What’s the best way to characterize the 2014-15 season of touring musicals presented by Celebrity Attractions? The five scheduled productions earned a whopping 20 Tony Awards during their original Broadway runs. Too vague, I think.
Perhaps a better approach would be to paraphrase a few song titles from the musicals. Think of this season as one big party filled with simple joys, bravos and one-of-a-kind theatrical experiences. And given the stellar lineup, audiences certainly won’t leave disappointed.
One could also point out that the five shows span 52 years, the earliest dating from the golden age of the American musical theater and the latest an unexpected hit from the present decade.
Their settings are equally diverse: the Paris Opera House, the North Pole, a Dublin bar, medieval England and a Memphis, Tenn., recording studio. Ready to wager a bundle on the final Jeopardy category? What are “The Phantom of the Opera,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Once,” “Camelot” and “Million Dollar Quartet.”
The 2014-15 season opens Aug. 27-Sept. 7 with a new production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” The Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster, based on Gaston Leroux’s gothic thriller, celebrated its 25th anniversary on Broadway last season.
In honor of that milestone, producer Cameron Mackintosh has mounted a new U.S. tour of “Phantom” that celebrates the brilliance of the original while taking advantage of technological advances that promise a heightened theatrical experience.
“Cameron specializes in evolution,” said Seth Sklar-Heyn, the show’s production supervisor. “Every time he does a new production, something changes. It's enhanced, manipulated or removed.
“As producer of the show, he takes responsibility for what the audience experiences. That speaks to everything he does. For Cameron, it’s all about reinvention and pushing the limits to make it bigger and more exciting for the audience.”
“Phantom” follows the mysterious transformation of a young chorus girl into a leading lady. When her childhood friend Raoul shows up at the opera house, his attention towards Christine draws the ire of the Phantom, who wreaks havoc with anyone who gets in his way.
Kicking off the holiday season Oct. 28-Nov. 2 is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” Following a successful limited engagement on Broadway during the winter of 2006, this boisterous comedy based on characters created by Dr. Seuss has become a seasonal hit in New York and on the road.
“This is a show we’ve been trying to get for three seasons,” said Ed Payton, CEO of Celebrity Attractions. “It’s one of those shows that families watch every year on television, and now they can see it live on stage. This retelling combines the fun of the original illustrations with a lot of new music.”
The first show of the new year is “Once,” a 2012 musical that earned eight Tony Awards, including best musical. Scheduled Jan. 13-18, “Once” tells the story of an Irish street musician who nearly gives up his dream until a young Czech girl inspires him to change his mind.
Based on the 2006 screenplay, “Once” is performed by a cast of actors who double as onstage musicians. Featuring the Academy Award-winning “Falling Slowly,” “Once” celebrates the rich tradition of Irish folk music as it explores romance and taking chances.
“This is one of those hidden gems that not a lot of people know about,” Payton said. “This production recreates the Broadway experience of allowing audience members to come up on stage, have a drink and listen to the music. The show itself is a beautiful story that will put a smile on people’s faces. It’s a magical little piece.”
The 2014-15 season continues Feb. 24-March 1 with Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot.” T.H. White’s 1958 novel “The Once and Future King” provided the inspiration for the 1960 Tony Award-winning musical that is a retelling of the King Arthur legend.
The popular musical follows the romance between Arthur and Guenevere, the Knights of the Round Table and the devastating effects on Camelot when Guenevere falls in love with Lancelot.
“It’s been more than 20 years since we’ve had a production of ‘Camelot’ on the season,” Payton said. “The company that put this tour together is known for its quality productions of ‘The Color Purple’ and ‘Spamalot.’ We’re glad to be able to bring back this tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”
‘Million Dollar Quartet’
The 2014-15 season draws to a close May 5-10 with the local premiere of “Million Dollar Quartet.” The Tony Award-winning musical was inspired by the true story of the legendary recording session that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
This recreation of that unforgettable night celebrates some of the biggest hits of the era, including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Ring of Fire,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Hound Dog” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going’ On.”
“This is not an impersonation show but a big celebration of these four rock ’n’ roll and country stars,” Payton said. “It was an incredible jam session that happened by accident but fortunately, the recordings were preserved. It’s a high-energy show with great music and incredible theatrics.”
Season subscribers can be first in line to purchase tickets for the season’s two add-on productions: “The Music Man” and “A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas.”
“The Music Man,” which will star Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy, will be presented Sept. 29. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Warner Bros. film, this concert version of the Meredith Willson classic features period costumes, video projections and film clips. Jones will share memories of her role as Marion Paroo in the Hollywood film.
“A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” scheduled Nov. 16, is a perfect way to usher in the holiday season. The production celebrates the 30th anniversary of Chip Davis’ Christmas show and the 40th anniversary of Davis’ “Fresh Aire” series.
Since the 2001 re-opening of the Civic Center Music Hall following a three-year renovation, Oklahoma City has become the largest of Celebrity’s seven regional markets in terms of season subscribers. During the past 13 years, that number has grown from 9,700 to 14,000.
“That is a tribute to the leadership and support within the community,” Payton said. “Because of that, producers are now begging us to be a part of their season. That puts us in a good position to present a wide variety of shows. While we’ve become the envy of other presenters around the country, we’re blessed and humbled and committed to work even harder to maintain the trust people have put in us.”
Celebrity Attractions’ 2014-15 season