Billy Elliot and Hair, which won the 2009 Tony Awards for best musical and best musical revival, top next season's Broadway series at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Also on the agenda is the return of Jersey Boys.
“Billy Elliot is the big one,'' says Judy Lisi, president of the Straz Center. "It fell into our lap and we're going to be able to build the season around that.''
Adapted from director Stephen Daldry's 2000 movie, Billy Elliot is about an 11-year-old boy who aspires to be a ballet dancer against the fierce opposition of his father amid the economic despair of the 1984-85 coal miners' strike in northern England. The musical boasts a score by Elton John and won 10 Tonys (ironically, though, not for John's music; that award went to Next to Normal).
The revival of Hair, directed by Diane Paulus, should appeal to baby boomers who remember fondly the original "tribal love-rock musical'' from 1967. "It was the music of the youth who are now people who actually buy full-price theater tickets,'' Lisi says.
Jersey Boys, chronicling the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, will run March 23-April 17. It originally played the center for a month in 2008.
Other highlights of the Straz schedule include the revivals of Dreamgirls, featuring American Idol finalist and Sarasota native Syesha Mercado, and West Side Story, directed by book author Arthur Laurents. Two new shows that had disappointing runs on Broadway are also part of the season: 9 to 5: The Musical and Shrek the Musical. The spoofy cabaret revue Forbidden Broadway will have an extended run in the Jaeb Theater.
In the current season, Lisi says, the recession has not seemed to harm ticket sales much. South Pacific has been the biggest hit, with sales of more than $1 million for eight performances in January. She is pleased with the box office draw of what the center is announcing for next season but worries about what will be available to tour in 2011-12.
"Because this has been a bad year on Broadway, I don't know what's going to go out the following year,'' Lisi says, ticking off the new shows that have run into problems. "Finian's Rainbow is closing. Memphis is holding on by a thread. Ragtime is closing. Fela! may not last much longer. The Addams Family is in trouble. Spider-Man fell through.''
Lisi herself has a new show on the line with Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure, which the Straz produced and premiered in December, with hopes that it would eventually make it to Broadway. The Frank Wildhorn musical is now playing at the Alley Theatre in Houston, where reviews were mixed.
Wonderland's fate has yet to be determined, but under certain circumstances, Lisi says, it is not inconceivable that the show could return to the Straz for a pre-Broadway production sometime next season.
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.