The 2011-2012 Broadway/San Diego season will turn out as a homecoming run for last year’s big winner at the Tony Awards, the musical “Memphis” which was conceived and has grown at the La Jolla Playhouse way back in 2008 before being exported to the Great White Way, despite having a story set in the Tennessean city.
The musical is adapted from the true story of a radio DJ hailing from Memphis who introduced a new musical genre of African American inspired rhythm and blues during the 1950s to listeners who have grown accustomed to rock n’ roll. Two years since its premiere, the Christopher Ashley helmed masterpiece already earned the highest Tony Award acclaim for a musical and is currently hitting the pavement for its national tour which kicked off late last year in Memphis. It will come back home at the Playhouse as the San Diego lineup’s finale show set for July 24 to 29, 2012. Despite its very limited engagement, Ashley believes that the production “will still feel like a show that explodes with song and dance” and those who will be seeing the “homecoming” run “will be amazed at how the show has evolved”.
Meanwhile, the season will open with the wholesome, colorful and fascinating showcase of the theatre classic “Mary Poppins”. This long running musical, produced by Cameron Mackintosh, will be staged at the Playhouse from August 10 to 28, 2011, perfect for the entire family especially for kids who are on summer break from school.
Another wholesome production that will also be making waves anytime between summer and fall this year is the Blue Man Group and their antics that are sure to stimulate the curiosity and senses of both children and adults. Watch out for future announcements on the show’s exact run at the Playhouse.
Despite garnering mixed reviews during its Broadway run, famed choreographer Twyla Tharp’s “dancical” masterpiece “Come Fly Away”, featuring dance routines based on and danced to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits such as “That’s Life” and “Fly Me to the Moon”, will be showcased at the Playhouse from November 8-13, 2011. This musical succeeds another of Tharp’s Broadway “dancical” pieces, the less successful “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, based on the hits of iconic folk rocker Bob Dylan.
Next in the lineup is the critically acclaimed and also nostalgic (especially for those who grew up with the dramatic slow rock music of the ‘80s) “Rock of Ages”, which is about a pair of star-crossed lovers and their big-haired and leathery love and life journey, told to the tunes of Bon Jovi, Journey and Reo Speedwagon’s greatest hits among other rock icons of the ‘80s. This Tony Award nominated musical will run at the Playhouse from March 27 to April 1, 2012.
The Charles Addams classic about a gloomy, quirky and sometimes horrific family led by Gomez, the man of the house, his mortifying wife with luscious long black locks Morticia, their kids Pugsley and Wednesday, and other equally horrific yet comedic characters – “interesting” is in fact an understatement – all complete the cast of “The Addams Family”, which is the only production in the Broadway/San Diego lineup that will run at the Civic Theatre from May 29 to June 3, 2012. Written for the stage by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman, famous for their work with the equally successful “Jersey Boys” production, the musical is more closely adapted from the Addams cartoon strip series than the ‘60s TV show, and has undergone notable changes and edits in preparation for its national tour. Producer Stuart Oken calls the touring production as the “2.0 version”. “There are just some things we think we can do better”, he explains.
While the six abovementioned shows complete San Diego’s 2011-2012 regular Broadway season, patrons will surely be excited with the Nederlander Organization’s extra-season offerings. The Nederlander is responsible for putting up the Broadway/San Jose lineup every year.
First off is the Andrew Lloyd Weber feline classic “Cats”, a theatrical adaptation of T.S Eliot’s poetic works and has been showcased in theaters all around the world for more than two decades. The musical promises to deliver an “almost a transcendental experience”, as actor Louie Napoleon puts it, to audiences at the Playhouse, both familiar and newbies to the classic show, from January 10 to 15, 2012.
Wrapping up the extra-season slate is the well-loved and well-raved prequel to the “Wizard of Oz”, the Gregory Maguire penned story of “Wicked”, adapted for the stage by Winnie Holzman with music from Stephen Schwartz. This endearing musical about the roots of the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch will run for almost a month at the Playhouse, from June 20 to July 15, 2012.
For San Diego theatre patrons wondering what productions will be showcased at the Balboa Theatre aside from “Next to Normal” and “Stomp”, there will be none since the shows lined up for the ’11-’12 season require larger seating and staging capacities, something that only the Playhouse and the Civic can offer, as Joe Kobryner of the Nederlander Organization puts it, “we went with some really strong titles” that would not “fit physically or fiscally into the Balboa”.