Hippodrome's 2013-14 season to include 'Book of Mormon,' 'War Horse'

(Handout photo )
January 06, 2013|By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

The Broadway phenomenon known as “The Book of Mormon,” a musical from the creators of “South Park” that became a runaway hit two years ago and shows no signs of flagging, will reach Baltimore next season as part of the Hippodrome’s 10th anniversary.

Joining “Mormon,” which took the Tony Award for best musical in 2011, will be the Tony winner for best play that year, “War Horse,” a show celebrated for its inventive use of life-sized puppetry. One of last year’s big Tony accumulators, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a play with music based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is also on the Hippodrome lineup.

“It’s a strong, subscriber-friendly season, appropriate for our 10th anniversary,” said Jeff Daniel, president of the Hippodrome at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center. “It’s going to be hard to beat. We’ve even got a great holiday show to balance it all.”

That would be ...

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” the disarmingly retro musical, based on the 1950s movie. It fared modestly on Broadway in recent years, but turned out to have sturdy legs on the road. (It wraps up a holiday run at the Kennedy Center today.)

“Mormon,” which combines missionaries in Uganda with a slew of contemporary social and religious issues, is likely to become the toughest ticket in Baltimore. It will play for only two weeks, Feb. 25 to March 9, 2014.

“We endeavored to get a longer run of ‘Book of Mormon,’ but we couldn’t,” Daniel said. “Subscribers get first right to tickets, new subscribers next. There has already been an increase in subscribers this year, in anticipation of what’s coming. Single tickets for this show in other markets have been tight, so I’m sure that will be the case here, too.”

Subscription renewals begin Jan. 13; new subscriptions go on sale Feb. 10. Subscription packages include three shows that will be onstage for multiple-week engagements, plus a choice of three or four limited engagements.

In addition to “Mormon” and “Starcatcher” (May 6 to 18, 2014), there will be a multi-week presentation of “Sister Act,” the musical based on the popular 1992 movie of that name (June 3 to 15, 2014).

The one-week bookings begin with the season-opener, “We Will Rock You,” a jukebox musical with a futuristic plot and songs by Queen (Oct. 15 to 20).

The other one-weekers are “White Christmas” (Dec. 3 to 8); “War Horse” (Feb. 4 to 9, 2014); and “Ghost: The Musical,” based on the hit movie from 1990 (April 8 to 13, 2014).

Like the blockbuster musical “Wicked,” the critically acclaimed “Peter and the Starcatcher” provides a kind of prequel to a familiar and much loved children’s story — in this case, the J. M. Barrie classic “Peter and Wendy,” with a back story for Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

“I think audiences here are going to come out for a quality piece like ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ It’s a funny play with music, more of an art piece, really,” Daniel said.

“War Horse” is very much an art piece, too, and also comes with music. Based on the children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo that also inspired the 2011 Steven Spielberg film, it’s the emotional saga of a boy and his beloved horse, and how both end up amid the trenches of World War I. Extraordinarily realistic puppetry brings the horse and other animals to life onstage.

The rest of the Hippodrome season is decidedly lighter in tone — “To show we do not take ourselves too seriously,” Daniel said.

The Queen-fueled “We Will Rock You” has been running for more than a decade in London, despite eviscerating reviews from the British press when it opened. Productions in several other countries have proved equally successful.

“We thought we would take a shot at it,” Daniel said. “We like to offer something off the wall. I felt very comfortable with that choice. The music of Queen is great, and what got me is how they use it in the show.”

“Sister Act” and “Ghost” also opened in London before landing on Broadway and also generated mixed-to-dismissive reviews, but found supportive audiences.

“‘Sister Act’ is a popular title and has a very talented cast,” Daniel said. “As far as ‘Ghost’ is concerned, for some reason it has surveyed quite strongly when we ask our audiences what they would like us to bring here.”

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