• Newsies, Matilda lead 2015-16 Broadway Series

    • By Detroit Free Press - John Monaghan

    The Detroit premieres of "Matilda the Musical," "Newsies" and "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" lead the 2015-16 Broadway in Detroit theater season, which is being announced today.

    "We don't have Lady Gaga in 'The Sound of Music,' but we do have an excellent touring production of that show," says Broadway in Detroit executive director Alan Lichtenstein in reference to the pop singer's much-lauded tribute to the beloved musical at this year's Oscars. "The Sound of Music" will close out the 2015-16 season at the Fisher Theatre in May 2016.

    Lichtenstein is currently basking in the glow of a successful 2014-15 season that has been marked by two blockbuster Detroit premieres: "Motown the Musical" and "Kinky Boots," which played, respectively, to 99% and 90% full houses during their local runs. Perennial favorite "Wicked" also enjoyed a successful encore outing around the holidays.

    A key component of every Broadway in Detroit season is the holiday show, and next season, it's "Newsies," based on a 1992 live-action Disney musical about a real-life newsboy strike in New York City in 1899. The 2012 musical was nominated for eight Tony Awards and took home prizes for best original score (Alan Menken and Jack Feldman) and best choreography (Christopher Gattelli.)

    Also expected to draw keen interest is "Matilda the Musical" (March 2016), based on a Roald Dahl story about a 5-year-old girl who uses reading to change the lives around her. It won five Tonys in 2013, but lost in the best musical competition to "Kinky Boots."

    "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" (February) is a lavish update of the musical that first aired on television in 1957. The current revival opened on Broadway in 2013 with costumes designed by William Ivey Long, who was Lichtenstein's roommate when both were attending Yale Drama School in the 1970s.

    "You literally see characters go from rags to riches right in front of you in a split second," Lichtenstein says.

    Other subscription shows this season include "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage" in October and "If/Then" (a vehicle for theater star Idina Menzel that just closed on Broadway) in April 2016.

    Non-subscription shows include return engagements of "Jersey Boys" (November) and "Chicago" (February), both huge draws during past Broadway in Detroit seasons.

    Star power (and a rare nonmusical option) comes in the form of non-subscription offering "Love Letters" (April 2016), which reunites Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw more than four decades after their blockbuster movie pairing in "Love Story." The intimate play, scheduled for the Fisher, is the kind of show that might have played in the past at the Gem Theater downtown, but Lichtenstein says there are no plans to bring productions there next season. The 450-seat space is now being used as a reception hall.

    "It really is a shame," he says. "There are so many shows I would love to bring in for a space that size."

    Broadway in Detroit subscription tickets, starting at $299, go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Exact show dates and times will be announced later. "Newsies" and "Cinderella" will be staged at the Detroit Opera House. Other shows in the series will play the Fisher. For more information or to order subscription tickets, call the Fisher at 313-872-1000 or go to www.broadwayindetroit.com.

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