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Blumenthal Arts brings in biggest, freshest Broadway Lights season

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  • Full details: Broadway Lights series
  • 2013-14 Broadway Lights season

    Tickets are on sale for Blumenthal Performing Arts’ season of touring shows. The packages entitle you to seven shows (or eight, if you want “Peter and the Starcatcher”); season ticket-holders get first crack at single tickets for those shows and the seven titles in the Broadway Extras list.

    Details: 704-372-1000; blumenthalarts.org.

    BROADWAY LIGHTS

    Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty” (Nov. 5-10): Wordless dance theater, in the style of Bourne’s “Edward Scissorhands.” He reinterprets the myth with a Princess and a Prince who have … shall we say, undying love.

    “The Book of Mormon” (Dec. 26-Jan. 5, 2014): The comic 2011 Tony-winning musical shows what happens to missionaries in Africa who combine faith and fables to combat AIDS, a murderous warlord and other obstacles.

    “Evita” (March 4-9, 2014): The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical about the rise to power of Argentina’s Juan and Eva Peron got new Latin orchestrations for its Broadway revival.

    “Ghost The Musical” (April 1-6, 2014): The 1990 film about a woman whose deceased love watches over her has been turned into a show with standards (“Unchained Melody”) and new songs by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.

    “Peter and the Starcatcher” (April 29-May 4, 2014): Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys”) adapted the book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which shows how Peter evolved into a flying boy and the piratical Black Stache became his rival.

    “We Will Rock You” (May 27-June 1, 2014): The ruling powers of Earth 300 years in the future insist on conformity, which includes a ban on rock music. Luckily, rebels armed with the songs of Queen challenge the empire.

    “The Gershwins’ ‘Porgy and Bess’ ” (July 15-20, 2014): This is the abridged version rewritten by Susan-Lori Parks and Diedre Murray, which made purists growl and audiences purr. Won 2012 Tony for musical revival.

    “Once” (Sept. 30-Oct 5, 2014): 2012 Tony-winning musical depicts the tentative romance between a Dublin musician and the Czech immigrant to Ireland who ponders a musical (and perhaps personal) relationship with him.

    BROADWAY EXTRAS

    “I Love Lucy Live On Stage” (Aug. 2-18): Based on the TV show.

    “The Lion King” (Aug. 6-Sept. 1): Tour of the popular Disney musical about a young lion deprived of his patrimony.

    “Forbidden Broadway” (Nov. 12-24): For three decades, versions of this musical revue have spoofed pretension, pomposity (and sometimes just popularity) on the Great White Way. This version includes old favorites and new entries.

    “Potted Potter” (Oct. 16-20): All you need to know about the seven Harry Potter novels, boiled down to 90 minutes by two performers and delivered with a smile.

    “Godspell” (Dec. 3-8): Stephen Schwartz’s breakthrough musical of 1971 sets familiar gospel texts in a circus-like atmosphere, popularizing the story of Jesus’ coming, preaching and crucifixion.

    “The Mountaintop” (Feb. 2014): Katori Hall’s warts-and-all drama shows Martin Luther King Jr. on the night before his assassination, confiding hopes, fears and feelings to a woman who has come to clean his hotel room.

    “Rock of Ages” (Feb. 21-23): The return of the musical full of songs from the 1970s and 1980s, about a young woman who goes to Los Angeles to perform and is drawn to an ambitious young musician and a dissolute rocker.

    Blue Man Group (April 15-20): Band of zanies produces multi-media shows in which anything aural, visual or conceptual goes.



Current Tony-winning musical, previous Tony-winning musical, current Tony-winning revival of a musical.

More shows than ever before and more opportunities to swap tickets you don’t want. And as of this year, no fee to join the pay-as-you-go plan.

That’s the biggest news about the 2013-14 Broadway Lights series from Blumenthal Performing Arts, which begins in November with Matthew Bourne’s new version of “Sleeping Beauty” and ends in autumn 2014 with “Once.”

In between come the revamped “Evita” and the revised “Porgy and Bess,” the lighthearted “We Will Rock You” and the deep-hearted “Ghost,” the frolicsome “Peter and the Starcatcher” and – wait for it – “The Book of Mormon,” which arrives Christmas week.

Throw in the seven shows in the Broadway Extras group, if we count the “Lion King” announced last year and coming this August, and you can see 16 productions overall.

Blumenthal president Tom Gabbard, who coordinated the season with vice-president of programming Douglas Young, says the Blumenthal has never offered so many titles before.

“We do try to match supply to demand,” he says. “Last year, we offered only two extra titles, because our sense was that the market here was fragile.

“This year, there are a variety of indicators that the market is strong. … ‘Fela!’ had trouble selling tickets in other cities but sold out two nights here. We were at 95 percent on “Wicked” before it opened. And because we have only one multi-week run next season (‘Book of Mormon’), we’ve booked more titles.”

Theatergoers with sensitive ears will appreciate the move away from acoustically troubled Ovens Auditorium. The Blumenthal will place all these shows in its Belk, Knight, Booth or McGlohon theaters; it uses Ovens as a backup, when a long run keeps a show out of its own heavily booked venues.

“While we won’t be hosting any Broadway Lights events in the upcoming season, we know we’ll have many more opportunities to potentially partner with Blumenthal Performing Arts in the future,” said George Hite, general manager of Bojangles’ Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium. “Ovens will continue to uphold its 55-plus year legacy of entertainment through continued programming of quality events.”

People who like straight plays will be happy (and surprised) to learn that the Blumenthal is bringing three in one season for the first time: “Starcatcher,” the comedy “Potted Potter” (think of Reduced Shakespeare meeting J.K. Rowling) and “The Mountaintop,” Katori Hall’s fictional depiction of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night before his assassination.

Traditionally, the Blumenthal has let season ticketholders swap one show in the series for any other production in its facilities, including the Charlotte Symphony, N.C. Dance Theatre or Opera Carolina. This year, you can swap two. (If the new ticket is more expensive, you pay the difference; if it’s less expensive, the Blumenthal gives a refund.)

Buyers have always been able to pay off their tickets over 10 months with credit-card deductions, and Gabbard says 40 percent of the buyers do that. But for the first time, that long-term plan carries no surcharge.

Most unusually, 13 of the 16 titles have never been here. That suits his desire to “set a high standard by trying to get first national tour companies.”

The biggest coup is “Book of Mormon,” which opened two years ago today on Broadway and still sells the highest percentage of available seats there.

Plays with religious themes can raise eyebrows in Charlotte, but Gabbard doesn’t expect the Tony winner to do so. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints even bought ads in the playbill for the Los Angeles run. One showed a man smiling next to the words “I’ve read the book.” Another had a smiling woman saying, “The book is always better.”

Says Gabbard, “In their quirky way, the show’s creators honor faith: What people believe is important. The Salt Lake City (News) called this show ‘sweet,’ and it is.”

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