‘War Horse,’ ‘Sister Act’ top next round of Broadway Lights

A horse, a fake nun and a doctor with two personalities walk into a theater. Oh, and an idiot. Don’t forget the idiot.

Sound like the lead-in to a joke? Nope. It’s a tipoff to heavyweights in the 2012-13 Broadway Lights series imported by Blumenthal Performing Arts.

We’re used to musicals such as “Sister Act,” which dances into Ovens Auditorium in January with a Tony-nominated score by Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”). We’ve even started to see edgy musicals such as “American Idiot,” based on the Grammy-winning Green Day album of that name (with added songs), which will rock the Belk next March.

So the biggest news in the season announcement – which comes at 6:15 p.m. today at McGlohon Theater – will be things we rarely see: a nonmusical and a show going toward Broadway, not coming from it.

“War Horse,” last year’s Tony-winning drama, comes to Belk Theater in May 2013 as the first touring nonmusical in four years. And a revamped “Jekyll & Hyde” uses Charlotte as a preparatory city in November, as part of a rare 25-week tour that takes it back to Broadway next spring.

So where, you may wonder, is “The Book of Mormon,” Broadway’s hottest musical and last year’s Tony winner?

Coming in the 2013-14 season, says Blumenthal President Tom Gabbard. Dates have been set, but the current slate had so many big titles – not to mention multiweek runs of “Wicked,” “Traces” and “The Lion King” – that he chose to hold the top seller for another time.

This season starts later than usual, Gabbard explains, because the Democratic National Convention and run-up to the general election will seize people’s attention and make air time for advertising less available and more expensive.

Here’s how the season will go:

“Jekyll & Hyde,” Nov. 6-11, Belk. The show ran more than 1,500 performances in its first Broadway outing (1997-2001), but critics were not kind to the music by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. The revival offers a new production and orchestrations, a revised script, two or three new songs (that’s still up in the air) and Constantine Maroulis, who earned a Tony nomination for “Rock of Ages,” playing the dual-personality doctor.

“Cirque Dreams: Holidaze,” Dec. 18-23, Knight Theater. The seasonally themed project isn’t part of Broadway Lights.

“Sister Act,” Jan. 8-13, 2013, Ovens. This began as a nonmusical film, got productions outside New York (including Atlanta), was revised for London and then directed for Broadway by comedy specialist Jerry Zaks. No word yet whether Patina Miller of Pageland, S.C., will tour in her Tony-nominated role as a murder witness hiding in a convent.

“Les Misérables,” Feb. 12-17, 2013, Belk. The adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel hasn’t toured here since May 2004.

“American Idiot,” March 8-10, 2013, Belk. This show (not part of Broadway Lights) is about three lifelong friends trying to escape suburbia and realize long-shot dreams. It began as a concept album that won a 2005 Grammy for rock; the Broadway version won a 2011 Grammy for best musical show.

“Wicked,” March 13-31, Ovens. This take on the witches and wizard of Oz gets its third local appearance in five years.

“Traces,” May 7-19, 2013, Knight. Even if you saw these dazzling acrobats in 2008 at McGlohon, you won’t be prepared for this version. Gabbard says it hits “the sweet spot between intimate charm and acrobatic routines with more fireworks. In a larger hall, they can bounce higher and roll farther.” (Spoleto Festival U.S.A. hosts the new show this June.)

“War Horse,” May 28-June 2, 2013, Belk. Don’t look for the high-tech glossiness of Steven Spielberg’s film. This production tells the same story of a farm boy and the horse he loves, with heroics during World War I, but does so with life-size, metal-and-wood horses created by Handspring Puppet Co. Two or three actors operate each, and the title character – plucky Joey – will make an appearance at tonight’s media bash.

“The Lion King,” Aug. 6-Sept. 1, 2013, Belk. Can you ever have too many masked actors pretending to be animals? The circle of African life comes by for the third time in 10 years.

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