Northern Virginia Theater Guide

The theater scene in the Washington metro area is booming, but how familiar are you with the theaters thriving in your own community backyard?

By Christine Kowal

Riverside Center
95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA 22406; 540-370-4300;; Tickets: $40-$60

Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Carr Rossi

Broadway is the name of the game at Riverside Center, which opened in 1998 with the theater’s inaugural performance of “Oklahoma!”. Since its inception, Riverside has been the site of over 60 mainstage Broadway musical productions, as well as more than 100 musical adaptations of popular children’s stories in the Children’s Theater.

Designed to bring professional performing arts to the Fredericksburg area, Riverside is a premiere dinner theater that serves a three-course gourmet meal directly to patron’s tables. Culinary specialties with a home-cooked feel have included margarita grilled pork chops, citrus herb tilapia and vegetable lasagna bake. Drink specials are created to match the evening’s performance and desserts often rival the show’s finale for top billing.

“The Sound of Music” This classic American musical needs only reference any one of its many infamous songs: “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” or “Edelweiss.” Audience members follow the comical journey of the endearing Maria Rainer, from a misfit member of a convent to a lovable governess of the seven von Trapp children to the wife of Captain von Trapp. Runs through January 6, 2013

“Ain’t Misbehavin” Highlighting the extraordinary comic and musical soul of Harlem Renaissance, this sassy, finger-snapping revue features the sometimes rowdy but always delightful songs of the inimitable “Fats” Waller. Evoking a time when Manhattan nightclubs such as The Cotton Club and The Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of high society, a versatile cast struts, swings and energizes the music Waller made famous. Runs January 11–March 3, 2013


1st Stage
1524 Spring Hill Road, McLean, VA 22102; 703-854-1856;; Tickets: $10-$25

Created with the intention of providing a home for young local artists to launch and cultivate their professional theater careers, 1st Stage is a relative newcomer to the Washington metro theater scene, only opening its doors in 2008. Billing itself as a “new theater for a new city,” 1st Stage is located in the heart of Tyson’s Corner and is the creation of two former Fairfax County public school teachers and a local singing and acting teacher.

Photo Courtesy of 1st Stage

The first season opened with “The Suicide”, a little-known, darkly comic play by Russian playwright Nikolai Erdmann. Since its introduction to the theater scene, 1st Stage has produced a number of superior performances in its 100-seat performance space, including “The Violet Hour,” a mind-bending fantasy, and “Red Herring,” a comedic mystery. As the third professional theater in Fairfax County, following in the footsteps of Wolf Trap and the Theatre of the First Amendment at George Mason University, 1st Stage is quickly gaining popularity and becoming one of the hot tickets in town. In 2010, 1st Stage received a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre.

“Altar Boyz” A holy inspiring story of five small-town boys trying to save the world one screaming fan at a time. Their pious pop act may have worked wonders on the Ohio bingo-hall-and-pancake-breakfast circuit, but when they make their way to New York City, they find themselves face to face with the often rough and tumble ways of the Big Apple. Combining talented voices, spectacular dancing and an endearing story, Altar Boyz is certain to draw large crowds. Runs November 23–December 30

“Italian American Reconciliation” A victim to the pitfalls of love, Huey Bonfigliano makes an attempt to win back his ex-wife against the advice of his best friend and to the chagrin of his girlfriend. In this romantic comedy from the author of “Moonstruck,” shots are fired and promises are broken in this heart-breaking and make-you-believe-in-love-all-over-again theatrical production. Runs February 1–24, 2013


The Arlington Players
125 S. Old Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22204; 703-549-1063;; Tickets: $20-$23

Truly passionate about the theater community, The Arlington Players, now in its 62nd season, is a nonprofit, volunteer theater company that has been entertaining audiences for decades with a lively mix of musicals and plays. Season after season, TAP’s roster includes some of Broadway’s biggest theatrical hits. Touting its coverage as ranging from “contemporary comedy to Shakespearean classics and from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Sondheim,” TAP seeks to continually take on challenging theatrical productions and its performers and production crews consistently rise to the occasion.

Photo Courtesy of Peter Hill

Since 1951, TAP has accumulated an extensive collection of Washington Area Community Theater Honors Awards, Northern Virginia Theater Alliance Awards and Ruby Griffith Awards. Presenting two musicals and one play each season, theater-goers can catch TAP’s performances at the Thomas Jefferson Theatre located in Arlington.

Members of Arlington County are also invited to explore their passion for theater and become involved in all elements of stage productions through TAP’s arts education programs.

