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Ruby slippers to Red Ryder rifles 

Fall theater season packed with hits.

click to enlarge CHRISTMAS SPIRIT AT ROBINSON: "Elf: The Musical" takes the renovated stage in early December.
  • CHRISTMAS SPIRIT AT ROBINSON: "Elf: The Musical" takes the renovated stage in early December.

As the weather begins to cool down, Arkansas theaters are bringing the heat with an all-killer, no-filler set of fantastic plays this fall.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre's fall season is a formidable power trio: a big-time Broadway musical, a hard-hitting drama and a comedy favorite for the whole family. If you haven't yet seen Monty Python's "Spamalot," an explosion of absurd humor, over-the-top musical performances, great songs and Broadway flair, you've still got until Oct. 2 to experience this fabulously funny gem.

Opening Oct. 26 is Arthur Miller's essential exploration of social and political persecution, "The Crucible." The play presents the harrowing story of the 17th century Salem witch trials with a nod toward the more contemporary "Red Scare" witch-hunts of the 1950s. Its lessons on the consequences of mass hysteria, prejudice and persecution are as true today as they were in the '50s. Catch it before Nov. 13.

"A Christmas Story" closes out the fall season at The Rep, promising a new twist on a family Christmas classic. Most folks who own a television are probably familiar with Ralphie Parker's humorous trials and tribulations in pursuit of a Red Ryder rifle, as well as his father's penchant for kitschy furniture, but now families can experience it all in person on stage Nov. 30-Dec. 24. (The Christmas Eve performance will likely sell out, so make sure to get tickets in advance.)

The newly renovated Robinson Center promises more holiday hijinks from Celebrity Attractions, christening the auditorium with "Elf: The Musical" and giving families another chance to catch Buddy the Elf's heartwarming and hilarious tale Dec. 3-4.

The Weekend Theater is packing its own punches this fall. Playing now through Oct. 1 is the cornerstone courtroom drama "Twelve Angry Men." Watch tempers flare and arguments get personal as a dozen jurors attempt to parse a complicated case and decide a man's fate. The Oct. 21-Nov. 13 show is "The Wiz," another Broadway staple that infuses Dorothy's iconic journey to the Emerald City with a dose of soul, gospel and rock 'n' roll. "Sordid Lives," Del Shores' self-described "black comedy about white trash" and growing up gay in conservative small-town Texas will be performed Dec. 2-18.

Little Rock Community Theater will be puttin' on the ritz with a musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' spooky-silly masterpiece, "Young Frankenstein," Oct. 13-30. In Conway, the Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas kicks off its Broadway series Oct. 3 with the Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of "Once," a 2007 film about a street musician and a woman who shows interest in his songs. The popular musical "Fame" follows on Nov. 12. At Fayetteville's TheatreSquared, "I And You," about near-adults amid an existential crisis — winner of the 2014 American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award — runs Oct. 12 to Nov. 6. A world premiere stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" plays Nov. 30 to Jan. 1.

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