Thursday, December 14, 2017
Stage

'Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr. among the highlights of 2016-17 season at the Straz

TAMPA — Unless you hit the equivalent of a theatrical Lotto or were willing to pay a king's ransom to ticket scalpers, chances are you missed the original cast of Hamilton, the hit musical that walked away with 11 Tony awards in June.

There is, however, a silver lining. The same success that crowded out the box office also tempted several of the show's leads, including its creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to pursue other ventures once their contracts expired in July.

Leslie Odom Jr., who won a best actor Tony for his portrayal of Aaron Burr, was in that first wave of defectors. Odom will appear at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts for an intimate evening of songs (Feb. 26), one of many highlights in the venue's 2016-17 season.

Odom debuted on Broadway at age 17, in Rent. Judging by past cabaret performances, expect him to reprise tunes from his musicals, including Hamilton, as well as songs by the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Burt Bacharach and Nat King Cole.

Other cabaret performers include the Tony-winning stage and screen star Laura Benanti (Jan. 22), the FX star Cheyenne Jackson of American Horror Story: Hotel (March 26); and Aaron Tveit, who played Danny Zuko in Grease: Live, the role made famous by John Travolta (April 30).

For touring Broadway shows, the Straz kicks off with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Nov. 8-13), a Tony-winning play adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon's novel. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods (Nov. 29-Dec. 4) mashes up fairy tales with a heartrending story about a baker and his wife trying to start a family.

An American in Paris (Dec. 20-25), scored by George and Ira Gershwin, follows an American soldier and a French woman after World War II. Then Forbidden Broadway (Jan. 10-March 12), a cabaret review in the Jaeb Theater, spoofs Broadway legends from Julie Andrews to Whoopi Goldberg and Barbra Streisand.

The more famous Cabaret, about prewar Germany (Jan. 24-29, 2017), comes next, followed by Something Rotten! (March 7-12), a story about two brothers in 1595 who set out to write the world's first musical.

The King and I (May 2-7, 2017), recently revived on Broadway, and Finding Neverland (May 30-June 4), a prequel to the Peter Pan story, promise family-friendly fun, as do Wicked (Feb. 1-26) and Disney's The Little Mermaid (July 11-16, 2017).

Anyone into music history might want to catch Motown: The Musical (Aug. 8-13, 2017), which follows the new sound out of Detroit that shaped generations with the music of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and more.

Jobsite Theater, the resident theater company at the Straz, opens its season with comedy in several flavors: Steve Martin's The Underpants (Sept. 7-Oct. 2); a darker vein in the rock musical Lizzie, about Lizzie Borden (Oct. 12-Nov. 6); Shakespeare's As You Like It (Jan. 11-Feb. 5); and the irreverent A Skull in Connemara (March 15-April 9). Jobsite rounds out its season with the gender-bending Cloud 9 (July 12-Aug. 6, 2017), and a return visit of celebrated playwright Israel Horovitz, who will consult for his new play, Gloucester Blue (May 17-June 11, 2017).

It wouldn't be a Straz season without Opera Tampa, the city's main operatic presence. The coming season's lineup includes Charles Gounod's Romeo and Juliet (Jan. 20 and 22); Gioachino Rossini's Cinderella (Feb. 10 and 12); and Giacomo Puccini's Tosca (April 7 and 9). To support local opera and get to know the people behind it, there's also the Opera Tampa Gala April 1.

The pipeline from Straz's own Next Generation Ballet to the stage continues with Nutcracker (Dec. 17-18), featuring standouts who trained at the Patel Conservatory. The dance season opens with iLuminate (Nov. 20), the troupe that made waves on America's Got Talent. Other highlights include Taj Express: The Bollywood Musical Revue (March 3-4) and the Youth America Grand Prix gala, Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow (Jan. 7).

On Monday nights for eight months, the Jaeb Theater offers a nightclub feel with Club Jaeb, a place where emerging music can thrive. This year's lineup includes Kim Richey (Oct. 17), Joe Pug (Nov. 14), Griffin House (Dec. 19), Melissa Ferrick (Jan. 23), John McCutcheon (Feb. 27), Seth Glier (March 27), Tony Furtado (April 24) and Joshua James (May 15).

One of the more theatrical events you can experience doesn't involve watching actors on a stage. National Theatre Live, a series of high-definition broadcasts out of London's National Theatre, passes through town with Frankenstein (Oct. 16), in which Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate roles as Victor Frankenstein and his creation. One Man, Two Guvnors, featuring The Late Late Show host James Corden (Dec. 11), follows. A third broadcast play will be announced at a later date.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

 
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