Elizabeth Ward Land and George Dvorsky
in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
(© Ian Ibbetson)
Elizabeth Ward Land and George Dvorsky
in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
(© Ian Ibbetson)
It's clap-for-Tinkerbell time at the venerable North Shore Music Theatre, the first local institution to be placed on life support by the current economic climate. On February 3, NMST alum George Dvorsky, who's in town playing the Baron in the national tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Boston's Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre (February 4-8), joins a host of local luminaries -- including Leigh Barrett and Kathy St. George -- in a Save Our Theatre cabaret to help pump funds into NSMT's severely compromised coffers.

The other big tour in town -- possibly on its way to Broadway -- is Dirty Dancing at the Opera House (February 7-March 15). Fans of the 1987 movie need no introduction to the sexy early-'60s soundtrack, and the moves and emotions it's likely to inspire. Also passing through: The Golden Dragon Acrobats of Hebei, China, in a one-day appearance at Symphony Hall (February 8) as guests of the Celebrity Series of Boston, and Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy (February 13-20) at D BankNorth Garden.

Boston audiences will get their first glimpse of David Harrower's controversial, 2007 Olivier Award-winning drama Blackbird, in a sure-to-unsettle production directed by David R. Gammons for Speakeasy Stage at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion within the Boston Center for the Arts (February 20-March 21). Marianna Bassham plays a twenty-something looking back on an early -- very early -- affair, and Bates Wilder her former paramour. Also at the BCA, in the Plaza Theatre, Centastage presents Andrew Clarke's The Random Caruso (February 20-March 7), a full-length comedy -- about an egomaniacal Hollywood actor (Bob Pemberton) and his put-upon assistant (Michael Forden Walker) -- extrapolated from the 10-minute play Breakfast with Harvey, which killed at last year's Boston Theatre Marathon. The Tir Na Theatre Company brings two Irish one-acts by Conor McDermottroe to the BCA's Black Box theatre, Swansong / Bottom of the Lake (February 26-March 14).

The Lyric Stage is taking on Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (February 13-March 14). Scott Edmiston directs, and artistic director Spiro Veloudos takes to the boards as Big Daddy. Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art occasionally hosts theatrical events. This month it's Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell (February 26-March 1), featuring a five-person cast and a changing roster of guest readers. The hot ticket for grownups with a taste for the outré is Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans' Steinbeck homage Of Mice and Mink at the club Machine, February 20-March 21. Larry Coen and Rick Park (a match made in "She-Hulk" heaven) play two beauty-challenged hookers -- one is mentally challenged as well -- trying to ride out the Depression at Lula Mae's Cat Ranch.

While awaiting the guiding hand of new head Diane Paulus (who's a bit busy moving Hair to Broadway), the American Repertory Theatre's resident company -- Remo Airaldi, Thomas Derrah, Will LeBow, and Karen MacDonald -- appear in Endgame (February 14-March 15), directed by Marcus Stern. Cambridge's new-theatre-in-town, the Central Square Theatre, hosts the Underground Railway Theater in How Do You Spell Hope? by former Huntington fellow Melinda Lopez (February 13-March 6). It's a family-oriented show, featuring puppets and giant pop-up books, based on true stories about people who've had to overcome daunting obstacles to learn to read, for example, abolitionist Frederick Douglass (portrayed by Vincent Ernest Siders).

With Carlos Murillo's dark play, or stories for boys (February 20-March 22), Chelsea's Apollinaire Theatre Company addresses the loaded topic of teens pursuing romance online. Based on a real-life murder case in Manchester, England, the play premiered at the 2007 Humana Festival. Watertown's New Repertory Theatre offers Athol Fugard's Exits and Entrances (February 22-March 15), about a young playwright prepping an overbearing, aging star for a performance of Oedipus Rex.

Stoneham Theatre ensures family fun with the family musical A Year with Frog and Toad (February 26-March 15). Worcester's Foothills Theatre revives The Rainmaker (February 7-March 1). Lowell's Merrimack Repertory Theatre continues its association with playwright Bob Clyman by mounting Tranced (February 12-March 8), a psychological thriller about a graduate student left traumatized by a volunteer trip to Africa.

The Barrington Stage Company, now operating year-round in the Berkshires, offers Living with It (February 6-8), Frank La Frazia's autobiographical monologue about growing up with a bipolar parent, and Kiss This (February 13-14), a Valentine's revue featuring works by Musical Theatre Lab composers performed by Legally Blonde's Kate Rockwell and Spelling Bee's Demond Green; Nikos Tsakalakos conceived the show, Julianne Boyd directs.

In Rhode Island, the Providence Black Repertory Company presents the U.S. premiere of A Time of Fire by Charles Mulekwa (February 5-March 14), about civil strife in Africa. Also in Providence, Trinity Rep mounts David Hare's Thatcher-era domestic drama The Secret Rapture (February 20-March 29), about two sisters left reeling by the death of their father, and at odds with their needy, boundary-breaching stepmother (the redoubtable Anne Scurria).