“Out of Order” For adults only, “Out of Order” is a romantic evening gone awry. When a Republican Senator plans to spend the evening with a secretary to a member of the Democratic party, events turn sour quickly, beginning with the discovery of a body. Coupled with a conniving waiter, a suspicious hotel manager, an alert private detective, an angry wife, a furious husband, a bungling secretary and an unconscious nurse, the Senator’s romantic evening morphs into a furious attempt to squash a political press nightmare. Runs February 1–26, 2013

“Cats” One of the most revered Broadway musicals of all time, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Cats” is a musical revolving around a tribe of cats who gather once a year to choose a member of the tribe to be reincarnated. Each character is a symbolic representation of members of society and their stories are told through the poetry of T.S. Eliot. Runs April 5–20, 2013


The Little Theatre of Alexandria
600 Wolfe St., Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-683-0496;; Tickets: $15-$27

For a theater with a history worthy of its own theatrical production, one needs only turn to The Little Theatre of Alexandria. Founded in 1934, LTA has attracted many of Washington’s political celebrities, including past Presidents Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush, due to its consistently ambitious and impressive performance roster.

Photo Courtesy of Shane Canfield

From its humble beginnings as a small play-reading group, its popularity led quickly to the purchase of an old blacksmith’s shop in the heart of Alexandria to be used for rehearsals and set designs. Earliest productions were held at Gadsby’s Tavern, and LTA’s archives hold that Lady Lynda Bird Johnson participated as a serving wench during one of the more animated productions. After World War II suspended operations, the LTA came back more ambitious than ever before and turned an empty lot at the corner of Wolfe and St. Asaph Streets into its permanent home. Since that time, as the oldest award-winning theater in the Metro-D.C. area, LTA has continued to entertain audiences to rave reviews with its professional production and performance crews. Functioning in the same capacity as local professional theaters, the LTA offers audiences a first-rate theater experience among the cobblestone streets and candlelit lanterns of Old Town.

“Cantorial” This mystery-comedy follows a young couple as they renovate an abandoned synagogue in New York City into a new luxurious dream home. The couple quickly realizes the building is haunted by the synagogue’s cantor, leading to a hilarious new set of renovations they had not previously anticipated. Runs October 27–November 17.

“The Full Monty” Six unemployed steelworkers commit to tackling their financial woes and regaining their self-esteem by baring their best assets through the creation of a hilarious male striptease act. Runs January 12–February 2, 2013.


Lazy Susan Dinner Theater
10712 Richmond Highway, Lorton VA 22079; 703-550-7384; lazysusan.comTickets: $25-$44.95

In the mood for some “Chow-biz”? At the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater, take a nostalgic trip back to the golden age of dinner theater. Perched atop the hills above the Occoquan River north of Woodbridge, The Lazy Susan Inn, a family restaurant since 1955, began operating dinner theater in the early 1970s in the midst of the dinner theater boom. While virtually all of its competitors have since been replaced by strip malls and shopping centers, Lazy Susan continues to sing on and has been performing to sold-out audiences for decades.

Photo Courtesy of James Cullum/the Lorton Patch

True to classic dinner theater style, actors wait the tables, bringing drinks and coffee while patrons retrieve their own food from an adjoining buffet room. Salads, relishes, home baked breads, Pennsylvania Dutch hot entrees, all prepared from scratch, including roast beef, chicken and fish are available to patrons. Homemade desserts complement the evening, and guests have nothing to do but sit back, savor freshly brewed coffee and enjoy a full-scale Broadway production.



“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” In this hilarious Tony Award-winning musical tale of overachievers’ angst, the story chronicles the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. Runs through November 25.

“A Christmas Carol” Continuing Lazy Susan’s annual tradition, the theater once again brings Charles Dickens’ enormously popular timeless classic to life. Lazy Susan’s performance is an animated rendition about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions. Runs November 28–December 30.


1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-548-9044;; Tickets: $25-$55

Photo Courtesy of C Stanley Photography

MetroStage is truly as it represents: “Off-Broadway on the River’s Edge.”

Known for its intimate theater environment, MetroStage has migrated from a series of converted storefronts on Duke Street in downtown Alexandria, to its new home in an old, converted lumber warehouse on North Royal Street.

Setting up shop in a former lumber warehouse, architects converted the 35-year-old building into a modern, 130 seat theater with a beautiful glass entrance and floating staircase. As a more contemporary space, the lumber warehouse’s interior volume allows for an expansive, dramatic feel to the theater, but seats on risers wrapping around a “thrust” stage helps to keep the audience in close proximity to the actors and the stage’s action. If you’re looking to feel as if you’re part of the show, not simply watching from a distant seat, MetroStage fits the bill.

