By Bill Hirschman
War Horse, one of the most stunningly theatrical plays to overwhelm mainstream New York audiences last year will close out the six-show season on Broadway Across America’s slate for 2012-2013 in Fort Lauderdale.
The Tony Award-winning play, that’s right a play, will join another play, Agatha Christie’s BBC Murders, in the theater series that has stuck for several years to an exclusive diet of musicals.
But War Horse is not just any straight play. It’s based on a relatively simple and sentimental children’s story about an English farm boy who follows his beloved horse when it is conscripted into service during the horror of trench warfare during World War I.
Beyond that, though, the deeply moving tale for all ages is a melding of every theatrical art including stirring music, atmospheric lighting, evocative sound, creative costuming, inventive staging, stunning set design and most notably, the use of life-sized and incredibly life-like puppets standing in for horses that virtually come to paw-pounding whinnying life despite being just skeletons of the animals.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt from a marketing standpoint that a far more concrete version has recently been made into an Oscar-nominated film by Steven Spielberg.
Also in the lineup announced late Thursday night are two shows that played the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami this season, Million Dollar Quartet and The Addams Family, plus the successful stage version of the Whoopi Goldberg movie, Sister Act, and a stage version of the Jennifer Beals film Flashdance.
Not part of the subscription package is a return visit of Elphaba, Glinda and those flying monkeys in Wicked.
In chronological order:
Million Dollar Quartet – Nov. 6-18
This surprisingly effective and infectious musical is loosely based on an actual recording session at the legendary Sun Records when producer Sam Phillips brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Although there is a book of sorts and a bit of plot, this is still primarily a jukebox musical. But the combined songbook of these icons’ early years and the conceit of them jamming together proved unavoidably winning, especially with the cast that played the Arsht last year. For a glimpse, visit www.milliondollarquartetlive.com.
Sister Act – Dec. 18–30
Featuring a rousing score by by Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors), this feel-good reworking of the 1992 movie traces a wannabe diva who goes into hiding in a convent after she witnesses a crime. The culture clash, of course, ends up changing both the nuns and the diva. For a glimpse of the gospel roof-raising, visit www.sisteractbroadway.com.
Agatha Christie’s Classic BBC Mystery Series – Jan. 15–Feb. 3, 2013
This offering, being staged at the Parker Playhouse rather than Broward Center for the Performing Arts, is a collection of four classic mystery tales originally written by the Queen of Mystery Writers just before and after World War II: Three Blind Mice, Yellow Iris, Butter in a Lordly Dish and Personal Call. The radio scripts were adapted for the stage in 2009 for Florida impresario Zev Buffman and his International Mystery Writers’ Festival in Kentucky.
Flashdance – Mar. 5– 7, 2013
This first national tour about a working-class girl in Pittsburgh with dreams of becoming a professional dancer (and which created a rage for leg warmers) is now a stage show featuring the music from the Jennifer Beals movie.
The Addams Family – Apr. 9–21, 2013
Another shock: When this played on Broadway, only the heavy lifting by Nathan Lane as Gomez kept this mess from sinking into the mire. But the creative team took it back into the shop, overhauled it and came up with a surprisingly funny musical comedy that thoroughly entertained audiences as the Arsht last year.
War Horse – May 7–19, 2013
Mark your calendars and don’t miss this. How well this will work on a proscenium stage is anybody’s guess since this highly theatrical work was staged on a thrust stage at Lincoln Center, putting the story right in the audiences’ lap. But don’t bet against it. To see what we’re talking about, visit www.warhorseonstage.com
Not part of the subscription package:
Wicked – Jan. 30 – Feb. 17, 2013
The blockbuster musical hit very loosely based on Gregory Maguire’s dark alternative take on The Wizard of Oz, is a monster hit, especially for pre-teen and teenaged girls who identify with the misunderstood heroine, Elphaba, who will later be known as The Wicked Witch of the West.
For season tickets ranging from 169 to $530, visit www.broadwayacrossamerica.com or call (800) 764-0700. Individual tickets go one sale later this year. All but the Christie plays will be performed at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.