World premieres, musical biography highlight Alliance 2015-16 season

Music makers will play a notable role in the Alliance Theatre’s 2015-16 season, which includes five world premieres among the 12 titles being announced Tuesday.

Musicians are the subjects of two of the new productions, “Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story,” a world premiere that will chronicle the gospel star’s early rise to fame, and “Ethel,” a one-woman show by and starring Atlanta actress Terry Burrell as vocalist-actress Ethel Waters.

“One of the stories we’re telling next season is about creative artists and what drives them,” Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth said. “Whether it’s BeBe Winans wrestling with the contrasting demands of faith and fame, or Ethel Waters architecting her own legend, we’re inviting Atlanta audiences to step to the other side of the footlights and wonder about what compels the artist to create.”

The season launches Sept. 2 on the Alliance Stage, the main stage of the city’s largest theater company, with Booth directing an all-Atlanta cast in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Another highlight promises to be the regional premiere of “Disgraced,” Ayad Akhtar’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about religion and cultural identity in America. The Alliance will present the Kimberly Senior-directed Broadway production as part of a regional tour.

The other world premieres on the Alliance slate are Mike Lew’s “Tiger Style!” marking the first time an Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition winner has had a work presented on the Alliance Stage; “Start Down,” Eleanor Burgess’ 2016 Alliance/Kendeda winner; “Tell Me My Dream,” a youth-audience adventure from Pearl Cleage; and another in a string of comedic holiday shows by the Atlanta improv troupe Dad’s Garage.

The season:


"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (Sept. 2-20): The Dale Wasserman adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel about the clash between the individual and the institutional again pits Randle Patrick McMurphy vs. Nurse Ratched.

"Tiger Style!" (Sept. 30-Oct. 18): The play from 2013 Alliance/Kendeda winner Lew tells the tale of egghead siblings Albert and Jennifer Chen, who, struggling with early adulthood, attempt to recover the lost luster of their youth on an Asian Freedom Tour that takes them from California to China.

"Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story" (Jan. 20-Feb. 14, 2016): Winans is collaborating with "Motown the Musical" director Charles Randolph-Wright on this gospel musical that will include roles for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and a young Whitney Houston.

"Disgraced" (April 12-May 1, 2016): The American melting pot boils when Amir Kapoor, a successful Muslim lawyer with a white artist-wife being courted by a Jewish curator, attends a dinner party that begins benignly then turns heated.


"A Steady Rain" (Sept. 18-Oct. 11): Two Chicago policemen push moral boundaries in Keith Huff's white-knuckles drama to be directed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company co-founder Jeff Perry, a star of TV's "Scandal."

Christmas comedy (Nov. 27-Dec. 19): When Santa's gift-giving mania destabilizes the world economy and global warming threatens to melt Frosty, the unlikely duo of Ebenezer Scrooge and an ugly sweater-clad single dad must partner to save Christmas in this still-to-be-titled holiday irreverence from Dad's Garage jokesters.

"Start Down" (Feb. 13-March 6, 2016): Burgess' 2016 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition winner puts the student-teacher relationship under the microscope in a story touching on online tutorials, get-rich-quick tech startups and love.

"Ethel" (March 25-April 17, 2016): Burrell's one-woman play with music, band and the larger-than-life wit of the "Stormy Weather" singer and "Cabin in the Sky" star who moved between segregated worlds.


"Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical" (May 27-June 21): A toddler-friendly musical based on Mo Willems' Caldecott Honor-winning picture book, featuring a girl, a stuffed animal, an overwhelmed dad and dancing laundromat machines.

"Tell Me My Dream" (Oct. 30-Nov. 8): Two middle schoolers time trip back to 1910 for a history-making Atlanta music festival in Alliance playwright in residence Cleage's premiere.

"A Christmas Carol" (Nov. 19-Dec. 24): The Alliance holiday tradition continues.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (March 12-27, 2016): Narnia, here the kids come in this adaptation of C.S. Lewis' magical story.

Titles for the Alliance's Theatre for the Very Young series, for ages 18 months to 5 years old, will be announced soon.

Season tickets are on sale: 404-733-4600, Individual show tickets will be available July 1.