Theater Preview: Pantages 2011-2012 Season
This season, the Pantages has a very full slate! The Hollywood home of many touring companies will be hosting ten different shows this year, and they all look to be quite entertaining.
Oct. 25-Nov. 6
First up is a dance jukebox (it’s not quite a musical) of Frank Sinatra’s songs. It was choreographed by Twyla Tharp, who also choreographed the similar Billy Joel show, "Movin’ Out." There is apparently a plot that follows four couples in a New York City nightclub. If it’s anything like “Burn the Floor," which appeared last spring at the Pantages, it should provide a very entertaining experience.
Nov. 30-Jan. 29
Following that is the wildly successful musical “Wicked.” There’s not much to be said about "Wicked" that hasn’t already been said. The show opened on Broadway in 2003 and lost the Tony for Best Musical to “Avenue Q” (which appeared last season) and has been a megahit ever since. There are currently two touring companies, and Los Angeles will see the First National Touring Company. “Wicked” has a deep connection to the Pantages — it was home to the show for almost two years. Almost 1.8 million people saw it there between 2007 and 2009, so that does kind of beg the question: Ss there an audience left for the musical? The answer is probably yes, if its success on Broadway is any indication (it consistently makes over $1 million a week there). This one will probably sell out pretty quickly, so anyone interested in seeing the show should buy tickets soon after they go on sale Sept. 18.
Feb. 28-March 4
After “Wicked” comes a week-long engagement of “Spamalot,” a loving mockery of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” This is just fine, as it was written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, two longtime “Python” contributors. The show, which won the Tony for Best Musical in 2005, is very funny, so hopefully the cast will deliver.
"ROCK OF AGES"
Next up is “Rock of Ages,” another jukebox musical. This one is based on 80s musical and is supposed to have a plot. The show actually originated at the Vanguard Hollywood back in 2006 and the first national tour was at the Pantages just last February, but apparently there was enough demand for a non-Equity second national tour to return in March. The movie version, starring Tom Cruise, is also forthcoming, with a slated June 2012 release. “Rock of Ages” seems to be a success despite its lengthy history with the L.A. area, so hopefully this tour will reflect that.
March 27-April 8
Yet another jukebox musical follows “Rock of Ages,” this time in the form of ABBA songs. In “Mamma Mia,” a young girl is trying to find out which of her mother’s many suitors is her actual father, so she goes about the task of finding the man to give her away at her wedding in song and dance. “Mamma Mia,” too, is wildly successful, having run for almost 10 years on Broadway. It was also made into a very popular film featuring Meryl Streep among others in a star-studded cast. The role of Sophie tends to feature up-and-coming Broadway ingénues, so perhaps the L.A. audience will get to see some fresh new talent!
"BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL"
April 12-June 2
“Billy Elliot” interrupts the trend of jukebox musicals, though this show, too, is not entirely original — it is based on the 2000 film of the same name about a young boy in northeastern England who just wants to dance. It’s a very charming story and makes for a quite pleasant show. The dancing is demanding, but usually executed quite well. Of course, any cast that features children, especially those in as prominent a role as Billy, will be “aww”-inducing for the audience, but this show should genuinely be quite entertaining. There are apparently some forthcoming edits, so it should be interesting to see how that affects the show, which was so great and powerful on Broadway.
"THE ADDAMS FAMILY"
Just a few days after “Billy” dances off, “The Addams Family” will trudge its way to the Pantages. The Tony-nominated score was written by Andrew Lippa, an immensely talented composer who also wrote “The Wild Party” (not to be confused with laChiusa’s musical of the same name). Douglas Sills, who was nominated for a Tony in 1997 for his work in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” will be playing Gomez opposite Sara Gettelfinger (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”). Also, the other family in the show (not the Addamses) bear a surname that is remarkably similar to this writer’s, so that should be entertaining for her, at least. The Broadway production, which currently features Brooke Shields (who recently appeared in “Leap of Faith” at the Ahmanson), will close at the end of this year after receiving mixed-to-negative reviews despite box office success since its premiere in 2010. Hopefully this show will fare well on tour!
"MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET"
June 19-July 1
The next show is, surprise, another jukebox musical (what is this trend on Broadway? It really needs to stop). “Million Dollar Quartet” is about a supposedly famous recording session that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in 1956. It ran for a bit over a year on Broadway and is now at New World Stages off-Broadway (which is also the New York home of “RENT” and “Avenue Q”). The show was nominated for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical at the 2010 Tony Awards, but there wasn’t much else to nominate that year. The Broadway production earned mixed-to-positive reviews. It’s a very kitschy gimmick, but maybe it will work here.
"LA CAGE AUX FOLLES"
Next up is the revival of the 2010 Broadway production of “La Cage,” starring George Hamilton (who may be better known for his orange skin tone than for his lengthy film and TV career) and Christopher Sieber, who was twice nominated for a Tony for his work in “Spamalot” and “Shrek: the Musical.” Sieber also played the role of Georges on Broadway, though Hamilton will be taking over that role for the tour and Sieber will play Albin. The show itself is about a gay couple who run a nightclub and their son’s potential in-laws. In true Broadway fashion, hijinks ensue. The recent revival is supposed to have been quite good, and it won the Tony and Olivier (the equivalent of the Tony for the West End, where the production transferred from) for best revival. Hopefully the show will not disappoint.
July 31-August 12
Finally, “Memphis” will be the last show to grace the Pantage’s stage this season. The show, which won the Tony for best musical in 2010, is about race relations in the titular town in the 1950s. A filmed performance of the Broadway show is currently available on Netflix InstantWatch. Before transferring to New York, the show appeared at the La Jolla Playhouse, and was workshopped up in the Bay Area, so it does have some history with the West Coast. “Memphis” received mostly positive, though somewhat lukewarm reviews on Broadway, but hopefully this company will spice it up for a Los Angeles audience.
Note: "RIVERDANCE" will also be appearing from Nov. 15-20, but it has no pretensions of being a musical, so it has not been included in this article.
Reach Katie here.