The Kennedy Center announced yesterday that its fifteen-production 2011-2012 mainstage season will include the award-winning Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey with a new book by Terrence McNally, as well as touring productions of current Broadway hits Memphis, Billy Elliot: The Musical, The Addams Family and La Cage aux Folles. Cate Blanchett’s Sydney Theatre Company – as well as Ms. Blanchett herself – will be returning for a production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, and Mabou Mines, which astonished Washington audiences with its production of Peter and Wendy at Arena Stage in 2007, will give us its own unique take on The Dollhouse.
The revived, and revised, Pal Joey is one of seven musicals which will inhabit Kennedy Stages during the upcoming season. Pal Joey tracks the struggles of the self-important Joey Evans as he sets out to own his own nightclub; several of its songs – including “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “My Funny Valentine” have become standards. It will run from June 2 to July 1, 2012.
In a broad sense, the other musicals in the upcoming Kennedy Center season seem to be built around the theme of acceptance. Memphis, which won a Tony Award for book writer – Joe DePietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Over the River and Through the Woods) – and for score – Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan – is about a white DJ and an African-American club singer looking to break through in the 1940s musical scene. It will run from June 12 to July 1 of next year. Billy Elliot, which will run between December 14, 2011 and January 15 of 2012, tells the tale of a boy with the will – and talent – to be a dancer, and the struggle of his miner dad to accept such an exotic career for his own progeny. In the critically-panned but wildly popular The Addams Family, Gomez, Morticia and the crew struggle to accept the fact that young Wednesday is dating – gasp! – a normal guy. It runs from July 10 to July 29 of next year. And in La Cage aux Folles, which will play between January 17 and February 12 of next year, Georges – well, you know what happens.
Joining the Kennedy Center musical season will be a 25th-annniversary revival of Les Miserables, based on the Victor Hugo novel which traces the struggles of the Parisian poor, culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion. The Kennedy Center states that the revival is influenced by several paintings which Hugo did. The production will run from September 27 to October 30 of this year.
The other musical offering in the upcoming season is Twyla Tharp’s homage to Frank Sinatra, Come Fly Away. The musical features vocals from the Chairman of the Board himself, accompanied by an on-stage big band and set in a nightclub where, the Kennedy Center notes “four couples search for love.” Come Fly Away runs from April 18 to 29 of next year.
The Kennedy Center will open its 2011-2012 season with Uncle Vanya, the story of a man whose farm is falling apart despite his best efforts. Ms. Blanchett will play Yelena, and the title role will be in the hands of Richard Roxburgh, who played the villainous Hugh Stamp in “Mission Impossible II”. The production will run from August 4 to 27 of this year.
Holland Taylor will leave the chaos of the “Two and a Half Men” set long enough to present Ann: an Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards, her one-actor tribute to the tart-tongued former Texas Governor, between December 17 of this year and January 15 of the next.
Mabou Mines makes a brief appearance (October 20-22, 2011) to give their unique take on Ibsen’s The Dollhouse, which begins with Nora bringing a home a dollhouse so large that the children can play in it. “In this production,” the Kennedy Center notes, “the men, Torvald, Rank, and Krogstad, are the same height as the children.”
The Kennedy Center promises us another brief look at an innovative project with Norman, Lemieux Pilon 4D Art’s tribute to pioneer filmmaker Norman McLaren (October 6-8). “The production journeys into McLaren’s playful animated landscapes in the company of dancer/choreographer Peter Trosztmer,” the Kennedy Center promises. “Using their unique virtual reality visual language, Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon immerse the audience in the movement, abstraction, and humanism that are characteristic of the filmmaker’s oeuvre.”
Katona Józef Theatre, one of Hungary’s most widely-known and well-respected theater companies, will present an updated version of the 1931 play Gypsies, which traces the tension between Hungarians and gypsies as they attempt to coexist in the Hungarian countryside. The updated production will run in March of next year; specific dates have not been announced.
In addition to these plays and musicals, the Kennedy Center will again feature Barbara Cook’s Spotlight throughout the season. Aaron Lazar will appear on October 8, Euan Morton on October 28, Alexandra Silber on December 2, Emily Skinner on April 13, 2012, and Ms. Cook herself on June 15 and 16, 2012.
The Kennedy Center will also mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Millennium Stage, and the 10th Anniversary of its 2002 6-play Sondheim Cycle, by producing the Sondheim Celebration 10th Anniversary Concert on June 25, 2012. Eric Schaeffer will direct.
Finally, the Kennedy Center continues to present Shear Madness, the interactive comedy-mystery set in a hair salon, as it has since 1987.