Theater Preview: Ahmanson 2011-12 Season
"BRING IT ON"
Oct. 30-Dec. 10
The season starts with the first stop of the "Bring It On!" national tour. The musical, which is loosely based on the 2000 film, has a creative team chock-full of contemporary Broadway veterans. The book was written by Jeff Whitty (who was nominated for a Tony for his work on "Avenue Q"); Tom Kitt (Tony winner for "Next to Normal," a hit of the Ahmanson’s 2010-11 season) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (another Tony winner, for "In the Heights," in which he starred at the Pantages last season) wrote the music. The lyrics were handled by Amanda Green (daughter of "On the Town's" Adolph Green and Kitt’s partner for the musical adaptation of "High Fidelity") and Miranda (who won the Tony for both composing and writing the lyrics for "In the Heights"). Andy Blankenbuehler (who won a Tony for his choreography of "In the Heights") directs and choreographs, while "Heights's" Tony-winning music director, Alex Lacamoire, handles the musical supervision. Needless to say, with so many Tonys behind the scenes, expectations are high for the show. The world premiere in Atlanta received generally good reviews, and the cast should feature some of the best cheerleaders in the country, so if nothing else, that should be interesting to watch. No cast has been announced yet, and the show has been facing legal woes from the movie’s writer, so that may also be interesting to watch.
Jan. 15-Feb. 26
Next up is the much buzzed-about revival of "Funny Girl" featuring Lauren Ambrose in Barbra Streisand’s iconic role. Bartlett Sher, who won a Tony for his direction of the 2008 "South Pacific" revival (which appeared at the Ahmanson in 2010), directs, with his creative team from that production behind him here as well. However, most of the attention goes to Ambrose’s casting as Fanny Brice, a real-life comedienne of the early 20th century. Prior to announcing Ambrose, all bets were on Lea Michele to play the role — she certainly had been gunning for it! (See: 2010 Tony Awards.) Oddly enough, Sher has directed Michele’s co-star, Matthew Morrison, in two Broadway productions, the aforementioned "South Pacific" and "The Light in the Piazza." However, Ambrose did make her Broadway debut in Sher’s "Awake and Sing!" Reception of her casting has been mixed, ranging from the fact that she is 30, a redhead, and not Jewish, to elation over the prospect of seeing the TV and film actress performing live (she is best known for her two-time Emmy nominated work on "Six Feet Under"). This production seems to be headed for Broadway, so it’s definitely one to keep an eye on!
March 13-April 22
"American Idiot," Green Day’s rock musical based on their album of the same name, will continue its national tour in Los Angeles. The show follows three young men as they try to escape suburbia and find their way in the world. It originated at the Berkeley Rep in the Bay area, and then transferred to Broadway, where it ran for just over a year. No casting has been officially announced, but the score is infectious and the staging is astounding, so hopefully whoever is cast will bring the story to life. The book is pretty weak, but the cast (and their energy) can really make or break the show, so it should be interesting to see. The show already has a devoted following from fans of the band and the sheer fact that it is one of the most relevant shows to teenagers today, but there’s no telling whether that dedication will translate with a national tour.
April 25-June 3
Perhaps the least talked-about part of the Ahmanson’s season is "Fela!," which is based on the life of Fela Kuti, a famous Nigerian politician and musician. The show is directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, who is best known for his Tony-winning work on this and "Spring Awakening," and his dance company, which he formed with his partner, Arnie Zane. "Spring Awakening" revolutionized the conception of what dance on Broadway could be, and this show, which is very dance-heavy, reinforces that concept. The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in its original Broadway run and ran for over a year. The show, which is produced by Jay Z and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, will feature Tony-nominee Sahr Ngaujah in the title role, which he created. While the show has considerably less buzz than the other shows appearing this season, it is definitely not one to be ignored. Though it does not have the broad appeal of its counterparts, it has received rave reviews and should be interesting to see. One memorable element of the Broadway production was how they decorated the theatre to make it all seem like a continuation of the stage. That’s not as possible in a touring house, but it should be an exciting show nonetheless.
June 13-July 22
Finally, the last show of the Ahmanson’s season is "War Horse." This play (the only one of the season) has been talked about non-stop since it premiered at the National Theatre in England. It is currently appearing on Broadway, where it won the Tony for Best Play this past year, and Steven Spielberg is directing a movie version of the tale of a boy and his horse in World War I. Normally, the idea of a show about a horse would be either really boring or really disturbing (see: "Equus"), but 'War Horse" is supposed to be captivating. The secret apparently lies in the puppetry — the horses are all incredibly complex puppets manned by multiple cast members, and apparently they have the effect of being real, live horses on stage with the actors. So while the prospect of a show about horses during World War I sounds quite boring, the show is supposed to be nothing short of fantastic, and hopefully the national tour will reflect that.
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