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Don't just dream a dream 

Live it, with "Les Mis," "The Wizard of Oz" and more.

click to enlarge CHICAGO: John O'Hurley stars in the musical, playing nightly through March 16 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville image
  • CHICAGO: John O'Hurley stars in the musical, playing nightly through March 16 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.

What do a hunted convict on the run, a dance hall girl seeking love, a woman on trial for killing her husband, a humbug wizard and a medieval prince have in common? They're all coming to the stage this spring, in a theater season heavy on musicals with a good measure of Shakespeare and rising comedians thrown in so that there's something for everyone.

You will hear the people sing at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre's production of the epic and enormously popular "Les Miserables" (Wednesday through Sunday through April 6), Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's musical based on Victor Hugo's novel. It stars Douglas Webster, who's played the role of the hounded Jean Valjean for a quarter of a century, so he's got it down pat. The play is a co-production with Arizona's Phoenix Theatre.

The jazzy and funny musical "CHICAGO" (nightly through March 16) at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville stars John O'Hurley (J Peterman on "Seinfeld") in the role of slick lawyer Billy Flynn. The story of rouged-knee dancers/killers Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly won six Tonys and a Grammy and deserved them all.

Charity Hope Valentine is a dancer, too, but the resemblance stops there in "Sweet Charity," Neil Simon's story of the unlucky-in-love romantic. This is the musical that brought us "Hey Big Spender"; it will be staged for one night only, at 7:30 p.m. March 20, at UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall.

If there's a big musical to compete with "Les Mis," it's Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Wizard of Oz," coming to the Walton Arts Center (nightly April 1-6).

The Community Theatre of Little Rock stages Horton Foote's "A Trip to Bountiful" (April 25-May 11) at the Public Theatre, 616 Center St. (auditions are at 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 15-16.)

The Arkansas Shakespeare Theater, whose season starts in June, departs from the Bard midway through to put on the musical "Pippin," about a medieval prince and palace politics (June 11-27), at Reynolds Performance Hall.

Now for the big laughs: The Second City brings back its adult humor and amazing improv to The Rep for a two-week run (Wednesday through Sunday, April 29-May 11) on its "Happily Ever After" tour. The Second City in Chicago and its touring company have produced star performers Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler and other big names; see the troupe's latest batch before they get too big to come to Little Rock. Rep producing director Bob Hupp and the cast will make a noon appearance at the Clinton School of Public Service on April 29.

The Rep keeps our spirits up with "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" (Wednesday through Sunday, June 4-29), directed by Nicole Capri and written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. The shtick: The works of the Bard are crammed into one play in under two hours (keep your ears open for the 43-second "Hamlet"), in what the New York Times has called a "goofy production" that "speaks, quite loudly, to the sophomore in all of us."

If 43 seconds is not enough "Hamlet" for you, you're in luck: Two companies are performing it this spring. Shakespeare's famed existential question once again be posed as Fayetteville's TheatreSquared performs the play in the Studio Theatre at the Walton Arts Center's Nadine Baum Studios and in the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre's production. Whether you decided to go, or not to go, the TheatreSquared performance is Thursdays through Sundays April 10 through May 4 and the Shakespeare Theatre's June 20-29 at Reynolds Performance Hall.

The Shakespeare Theatre will also stage "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" (June 5-22), to be performed outdoors at the Village at Hendrix and the Laman Library Argenta Branch; and "The Comedy of Errors" (June 24-28), at Reynolds Performance Hall.

Tickets to the season's plays can be bought online at therep.org, uca.edu/publicappearances, waltonartscenter.org, theatre2.org and arkshakes.com.

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