show to celebrate the work of pop icon Britney Spears. The Bad Girls Club + The Dudes will hit the Music Hall stage for a dance show that includes many of the singer’s biggest hits, and encourages audiences to wear their best Britney outfits for a chance to win a six-month membership to Dance Lab. Dance Lab will also present April’s Baddest Show in Town and June’s Queen of the Jungle/Jane’s Story youth studio performance at the PAC.
Palmetto City Ballet’s March show will be an original production of Cinderella, based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Jonathan Tabbert, company artistic director and S.C. Arts Commission 2017 fellowship winner, will be choreographing this production that features professional dancers and Charleston’s youth dancers. Cinderella will be presented at the Sottile Theatre at the College of Charleston.
On April 2, Dance Conservatory of Charleston will also use Sottile Theatre for its fifth-annual Dance in Bloom production. The mixed-genre showcase will feature jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary and hip-hop dance students. Next Generation Ballet resident choreographer Maria Konrad will debut a world premiere contemporary piece as well. Dance Conservatory, like Dance Lab, is also looking forward to welcoming new students in the new year.
Not only will Charleston’s professionals hit the stages, but so will its students. Charleston Stage and PURE Theatre’s youth training companies will be up and running. Charleston Stage’s TheatreSchool program takes registrations through Jan. 12, while PURE’s company will accept student sign-ups through the end of January. Flowertown Players’ Winter Production Class will stage Cinderella on February 18-20. And South of Broadway’s next youth production will be Aladdin Jr. at its to-be announced new location.
There is so much new and exciting performance art coming to Charleston in the coming months. Next year is gearing up to be a great return-to-form for the Charleston arts scene, as everything in the spring leads to a full-scale Spoleto Festival USA opening in May. All these performers need is an audience. Get your vaccines and book your tickets now.