CINCINNATI -- “We’re always trying to accomplish the same thing,” said Leslie Broecker, president of Broadway Across America-Midwest, the folks responsible for Cincinnati’s Broadway in Cincinnati Series. “And that is to bring the best entertainment to Cincinnati that we can.”
Broadway in Cincinnati revealed its 2016-2017 subscription season on Monday. And true to her word, Broecker has announced a lineup of shows that is a promising one, with a few blockbusters, some family-friendly fare and a couple of Tony Award-winning productions audiences may not be as familiar with.
“I think we ended up with just what we wanted,” said Broecker.
It may sound like a sales pitch. But Broecker is likely not exaggerating, as the season ranges from a sparkling new production of “The Sound of Music” to “Matilda the Musical,” Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s deliciously dark children’s tale. Darker and funnier still is “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” the hilarious retelling of Alec Guinness’ murderously funny “Kind Hearts and Coronets.”
There’s one show on the list that isn’t a Broadway musical at all. “The Illusionists – Live From Broadway” is just what the title suggests, a Vegas-style show featuring seven big-time magicians trying to outdo one another.
In a departure from past seasons, though, the series will not feature a holiday-themed show.
Subscriptions start at $175 – “a ticket and a half in New York,” said Broecker – and go all the way up to $629. They go on sale Monday. Subscriptions include tickets to six shows. Five are the anchor shows of the series, leaving subscribers to choose either “A Gentleman’s Guide” or “The Illusionists” as their sixth show.
Subscriptions can be purchased at the Aronoff Center ticket office, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, by phone at 800-294-1816 or online at BroadwayinCincinnati.com. All performances will take place in Procter & Gamble Hall in the Aronoff Center.
The 2016-2017 Broadway in Cincinnati series includes:
“The Sound of Music,” Sept. 27-Oct. 9: A dazzling way to launch the new season. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s much-beloved show hasn’t been seen on the Aronoff stage in 16 years. And this production, directed by three-time Tony winner Jack O’Brien (“Hairspray”), is particularly lavish.
In the wake of NBC’s live presentation of the show in 2013, interest in the show is as high as it has been since it debuted on Broadway in 1959.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” Jan. 3-8, 2017: This might be the most unlikely show in the entire Broadway in Cincinnati season. Based on Alec Guinness’ quirky 1949 film “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” the show was a sleeper hit when it won the Best Musical Tony in 2014. An ambitious young man discovers that he is heir to an enormous fortune. Unfortunately, he is ninth in the line of succession. His solution? He decides to bump off all of those in front of him. As in the movie, all eight victims are played – hilariously – by the same actor. (Optional subscription show.)
“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” Jan. 17-29, 2017: What can you say that hasn’t already been said about Disney’s cinematic juggernaut? The stage show has all of that and the added charm of live performers. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s memorable songs are there. So are all of the oddball characters that populated the film: Sebastian the crab, Ursula, the sea witch, and, of course, Ariel, the deep-sea princess who set into motion a new generation of Disney leading ladies.
“Something Rotten!” Feb. 21-March 5, 2017: Delightfully clever and filled with smart comedy, “Something Rotten!” is almost enough to make history fun. It’s set in London in 1585. Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are determined to take the theater by storm. But audiences seem to prefer their toughest competitor, an egotistical but astonishingly gifted playwright named William Shakespeare. A fortuneteller convinces them that the future of theater involves singing, dancing and acting, so they set out to write history’s first musical. Unfortunately, they think the world needs a musical about the Black Death.
“The Illusionists – Live From Broadway,” March 21-26, 2017: The show features dozens of magicians’ most classic tricks. There’s levitation and mind-reading, disappearance and, they claim, for the first time in history a full-view water torture escape. You’ve probably seen it. A fully shackled magician is lowered upside down into a tower of water and … we just hope he gets out. ”The Illusionists” is flashy and brassy, with a little Houdini and a lot of Vegas, and features illusionists with nicknames such as “The Manipulator,” “The Trickster” and “The Deceptionist.” (Optional subscription show.)
“Matilda The Musical,” April 4-16, 2017: Matilda is not your usual heroine. She’s headstrong and, when she thinks she is being wronged, she is not above a little revenge. She also has the power of telekinesis. You know – she can move things using just her mind. No wonder author Roald Dahl was so fascinated with her. Dark, imaginative and abundant with the buoyant energy of a cast filled with children, “Matilda” is still filling theaters on Broadway, in London’s West End and in Sydney. “There aren’t a lot of markets that will get ‘Matilda,’” said Broecker. “We’re one of the few.”
“Beautiful, The Carole King Musical,” May 2-14, 2017: Long before the world knew Carole King as a writer of smart and intellectual songs, she was one of the songwriters who ground out a seemingly endless string of hits. With “Beautiful,” we meet her as an ambitious 16-year-old with big dreams. “This is less a jukebox musical than it is real storytelling,” said Broecker. It’s also a show with an astonishing array of good music, including many songs that King wrote for groups like the Shirelles and the Drifters.
In addition, Broadway in Cincinnati will present two productions that are completely unconnected to the subscription series. Those are:
“The Phantom of the Opera,” Nov. 15-27: Yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe’s musical has been around forever. It’s celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. But that has not made any difference to audiences, who don’t seem to be able to get enough of it. The staging was given a mighty tweak a few years ago. Among longtime fans, the changes were quite controversial. But others welcome the changes and felt they spruced up the show. Whatever your take on it, it is that revised version that will be paying its second visit to Cincinnati.
“Mamma Mia!,” March 10-12, 2017: “They say ‘Mamma Mia!’ is on its farewell tour,” said Broecker. “But I’ve heard that before and it keeps coming back.” If you’re an ABBA lover, though, you can’t be too safe. This show could be mothballed after this tour. Filled with some of the group’s greatest hits – “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper” and “Take A Chance on Me,” among others – “Mamma Mia!” is one of those honest-to-goodness feel-good stories about love and romance and adventure on a Greek island.