The 2015-16 PNC Broadway Lights series will take you on a series of journeys. It begins by climbing every mountain in Austria and ends by ... well, I’m not allowed to announce that yet. Suffice to say, it’s a romantic locale.
Along the way, you’ll travel to rural Illinois – also a romantic spot, in the right circumstances – New York, Oz (L. Frank Baum’s, not Crocodile Dundee’s) and the fecund imaginations of Roald Dahl and Carole King.
All the shows in the Broadway Lights series will come here on their first national tours. Blumenthal Performing Arts will even mount its own production of “First Date,” an offbeat musical about a meeting in a Manhattan restaurant, using Equity actors from this region and perhaps beyond.
Tickets go on sale this week for season packages of seven and eight shows. Buying them gives you first crack at most of a massive slate of Broadway Extras, ranging from the returns of “Book of Mormon” and “Kinky Boots” (yes, nine months after its first visit this week) to perennials “Stomp” and “Wicked” – the latter coming for a record four weeks at Ovens Auditorium – to the novelty of “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker.”
As always, the least expensive tickets are for Tuesday, while the most expensive are for Saturday night. The seven-show package ranges from $238.50 to $658.50 on Tuesday night and $243.50 to $693.50 on Saturday. If you want to add the eighth show, “The Bridges of Madison County,” the cost ranges from $274-$759 on Tuesday and $279-$799 on Saturday.
And if you’re looking for “The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” be patient. Blumenthal President Tom Gabbard expects to book the 2014 Tony-winning musical in the 2016-17 season. It’s playing big halls on tour, and he wants to see whether it would fit better into Belk Theater or Knight Theater.
Gabbard makes an interesting point about tours: Though the Broadway runs get all the attention, shows on the road may have more polished scripts or better pacing. Because Broadway producers sometimes have to take an open theater more quickly than they’d planned, the refining process may continue when the show gets ready to travel. Folks who saw “Madison County” in New York, where it won a Tony for Jason Robert Brown’s score, may find the tightened-up road version preferable.
By the way, Gabbard was still negotiating with two of the Broadway Extras entries about dates and numbers of performances. He expects to name those any day.
Details: 704-372-1000 or blumenthalarts.org. Here’s what to expect:
“The Sound of Music,” Nov. 24-29 (Belk). Director Jack O’Brien, a Tony-winner for “Hairspray,” says the show “begins to reveal itself as deeper, richer, and more powerful than ever before. ... We are tearing off the varnish of the past.”
“Matilda the Musical,” Feb. 9-14, 2016 (Belk). This is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of the Tim Minchin-Dennis Kelly musical; it adapts Roald Dahl’s story about a precocious 5-year-old who overcomes obstacles at home and at school and helps a put-down teacher reclaim her life.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” April 20-24, 2016 (Belk). King’s tempestuous life and hit songs, ranging from early pop triumphs for others to her multiplatinum album “Tapestry,” form the basis for this show.
“The Bridges of Madison County,” May 3-8, 2016 (Belk). The 1995 film about a National Geographic photographer and an Italian housewife in a dull marriage to an Illinois farmer has become a musical.
“The Wizard of Oz,” July 5-10, 2016 (Belk). This musical, which made its 2011 debut in London, is based on the screenplay for the 1939 film; the songs are the original ones by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, augmented by new tunes from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
“If/Then,” July 19-24, 2016 (Belk). Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (“Next to Normal”) wrote this musical about a 40-year-old woman who moves to New York to start over; we follow two paths her life might take, if events unfolded slightly differently.
“First Date The Musical,” September-November, 2016 (Booth Playhouse). A man and a woman meet in a restaurant for the first time; we hear their dialogue but also their thoughts, as patrons around them embody the voices in their heads.
The mystery musical then comes to the Belk in November 2016. It can’t be announced yet because ... nope, I can’t even say why. Look for the title to be revealed late this spring.
“Motown the Musical,” Aug. 25-Sept. 6 (Belk). This jukebox musical tells the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. It’s part of the 2014-15 Broadway Lights package, but Blumenthal is also marketing it as an extra for next season.
“Beauty and the Beast,” Sept. 29-Oct. 4 (Belk). The Disney musical comes back, with its tale as old as time and beloved Alan Menken-Howard Ashman score.
“Kinky Boots,” Dec. 29-Jan. 3, 2016 (Belk). A struggling British shoe factory revives itself by making footwear for transvestites in the Harvey Fierstein-Cyndi Lauper show, which won the 2013 Tony for best musical.
“The Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” Dec. 29-Jan. 3, 2016 (Booth). A disc jockey, an electric violinist, digitally projected scenery and 12 hip-hop dancers put a spin on Tchaikovsky’s classic music, in an updating of the story about a family at New Year’s Eve.
“Wicked,” Jan. 6-31, 2016 (Ovens). The alternate take on life in Oz sold out three weeks on its stay in 2013 and comes back for four.
“The Book of Mormon,” Feb. 23-March 6, 2016 (Belk). The religious satire about confused missionaries in a dangerous part of Africa comes back after its sold-out 2013 stint.
“Stomp,” April 4-10, 2016 (Knight). This ear-splitting production, in which performers use everyday objects as percussion instruments, will celebrate its 25th anniversary shortly after coming here.