VaShawn McIlwain in Show Boat
(© Chris Mueller)
VaShawn McIlwain in Show Boat
(© Chris Mueller)
It's over the Potomac and through the woods as area theatergoers make their way to Arlington's Signature Theatre for a new look at the esteemed but aging Show Boat (November 10 - January 17). Director Eric Schaeffer promises to "reinvent" the lyrical musical about the lives and loves of show folk plying their craft on the Mississippi River between 1880 and 1927. The show's pedigree can't be beat, with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Jerome Kern (based on the novel by Edna Ferber). Signature is blending elements from the original 1927 version, the 1946 revival, and the 2005 Berlin Opera version. The score features such old favorites as "Make Believe," "Bill," "Can't Help Lovin 'Dat Man, "and, of course, "Ol' Man River." There won't be a boat at the Max Theatre, but choreographer Karma Kamp promises more dancing than usual for a Signature show.

Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons heads into town with the recent Broadway hit August: Osage County (November 24 - December 20) at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre. Parsons stars as the matriarch of an extended clan approaching meltdown in the fascinating and darkly funny tale that won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.

As winter looms, Arena Stage is offering the theatrical equivalent of comfort food with The Fantasticks (Lincoln Theatre, November 20 - January 10), the chamber musical with the 42-year Off-Broadway run. The memorable score by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt helps tell a lyrical tale of young love as we "try to remember." Shakespeare Theatre Company lights up Sidney Harman Hall with one of the Bard's most dimensional female characters, the lovely Rosalind, mistress of disguise in the Arden Forest in As You Like It (November 17 - December 20). Maria Aitken, who directed Broadway's The 39 Steps, guides exiles from an oppressive kingdom as they search for freedom.

Quiara Alegría Hudes' new play 26 Miles is getting its area premiere at Round House Theatre in Bethesda (through November 22). The tender tale of a woman and her estranged daughter taking a cross-country road trip in a 1983 Buick promises to tug at our hearts by showing us the true meaning of family. Another road trip doesn't end quite so well in Of Mice and Men (November 5-29). John Steinbeck's stage adaptation of his 1937 novel is the tragic story of two displaced ranch workers in the Great Depression in search of a better life. Keegan Theatre stages the drama at DC's Church Street Theater.

Washington Shakespeare Company promises things will get hot at the Clark Street Playhouse in Arlington with Lulu (November 12 - December 13). She's "the original girl gone wild" in this outrageous sex tragedy, leaving a trail of dead lovers behind her in European high society until she ends up in Jack the Ripper's London. There's a different England on display in Camelot (November 18 - January 3), which Olney Theatre Center is mounting on its Mainstage. Winner of four Tony Awards, the classic Lerner and Loewe musical is set in King Arthur's enchanted kingdom, a place where honor and chivalry reign until betrayal upends the idealistic king's world. Meanwhile, MetroStage in Alexandria continues its season of reruns with a return of the bio-musical Pearl Bailey...by Request (November 19 - December 20).