At first glance, William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Robert Louis Stevenson and P.L. Travers might appear to be little more than an unusual mix of distinguished authors. Yet each was responsible for inspiring a Broadway musical, only one of which happened during its author's lifetime.
For the 2012-13 season, Celebrity Attractions has assembled an eclectic lineup of musicals, from “West Side Story” and “Les Miserables” to “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Mary Poppins.” A fifth production, titled “100 Years of Broadway,” rounds out the company's 21st season in Oklahoma City.
Opening the season Oct. 9-14 is “Les Miserables,” a Tony Award-winning musical about an ex-convict who is stalked by a ruthless police inspector. Numerous side plots focus on the romance of a young couple, a band of youthful insurgents and a corrupt innkeeper and his wife.
Featuring music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Alain Boublil, “Les Miserables” is now the third-longest running in Broadway history. It won eight Tony Awards in 1987, including one as best musical. This new production is based on a 25th anniversary tour.
“The last time ‘Les Miserables' played Oklahoma City was in 1998,” said Larry Payton, president of Celebrity Attractions. “It was the last production in the Civic Center before the hall was closed for renovations. It's been heavily requested ever since.
“This new production has been modernized — think how technology has changed in the past 25 years — but the story is just as powerful, perhaps even more so now, than it was before.”
The season continues Nov. 6-11 with the state premiere of “Mary Poppins.” The Walt Disney film was introduced in 1964 and earned five Oscars. In addition to Julie Andrews' win as best actress, “Mary Poppins” took honors for special effects, film editing, song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) and musical score.
It took 40 years for “Mary Poppins” to make it to the musical stage. The 2004 London production earned Olivier Awards for Laura Michelle Kelly (as the title character) and one for best choreography. While the British production enjoyed a three-year run, the Broadway version continues to attract audiences and will celebrate its sixth anniversary in November.
“Adults are looking for entertainment they can take their kids to and ‘Mary Poppins' is one that people love,” Payton said. “It's a wonderful production that gives people around the country a similar experience to what they'd see on Broadway.”
Kicking off the new year Jan. 15-20 is a production of “Jekyll & Hyde” starring American Idol star Constantine Maroulis, who also was nominated for his role in Broadway's “Rock of Ages,” and Grammy Award nominee Deborah Cox.
Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's gothic thriller about a mild-mannered London doctor and his evil alter ego, “Jekyll & Hyde” ran nearly four years on Broadway and has toured regularly. Frank Wildhorn's score produced a pair of hits — “This Is the Moment” and “Someone Like You” — the latter becoming a staple among competitors on the pageant circuit.
“Because ‘Jekyll & Hyde' has been around for such a long time, it's branded with a name that people know,” Payton said. “It's developed quite a cult following (in the theater community) but others will see it because of its mystique. It's a love story that's spooky.”
The 2012-13 season continues Feb. 12-17 with Neil Berg's “100 Years of Broadway,” a musical revue that features five vocalists backed by an all-star band. The singers will sample some of the American musical theater's classic scores, including “South Pacific,” “Cabaret,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Evita,” “Wicked,” “Company,” “West Side Story” and “Rent.”
“We've been looking at this show for a few years now,” Payton said. “In markets where it's played, the audience response has been great. It gets terrific word-of-mouth and some presenters have already planned to bring it back for a second time. It could turn out to be the sleeper in our season.”
The season concludes April 23-28 with “West Side Story.” The Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim musical returned to Broadway in 2009, a production directed by Arthur Laurents, the man who helmed the musical's debut in 1957.
Loosely based on Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet,” “West Side Story” was groundbreaking for its era. Musicals in which story and music were tightly integrated had become commonplace by 1957, but Bernstein's score was far more musically complex than anything heard on Broadway up to that time.
Unusual rhythms often underscored rangy melodies that perfectly captured the musical's themes of love that crossed ethnic lines, gang wars, comedy and loss of life. Fifty-five years since the premiere of “West Side Story,” numbers such as “Maria,” “America” and “I Have a Love” still manage to retain a freshness not found in many musicals.
“We haven't had ‘West Side Story' here in a long time, so it was good timing that this tour was announced when we were putting the season together,” Payton said. “It's a good way to end what we hope is a popular season.”
Season subscribers will have the first opportunity to buy tickets for three add-on productions this season: “Blue Man Group,” which plays Sept. 21-23, “Sister's Christmas Catechism,” scheduled Dec. 18 and “A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis” on Dec. 29. Single tickets will go on sale to the public approximately one month before each production.
“Every year, we're excited about putting together a new season,” Payton said. “It's good to see that even in tough economic times, the people of Oklahoma City continue to support live theater.”