Yes to “Fun Home.” Yes to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Yes to the splendiferous production of “The King and I.” That makes three Tony winners from last year (musical, play and musical revival), a record for Blumenthal Performing Arts in a single season.
Yes to “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” the 2014 Tony-winning musical. Yes to “The Red Shoes,” a Matthew Bourne ballet that’s still just a concept, and to “An American in Paris,” a ballet-influenced re-imagining of the beloved 1951 film.
And before we go any further, let’s acknowledge the metaphoric elephant in the room: No to “Hamilton” for now. You can expect it to reach Charlotte someday, by which time it will almost certainly be a Tony winner, but the contract hasn’t been finalized.
Season tickets went on sale at 12:01 a.m. this morning for the 2016-17 PNC Broadway Lights slate, which offers seven shows that have never been here in any form and one – “The King and I” – reconceived by director Bartlett Sher, whose extraordinary “South Pacific” won a Tony for best musical revival in 2008.
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Blumenthal has announced that roster in tandem with a Broadway Extras lineup that includes eight favorites and “Circus 1903,” a new take on an old theme.
Here’s the rundown on each series, with comments from Blumenthal president and CEO Tom Gabbard.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” Nov. 24-Dec. 4, Knight Theater – Monty Navarro decides to eliminate eight relatives who stand between him and a fortune while juggling a mistress and a fianceé in this updating of the 1949 film comedy “Kind Hearts and Coronets.”
Tom Gabbard, Blumenthal president and CEO: “This is the only Broadway Lights show running two weeks, and we specifically waited to put it in Knight Theater. Physical comedy is so important to this show; it works in big houses but should come across even better in a smaller one.”
“An American in Paris,” Jan. 10-15, Belk Theater – An American artist in post-World War II France falls for a young woman in this revision led by director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
TG: “His reputation comes from the ballet world, but he also has a sensibility for Broadway. He uses digital imagery well – there’s some beautiful rear projection – and it’s a more compelling story than the (screenplay), showing the impact of the war and Paris just coming out of it.”
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Feb. 14-19, Belk – Mark Haddon’s novel followed a 15-year-old British boy on the autism spectrum, who set out to investigate the death of a neighbor’s dog and ended up on a voyage of self-discovery. The play by Simon Stephens also won Tonys for direction, scenic design and lighting design.
TG: “We would love to get more plays, but they just aren’t going out on tour. You see this story from the vantage point of a boy with special needs, and you see the impact it has on his family. One teacher realizes he’s remarkably intelligent, so it’s also about overcoming (preconceptions) that limit him.”
“The Bodyguard,” March 7-12, Belk – Alexander Dinelaris wrote the book for this 2012 musical, borrowing from (and expanding on) the Whitney Houston song catalog used in the 1992 film about a pop singer who falls in love with the former Secret Service agent assigned to protect her.
TG: “The singer’s role is more the focus of the story now than in the film. Deborah Cox, who toured here in ‘Jekyll and Hyde,’ has a whole separate career as a pop singer. She and Whitney were friends, so she has that Whitney-esque sound you need for the part.”
“Fun Home,” June 27-July 2, Knight – Graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel wrote her “family tragicomic” about growing up gay in a Pennsylvania family, and Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori turned it into the surprise hit musical of 2015. (It took Tonys for book, score and show.)
TG: “We put this in the Knight as the (optional) ticket this season, which we sometimes do when we have a show with a serious tone. Some people just want bread-and-butter musicals, and it may not be for them. But we have a tradition of bringing every Tony winner for best musical, and we weren’t going to break that.”
“The King and I,” July 11-16, Belk – No word yet on who will tour in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a British schoolteacher hired by a 19th-century Thai monarch to instruct his children. Charlotte’s Hoon Lee played the part on Broadway after Ken Watanabe left.
TG: “This isn’t a darker version, the way (Sher’s) ‘South Pacific’ was. It’s an opulent presentation of a classic, with all the songs and Jerome Robbins’ ballet intact. Sometimes the point of a big tour like this is to remind people what they first loved about a piece.”
“Finding Neverland,” Oct. 3-8, Belk – Another musical adapted from a film, this one a 2004 drama about playwright James Barrie and the family whose son inspired him to write “Peter Pan.” Gary Barlow (of the British pop group Take That) and Eliot Kennedy did the songs.
TG: “The book (by James Graham) brings out the romance between Barrie and the mother of the boy. Diane Paulus, who directed the ‘Pippin’ revival, has a great visual sense, so the musical has a much more fantastical side.”
“The Red Shoes,” Oct. 17-22, Belk – British choreographer Matthew Bourne has brought his revolutionary “Sleeping Beauty” and “Edward Scissorhands” to Charlotte, so Gabbard immediately signed up for this all-dance retelling of the 1948 movie about a ballerina forced to choose between love and art – even though no one has seen one minute of it yet.
TG: “We love his work, because audiences in their 20s and 30s appreciate his takes on the classics. This time he’s using film music Bernard Herrmann wrote for Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. (The New Adventures Orchestra will play it.) Charlotte’s one of only four cities on the U.S. tour, along with New York, Los Angeles and Washington.”
“Dirty Dancing,” Sept. 23-25, Ovens Auditorium – The story of a Catskills romance between a Jewish guest and a non-Jewish dance instructor returns after just 15 months.
“The Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” Dec. 27-30, Knight – Speaking of quick returns, this updated version set to Tchaikovsky’s music played last Christmas. A new holiday tradition?
“Riverdance,” Jan. 31-Feb. 5, Ovens – The show with Celtic music and dancing arrives with new costumes, projections, lighting and a new number, “Anna Livia.”
“Into the Woods,” Feb. 10-12, Knight – Stephen Sondheim’s re-interpretation of fairy tales shows up in the Fiasco Theater version, where actors play all the instruments onstage.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” April 11-16, Knight – A sardonic singer with gender issues and surgical problems belts out his story in the 2014 Tony-winner for musical revival.
“Circus 1903,” May 2-7, Knight – The producers of the high-tech extravaganza “The Illusionists” teamed with puppeteers to re-create a traditional, turn-of-the-century circus.
“Jersey Boys,” July 5-9, Belk – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons live again! And again and again.
“The Little Mermaid,” July 18-23, Belk – A girl leaves her watery world for an airy one. The Alan Menken score has old lyrics by Howard Ashman and new ones by Glenn Slater.
“Rent,” Sept. 26-Oct. 1, Belk – The late Jonathan Larson’s reputation rests mainly on this musical about 1990s bohemians who don’t feel at home in a gentrified New York.
2016-17 PNC Broadway Lights
You can buy season tickets in an eight-show package (including “Fun Home”) or a seven-show package. Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Sunday evenings cost $217-$703.50 (seven shows) or $248-$804 (eight shows). Thursday and Friday nights, Saturday matinees and nights and Sunday matinees cost $248.50-$738.50 (seven shows) or $284-$844 (eight shows).
Broadway Lights season ticketholders can buy Broadway Extras now and will be given special privileges, such as the right to swap four tickets. Single tickets for both series will be available later in the year. Details: 704-372-1000 or blumenthalarts.org.