Jujamcyn to book Mechanic Growth: Brought in as a consultant, the company will now manage the theater.

May 04, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

In a show of confidence in the improving health of the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts, Jujamcyn Theaters and Productions has stepped up its involvement in the organization that runs the Mechanic Theatre.

Brought in as a consultant in 1995, Jujamcyn (pronounced ju-JAM-sin) will now be in charge of booking and managing the Mechanic. Today the theater announces its 1998-1999 season of five musicals and one drama.

The increased presence should be good news for the Mechanic, particularly in light of the 1997 partnership Jujamcyn formed with the Pace Theatrical Group, a partnership whose clout and expertise derives from a combined network of theaters in 31 North American cities.

"It means very high quality shows on a consistent basis not just catch as catch can," Rocco Landesman, president of Jujamcyn Theaters, said of the heightened role of his organization. "We really believe in Baltimore."

"It's a logical progression," Mechanic general manager Brian Liddicoat said. "If Pace continues to grow and Jujamcyn does and there's this emphasis on road houses and road theater and making Baltimore a major theater market the way it used to be, then we'll all benefit, especially the audiences."

Though Liddicoat will remain in charge of day-to-day operations at the Mechanic, Jim Dale, who has served as executive director since 1996, is stepping down.

"I'm handing Jujamcyn the keys," said Dale, who will stay on the executive committee of the BCPA board. "This really is a culmination of a lot of good stuff. It's nice to tell a story that has, I wouldn't say a happy ending, but is on the way to a happy ending."

Jujamcyn's commitment to Baltimore is reflected in the level of the shows it brings here (the 1997 Tony Award-winning revival of "Chicago" sold out in February, and the 1995 Tony revival winner, "Show Boat," comes in January).

Michael J. Brand, executive director of Minneapolis-based Jujamcyn Productions, also said one of his goals is to establish a local theater education program.

Much of Jujamcyn's interest is tied to the proposed renovation of the Hippodrome, a theater Landesman feels will be "a first-class venue." Jujamcyn has been working to re-build the BCPA's audience, proving Baltimore has the theatergoers needed to fill the Hippodrome's seats.

So far, Brand said, indications are encouraging. "[Attendance] has turned around almost 100 percent in the 2 1/2 years we've been involved. We're selling a lot of shows out. When we started, we were doing 50 percent, 60 percent."

And, though five of the six shows announced for the new season will have one-week runs, Jujamcyn has booked "Show Boat" for a generous one-month run. "If we do very well this year, we may look at two weeks [for some shows] next year. We're very interested in growing and growing into the bigger [theater]," Brand said.

Here's the 1998-1999 lineup:

"The Gin Game," Nov. 17-22. Charles Durning and five-time Tony Award-winner Julie Harris reprise their roles in this 1997 Broadway revival. Written by former Baltimorean D.L. Coburn, this Pulitzer Prize-winning play focuses on a pair of cantankerous retirees who develop an uneasy truce over a series of gin games.

"Show Boat," Jan. 16-Feb. 14, 1999. Directed by Harold Prince, this lavish Tony Award winner is one of the most complete revivals ever mounted of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II classic, a show that was the precursor of the modern musical.

"Footloose," Feb. 23-28, 1999. A stage adaptation of the 1984 hit movie about a Midwestern town that bans dancing and rock and roll, this new musical staged by "Chicago" director Walter Bobbie, opens on Broadway in the fall. Its producers are so confident that it'll be the next "Grease," they're starting the tour almost simultaneously. Composer Tom Snow and lyricist Dean Pitchford are adding nine new songs to their movie score.

"Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk," March 2-7, 1999. This groundbreaking 1996 musical uses tap dancing as a metaphor to chronicle the African-American experience. The energetic, tough-minded show was conceived and directed by George C. Wolfe and has choreography by Savion Glover.

"Sunset Boulevard," March 30-April 4, 1999. Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical adaptation of Billy Wilder's 1950 movie about an aging silent film star is being re-conceived under Susan H. Schulman's direction. Petula Clark will reprise her London role as Hollywood diva Norma Desmond.

"Victor/Victoria," April 20-25, 1999. "Victor/Victoria" made headlines when it was passed over as a best-musical Tony nominee in 1996, but Blake Edwards' 1982 movie would appear to be a natural for the stage. This touring version will star Toni Tennille as the struggling actress who finds success by impersonating a man who impersonates a woman.

Subscriptions to the Mechanic's six-play season are $151- $395.50. Call 800-343-3103.

Audition

Axis Theater. Six black females, one white female and one black male needed for writer/director Kevin Brown's "Sittin' With The Sisters: The Wedding." 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Waverly library branch, 400 E. 33rd St. Performances are scheduled for June-July at the Axis Theater. Bring a photo and resume, and be prepared to read from the script. A prepared monologue appreciated but not necessary. Call 410-261-2897.

Pub Date: 5/04/98

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