Broadway Across Miami: Priscilla, Memphis, Poppins, Les Miz, Fela, Stomp & Rock of Ages

The girls perform in front of Priscilla Queen of the Desert / Photo by Joan Marcus

By Bill Hirschman

There’s a distinctly younger, even hipper bent to the offerings for the Broadway Across America 2012-2013 season announced for the Adrienne Arsht Center — plus some old, old reliables.

The line-up of only musicals on national tours encompasses Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Memphis, Rock of Ages, Mary Poppins and the 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables for the regular subscription plus added-cost extras of Fela! and Stomp.

The season opens Oct. 9 -14 with the sublimely silly Rock of Ages in which a farcical plot-driven book is woven into a collection of 28 rock tunes from the deep,  dark past of the 1980s, drawn from the rarified ouvres of Journey, Night Ranger, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benetar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia and Whitesnake, such eternal classics like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “We Built This City,”  and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” When the show played at the Broward Center in December 2010, Rock of Ages proved to be a surprisingly infectious evening even for people who weren’t fans of the decade or weren’t even born.  For a peek, click here.

Don't Stop Believin' in Rock of Ages/ Photo by Scott Suchman

Not part of the subscription package, from Dec. 4- 9, will be the return of the Stomp, as indestructible as the garbage can lids the dancers smash at each other. For those who haven’t seen it (it’s still playing off-Broadway after 18 years), Stomp is a delightfully primal cross of street dancing , acrobatics and percussion using matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and hubcaps. For a glimpse, click here. http://www.stomponline.com/show.php

Long before Spider-man was flying and falling in Manhattan, a stiff upper lip nanny was amazing audiences with her aerial prowess. Mary Poppins flies back into South Florida Jan. 1-6, 2013.  Not remotely as saccharine as you’d expect, it has all the Sherman brothers’ tunes from the Disney film.  For a look at the Broadway version, click here.

Before you say “not again,” know that when the 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables played the Broward Center in January 2011, audiences were enchanted by the significantly overhauled and re-imagined work that made it seem a fresh piece. The turntable was gone but the evocative scenery, much of it cost-saving projections, was based on pen-and-ink drawings by Victor Hugo. You can hear the people sing Feb. 26-March 3. To watch a video sneak peek, click here.

Fela / Photo by Tristram Kenton

Also not part of the subscription package, but highly anticipated, is Fela! running March 19-24. More of a dance piece than a conventional musical, director/choreographer Bill T. Jones melded swirling movement, theater and music to explore exploring the extravagant world of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti.  Kuti mixed jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies with incendiary lyrics that openly attacked the corrupt and oppressive military dictatorships that rule Nigeria and much of Africa.

Not fresh from Broadway – it still is playing on Broadway until the Tony Awards – is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, coming April 2-7. Drawn from the 1994 Australian film, this glitzy musical features a jukebox full of disco hits (“It’s Raining Men” and “I Will Survive”) and Tony-winning costume designs. The story centers on two drag queens and a transsexual crossing the outback in a battered old bus (the titular Priscilla) for a cabaret gig in the hinterland and interacting with the provincials along the way. For a look, click here.

Closing the season, May 7-12, is the Tony-winning musical Memphis.  If you saw the recent video version on PBS’ Great Performances, be assured that the live experience even more electric and satisfying – a real surprise to the skeptics. The original score by Bon Jovi founder David Bryan is as rousing as anything on Broadway at the moment (it, too, is still running). The book by Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) is a fictionalized account of a real white radio DJ who played “race music” in 1950s Memphis and carried on an affair with a black night club singer. Listen to a clip, by clicking here.

Felicia Boswell and Bryan Fenkart in national tour of Memphis / Photo by Paul Kolnikstudio@paulkolnik.comnyc 212-362-7778

Subscriptions are on sale currently and individual tickets will be offered later this year. For more information, call (800) 939-8587, (305) 949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org or broadwayacrossamerica.com.

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