Mechanic plans set of newer hit shows

Theater Column

`Producers' coming to Hippodrome in 2004 season

April 11, 2002|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

For its final full season in the Mechanic Theatre, the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts has announced that it will return to a six-show lineup in 2002-2003 and that the megahit The Producers will be part of its first season in the renovated Hippodrome in 2004.

Highlights of the 2002-2003 series will include The Producers' chief rival for last year's Tony Award, The Full Monty, as well as Charles Busch's hit comedy The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, with Valerie Harper repeating her Broadway role.

"This last season we had engaged a number of revivals, and we thought it would be time for us to dig a little deeper in terms of bringing newer work into the theater," said Michael J. Brand, vice president of Clear Channel Entertainment, which co-presents shows at the Mechanic with the BCPA.

Looking ahead to the Hippodrome - expected to be completed in late 2003, with the first show opening in early 2004 - Mark Sissman, BCPA president and CEO, said he is beginning to see the broader-based attendance that will be needed to sustain the renovated 1914 vaudeville house.

Describing this season's audiences at such attractions as The Graduate, The Vagina Monologues, the black-oriented Urban Broadway Series and "even Fiddler on the Roof," he said, "They were African-American; they were younger; they might have been hipper; they were families."

The Mechanic is now drawing an average percentage capacity in the "high 80s to low 90s," said Brand. That translates to annual attendance figures of 100,000-120,000. However, the first year at the Hippodrome is projected to attract 400,000 patrons. Sissman feels the increase is realistic not only because of the greater number of seats (2,200 as opposed to 1,600 at the Mechanic), but also because shows such as The Producers are expected to play extended runs.

Sissman hopes some of the Hippodrome's audiences will come from out of town. A new program called Broadway Across America, which offers flexible ticketing for subscribers in 44 cities, should make it easier for tourists to take advantage of BCPA offerings.

Going into effect at the Mechanic next season, Broadway Across America allows subscribers to exchange tickets for shows in other participating cities, or even to split subscriptions between cities. Sissman said the program "is going to raise the visibility of Baltimore and theater in Baltimore and cultural tourism in a broad way."

Here's the 2002-2003 lineup:

42nd Street, Oct. 1-6. A two-time top Tony winner (best musical in 1981 and best musical revival in 2001), this quintessential backstage tale of the chorus girl who becomes a star is directed and co-written by former Marylander Mark Bramble.

The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Oct. 22-27. Harper plays a Manhattan culture vulture on the verge of a midlife crisis exacerbated by an unexpected visit from a childhood friend.

Seussical the Musical, Dec. 3-8. Cathy Rigby stars as the Cat in the Hat in a reconceived rendition of the failed 2000 musical version of the tales of Dr. Seuss. The score is by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Tony winners for Ragtime.

tick, tick ... BOOM!, March 4-9. An autobiographical musical by the late Jonathan Larson, creator of Rent, this musical was expanded from a one- to a three-person show under the guidance of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn (Proof). Former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre has been reported as possibly reprising his starring New York role.

Jesus Christ Superstar, April 8-13. A new touring production of the 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice New Testament musical.

The Full Monty, May 6-11. Tony Award winner Cleavant Derricks is one of several Broadway veterans who head the cast in the musical adaptation of the 1996 movie about six unemployed men who bare it all. The book is by Terrence McNally and score by David Yazbek.

Subscriptions to the season are $145-$477. Current subscribers will receive renewal information shortly. New subscriptions go on sale May 19. Call 800-343-3103 or visit

Critic-proof `Graduate'

The Graduate, starring Kathleen Turner, broke box office records during its pre-Broadway run at the Mechanic in January. The seemingly critic-proof show also triumphed at the box office in London. Now it appears poised to do the same in New York, where it opened last week. Here's a sample of the New York reviews:

Ben Brantley of the New York Times: "On American shores, The Graduate seems more blatantly exploitative, suggesting Broadway's own answer to the Tonya Harding-Paula Jones boxing match. The show trafficks easily and cheaply in memories of the movie and the Q ratings of its stars."

Howard Kissel of the New York Daily News: "Turner's Mrs. Robinson is not the wildly neurotic, uncontrolled creature she was in Anne Bancroft's hands. Here, she has the demeanor of an Army drill sergeant putting a recruit through his paces."

Charles Isherwood of Variety: "Indeed, this workmanlike slog through an iconic story is not much of anything - other than a hit, of course. ... The whole production seems content to shellac a shiny plastic surface over a story that was both lighter on its feet and vastly deeper in its emotional resonance on film."


Paragon Theatre. Auditions for Lend Me A Tenor by Ken Ludwig. 7 p.m.--10 p.m. Sunday and Monday at Paragon Theatre, 9 W. 25th St. Needed are four males and four females. Roles require physical agility and comedic ability. Singing is preferred but not required. Production runs June 7-July 28. Call 410-467-1966.

Slayton House Conservatory Camp. Auditions for the camp's production of Pajama Game. 4 p.m.-7 p.m. May 2 and 3 at Slayton House, 10451 Twin River Road. Needed are children 11-15 years old with interest in theater. Prepare a one-minute monologue, a song and a short dance routine. Call 410-730-3987.

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