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Fall Arts Preview

A look ahead at the music, characters, and theatrics coming to San Diego stages in the 2011-2012 season


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Broadway/San Diego

To celebrate its 35th anniversary season, Broadway/San Diego is doing what it does best by presenting a slew of crowd-pleasing touring shows. Some of the productions, such as Cats (Jan. 10-15, 2012) and Wicked (June 20-July 15), are enduring favorites.    

Other shows are newer. Memphis—the musical that was partly inspired by a white DJ who dared to play black music in the ‘50s—is coming full circle. It was presented at the La Jolla Playhouse before launching a Broadway run that earned it four Tony Awards, including the one for Best Musical. So for Memphis, the Broadway/San Diego engagement (July 24-29, 2012) is something of a homecoming.

Soaring into San Diego for the first time is Come Fly Away (Nov. 8-13), the unusual “dance musical” choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Having previously devoted Broadway shows to the music of Billy Joel (Movin’ Out) and Bob Dylan (The Times They Are A-Changin’), Tharp turned to Frank Sinatra classics such as “My Way” and “Fly Me to the Moon” for her exploration of love. Tharp, as always, does it her own way. 619-570-1100, broadwaysd.com

La Jolla Playhouse

Forget traveling all the way to Ontario, Canada, to see the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s acclaimed production of Jesus Christ Superstar. There’s no need. Not when you can catch the production at the La Jolla Playhouse (Nov. 18-Dec. 31).

The director is Des McAnuff, the oh-so-inventive theatrical wizard who is Stratford’s artistic director and the Playhouse’s director emeritus. For proof of his rock musical mastery, consider the success of The Who’s Tommy and Jersey Boys. And believe Christopher Ashley, the Playhouse’s current artistic director, when he says, “Des and rock go together.”

Provocative new works will also find a home at the Playhouse this season. In the world premiere presentation of Kirsten Greenidge’s Milk Like Sugar (Aug. 30-Sept. 25), a 16-year-old girl forges a pregnancy pact with a couple of high school pals. Then there’s the West Coast premiere of Culture Clash’s American Night: The Ballad of Juan José (Jan. 27-Feb. 26, 2012). As the lead character falls asleep while prepping for his U.S. citizenship exam, history meets comedy in a vivid—and timely—way. 858-550-1010, lajollaplayhouse.org

La Jolla Music Society

Visiting orchestras, modern dance, Latin jazz, prize-winning instrumentalists—the Music Society’s upcoming season has all that and more.
Classical concert-goers will be excited about the New York Philharmonic’s first San Diego program conducted by Alan Gilbert, who took over as top maestro two years ago. Gilbert, 44, is bringing fresh vitality to the country’s oldest symphony orchestra, founded in 1842. The results could be impressively evident during the May 15, 2012, concert that includes Debussy’s La Mer and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.
For dance lovers, the Brooklyn-based Mark Morris Dance Group is a must, with two performances scheduled on April 28, 2012. Once the tradition-bending bad boy of dance, Morris is now an iconic choreographer who hasn’t lost his power to surprise—and please—audiences. 858-459-3728, ljms.org

The Old Globe

Remember Dr. Frank-N-Furter? He’s the cross-dressing mad scientist in Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, the campy musical classic that launches the Globe’s 2011-2012 season from Sept. 15 to Nov. 6. Expect outrageous humor, gleeful audience participation, and imaginative tweaks by the show’s director, Oanh Nguyen. 

The lineup also includes the world premieres of two very different musicals. Some Lovers (Nov. 26-Dec. 31) taps the talent of Grammy-winning Burt Bacharach and Tony-winning Steven Sater (Spring Awakening) for the show based on The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry’s heart-tugging Christmas story. 

By contrast, A Room with a View (March 2-April 8, 2012) was inspired by E.M. Forster’s romantic novel, which tells of love and longing in sun-drenched Tuscany.

“The story feels so right as a stage musical,” says Lou Spisto, the Globe’s executive producer. “These characters really do need to sing.”
And sing they will in the musical by Jeffrey Stock and Marc Acito. 

619-23-GLOBE, theoldglobe.org

San Diego REPertory Theatre

Sam Woodhouse, the Rep’s co-founder and artistic director, calls the upcoming season “our most musical” as well as “one of our most American.”

First up: The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Nov. 5-Dec. 4). The tuneful, happily white-trashy show by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso takes place in a Florida mobile home park named Armadillo Acres and milks comedy from rednecks, romance, and a blues-to-disco score.
Music with a message is the theme of A Hammer, a Bell, and a Song to Sing: The Music of Pete Seeger (Jan. 7-Feb. 5, 2012). The workshop production, written and directed by Todd Salovey, celebrates the revered folk singer who rallied support for social justice with such protest songs as “We Shall Overcome,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “If I Had a Hammer.” In a divisive election year, the words are bound to resonate.

Politics also color Tortilla Curtain (March 17-April 8, 2012), Matthew Spangler’s play based on T. Coraghessan Boyle’s best-selling novel. If you haven’t read the book, here’s your chance to experience the L.A. tale that involves illegal immigration and the American Dream. 619-544-1000, sdrep.org

San Diego Opera

Moby-Dick, Herman Melville’s epic novel about a sea captain’s obsession with a white whale, has morphed into everything from movies and plays to a video game. 

Now it’s an opera. Composed by Jake Heggie and commissioned by San Diego Opera and four other companies, the multimedia-enhanced production opens its first West Coast engagement on Feb. 18, 2012. This is the only work by a living composer in the season that includes Strauss’ Salome, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Composer Heggie isn’t worried about alienating conservative audience members.

“If you strive to create something that’s really worthwhile,” he says, “people will go along with it.”
As an added treat, superstar soprano Renée Fleming will appear in concert on March 24, 2012, accompanied by the San Diego Symphony. Longtime local opera-goers fondly remember Fleming’s performances at San Diego Opera in the mid-1990s before she built a major international career. 619-533-7000, sdopera.com

San Diego Symphony

This season, the San Diego Symphony may not match the excitement that surrounded its 100th anniversary season in 2010-2011, but it’s certainly going to try.

Celebrated soloists—soprano Kathleen Battle, violinist Itzhak Perlman, conductor/violinist Pinchas Zukerman—are part of the mix along with visiting ensembles that range from London’s Royal Philharmonic and the Moscow Festival Ballet to the thunderous rhythms of Tao: Taiko Drummers of Japan.

And let’s not overlook the virtuosity and versatility of French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. During the opening weekend (Sept. 30-Oct. 2), he’ll perform with Battle at the Opus 2011 Gala Concert and serve as soloist in both of Ravel’s piano concertos, conducted by music director Jahja Ling. He’ll return to play Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Royal Philharmonic on Jan. 25, 2012.
Not a bad way to launch another symphonic century. 619-235-0804, sandiegosymphony.org  

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