"Again...Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch..."
Those familiar first words from A Chorus Line were my introduction to the world of Broadway. Sitting mid-way back in the orchestra of the Lexington Opera House. Seventeen years old. All dressed up in the unfortunately stylish at the time preppy outfit I had procured from McAlpin's in Turfland Mall for the occasion. By the time they got to "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen" I had pretty much said goodbye to whatever I had been before that night and hello to Love.
And now, many years later, I have been given an opportunity to give back some of that love. I'll be sharing with you here my journal of the upcoming series of Broadway Live at the Opera House as an audience member. For each of the five shows of the season, I'll dig up as much Insider information as I can about the productions coming to town. How have they been received in previous towns on their tour? What is life really like on the tour bus? I'll attend opening night of each and write up a brief update right here. And I'll be at the Sunday evening Arts and Appetizers events at the Horse and Barrel with the rest of you to get a closer view of Effie without her wig.
To get things started, I've handicapped the five shows in this years' field. For friends who are not subscribers, this is a good time to decide which of these productions you will want to add to your calendar, as individual show tickets go on sale to non-subscribers September 10. So let's take a look and place our bets:
West Side Story November 16-18
The triple crown of Broadway, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Berstein and Stephen Sondheim make the season opener West Side Story a sure bet. This classic musical was reimagined in 2009 under Arthur Laurents' heralded direction and artistic decision to include, for the first time, a Spanish language influence to further delineate the confrontational intolerance between the Sharks and the Jets. The cast was announced on August 12 and includes two eager young performers as the star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. I'll be
stalking researching the promising Addison Reid Coe and MaryJoanna Grisso in the coming weeks for a more in-depth take on this production closer to November.
Ballroom with a Twist January 4-6
There have been some pretty spectacular dance-oriented productions to swing through town in recent seasons, but I really can't recall one with this level of thoroughbred talent. Conceived and choreographed by Dancing with the Stars' Louis Van Amstel, Ballroom with a Twist features a sexy stable of So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, and American Idol favorites. We're talking Anna Trebunskaya and Jonathan Roberts, people! Gina Glocksen and David Hernandez from back when American Idol was still relevant? Yes, please. Remember when judge Randy Jackson made that snide comment about Idol contestants being "too Broadway"? I'm wheeling this production with all of my exotics. Hot and juicy, this one.
Fast Out of the Gate:
Catch Me if You Can January 31-February 3
This is the first national tour of the show that Variety praised for having "The best new music on Broadway" last season. Terrance McNally (The Full Monty, Ragtime), Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman (Hairspray), Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Legally Blonde) and Jack O'Brien (Hairspray, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) are the "dream team" behind this delightful musical that promises to be the go-to bet for Lexington fans looking for a truly fresh-from-Broadway show. How fresh? We're getting it before Houston, Los Angeles or Chicago. You better get tickets to this one immediately.
I'll Have Another:
The Addams Family March 15-17
Beyond Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandma, Wednesday, Pugsley and, of course, Lurch, this production has probably the most interesting back-story of any this season, which I'll get to later this year. Suffice to say, the original Broadway production met with such angst that the goings-on in the back rooms and rehearsal halls could probably be a musical on its own. But the original design team did something that has rarely ever happened. They passionately created a brand new touring production that moved beyond that trauma and is quickly becoming one of the most successful re-dos in Broadway musical history. You can do that when you're four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks. Snap! Snap!
Bet on the Fillies:
Dreamgirls April 19-21
I'm not going to lie to you. I get terribly Theatre Snobby when I talk about seeing the original Broadway production in Standing Room Only as a college student. Kids in my crowd didn't go to Daytona Beach for spring break that year. We went on a Jennifer Holiday. This new production will make us all feel young, gorgeous, and fierce again. Promise. They've even added the Beyonce showstopper "Listen" from the film version to the second act, for crying out loud. Buy. Tickets. NOW.
And we're off! I hope you'll join me throughout the season as I share the journey. It's going to be quite a race.
Catch me if you can,
Michael J. Miller
Broadway Live Insider