Playing to the strengths of the Lyric


Schedule: Performing Arts Productions' 2000-2001 season packed full of musicals.

June 05, 2000|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Musicals new and old will highlight Performing Arts Productions' 2000-2001 season at the Lyric Opera House. The six-show season ranges from the landmark "Show Boat," to a hit-single-turned-stage-show, "Barry Manilow's Copacabana."

Explaining the focus on musicals, Nicholas A. Litrenta, president of Performing Arts Productions, said, "The Lyric is a musical house, it's an opera house, and it's a little more difficult to do straight plays. It doesn't suit itself particularly well to that."

He added that with increased competition for fewer road productions, "I'm actually quite thrilled that we were able to get these shows. ... I think it's a varied season."

Here's the lineup:

"Phantom," Oct. 3-8. Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's musical adaptation of the 1911 Gaston Leroux horror novel may have been overshadowed by Andrew Lloyd Webber's mega-version of the same story, but the rendition by the creators of "Nine" has had a healthy life around the country. Kopit's book adds some logic to the spooky tale and Yeston's score displays considerable melodic variety.

"Barry Manilow's Copacabana," Oct. 30-Nov. 5. Take the Manilow song that begins, "Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl," add 14 more songs and a book by Manilow, Jack Feldman and Bruce Sussman, and suddenly a single has become a full-scale new musical. Directed by David Warren and choreographed by Tony Award winner Wayne Cilento, the cast includes Gavin MacLeod in the role of the Copa proprietor. A previous production played London in the mid-1990s.

"Forever Swing," Dec. 26-31. Swing dancing is the latest retro craze and this big band revue, which spans the years between 1936 and 1945, focuses on the fictitious Tommy Vickers Band and its high-kicking devotees. The show was a long-running Canadian hit

"Show Boat," Jan. 16-21. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II created the first great modern musical when they combined a hard-hitting story and character-driven songs in their 1927 adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel about a Mississippi River show boat. Directed by Clayton Phillips, a Harold Prince protege, the new production features the lush Tony Award-winning costumes designed by Florence Klotz for the 1994 Broadway revival.

"Cirque NuAge," Jan. 30-Feb. 4. The latest work by the creators of "Cirque Ingenieux," which came to the Lyric in 1998, "Cirque NuAge" takes place in a circus museum whose displays come to life. Music, acrobats, aerialists, contortionists and even a bungee dance are among the acts.

"Godspell," May 15-20. Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz is updating his score for this new revival of the whimsical 1971 musical based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew.

In addition, subscribers have the option of adding the return Baltimore engagement of "Rent," which will play the Lyric Feb. 20-25. Loosely based on Puccini's "La Boheme," the 1996 Tony Award-winning rock opera played a five-week engagement at the Mechanic Theatre in 1998.

Subscriptions to the six-show series range from $122-$296; with the addition of "Rent," the package ranges from $159-$368. For more information, call 410-494-2712.

Play workshop for teens

The Performance Workshop Theatre Company is offering a Playwriting and Performance Workshop for teen-agers July 17-21. Sessions will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the theater, 28 E. Ostend St. The instructor is Mary Hardcastle, a faculty member at Villa Julie College. Enrollment is limited to 10 students ages 13-18 who will study the creation and interpretation of scripts. The fee is $150. For more information call 410-659-7830.

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