“A Broadway Christmas Carol” One of MetroStage’s most recognized productions, “A Broadway Christmas Carol” has been entertaining the Washington community for many years. This revue-style show is choreographed insanity. Audiences will immediately recognize the creative and hilarious spins on songs from some of Broadway’s finest productions: “Annie,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Gypsy,” “My Fair Lady,” “Oklahoma!” and “Cats.” A perfect holiday outing for the whole family. Runs November 15–December 23

“Ladies Swing the Blues – A Jazz Fable” Taking place in 1955 along New York City’s 52nd street, the cultural mecca of jazz, “Ladies Swing the Blues” explores the jazz folklore, mythologies and backstage satires of the 1940s and 1950s during a gathering to commemorate the passing of jazz legend Charlie Parker. Matching bebop, blues and jazz with collective storytelling, the scene becomes a place where music and mythology mingle in one unforgettable evening. Runs January 24–March 17, 2013


Beyond the Theater

Riverside Center

Tour Fredericksburg’s historic homes, America’s oldest Masonic cemetery, and the famous Sunken Road, site of the Battle of Fredericksburg with Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg. /

Spend the afternoon sampling some of Virginia’s finest straight bourbon whiskey, colonial era dark Caribbean rum, or Virginia vodka during a distillery tour at A. Smith Bowman. /

1st Stage

Channel your inner carnivore at Chima Brazilian steakhouse and live the life of the traditional gauchos (cowboys) of South Brazil who, legend has it, consumed a diet that consisted almost entirely of beef —all seasoned, placed on skewers and slow-cooked over a wood burning flame. /

Sip classy cocktails and bring your latest version of the “shopping cart” and “lawnmower” dance moves to Iris Lounge’s Saturday night DJ dance parties. /

The Arlington Players

Head to Screwtop Wine Bar and Cheese Shop to load up on seahive honey cheddar, Prima Donna Gouda, a fresh baguette and fig spread before making the short trek to the picnic tables at nearby Filmore Park. /

Cozy up on comfy couches and enjoy crafty cocktails or an evening macchiato paired with lemon custard pie with lavender whip cream or a fresh-from-the-oven double chocolate espresso cookie at Buzz Bakery. /

The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Wake up hungry and lazy on a Sunday morning and enjoy Virtue Feed & Grain’s Pajama Brunch. Just be sure to bring a change of clothes for the 3 p.m. matinee. /

Enjoy a meal of “Gentleman’s Pye” by candlelight at Gadsby’s Tavern, where our Founding Fathers once feasted and LTA made its humble beginnings. /

The Lazy Susan Dinner Theater

Scout out an art exhibit or an afternoon cooking lesson at the Workhouse Arts Center, a 55-acre cultural center that has been restored from prison origins and revitalized to bring arts, education, history and recreation to the community. /

Start the day of art and culture early at Paint Your Heart Out, a sunny pottery painting studio in historic Occoquan. Select a piece of pottery, choose your design and colors, and unleash your inner Picasso. /


Dine your way around Old Town Alexandria while hearing ghost stories, legends and folklore during the Haunted Dine Around of Old Town tour. /

Transport to Paris and indulge in DC’s finest French desserts (Coconut Bavarois anyone?) and sophisticated cocktails at Bastille, one of the most authentic French restaurants in the Metro-D.C. area. /


Theater Resources
As the Washington metro theater community continues to expand at a rapid pace, so too do the available resources for following the theater scene. These websites offer reviews, weblinks to local theaters, calendars of upcoming performances, as well as insider details on how to obtain reduced-fee tickets. 

DC Metro Theatre Arts
Reviews, interviews and articles about professional, community, university, school and children’s theater in the DC Metro area.

DC Theatre Scene
Coverage includes reviews, features, news and opinion columns and assists theatergoers with ticket-buying decisions through partnership with Theatre in DC. Coverage also includes New York City and Baltimore.

Broadway World
Covering theater on both the national and international levels, BWW includes expanded coverage of classical music, opera, dance, comedy and cabaret performances, among others.


Cheap Tickets
Looking to experience high-class theater on a pauper’s budget? In addition to and, most theaters in the Metro-D.C. area offer discounted tickets arrangements. A few of our favorites:

1st Stage
Students eligible for $15 reduced ticket price.

Students 25 and under eligible for $25 reduced ticket price.

Signature Theatre
$30 rush tickets. Available 1 hour before performance at the box office only.

Synetic Theater
Military personnel eligible for $5 off ticket price.

American Century Theater
Patrons 17 and under, free with paying adult. Military and students eligible for $3 off ticket price.


(November 2012)

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2 Responses

P Law Says:

Nice article but incomplete! What about The Hub in Fairfax daring to do interesting work in an unconventional space; WSC Avant Bard, American Century Theater, Signature and Synetic in Arlington; performances at Lorton Workhouse; McLean Drama Company generating new plays and sponsoring a 10 minute play festival every year….. and no doubt more. Community theatre and professional are not the same thing and shouldn’t be lumped together. They serve different functions and offer different experiences.

Joel Markowitz Says:

Check out our coverage of Virginia, DC, and MD performances in professional, community, children’s and university theatre and concerts on DCMetroTheaterArts. Thanks Christine for the article.

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