New shows, familiar faces
Lyric Theatre plans 2018 season packed with state, regional and world premieres featuring favored performers
Lyric Theatre’s 2018 season is packed with state, regional and world premieres, but plenty of familiar faces will appear in the new roles.
“Everything is created here at Lyric,” Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron said. “We build all the sets, all the costumes, we rehearse everything here. We cast talent from around the country … but the majority of the performers are from Oklahoma. The musicians are all from Oklahoma.”
Many of the venerable theater company’s favorite actresses will take center stage during the eightshow season, which will include five performances at the Plaza Theatre and three summer musicals at the Civic Center Music Hall.
“There are a lot of powerful women in this season at Lyric,” Baron said. "When I plan a season, I plan them for many reasons, and then some themes bubble up. One certainly that has bubbled up is strong women, including Junie B. Jones, the precocious first-grader and, of course, ‘Hello, Dolly!’ ‘Freaky Friday’ is a really modern take on a mother teenage daughter relationship; same thing with ‘Mamma Mia!’ … I’m not sure how that happened, but I’m excited.”
The season will open with a joyful noise Feb. 7-25 at Lyric's Plaza Theatre with the Oklahoma premiere of “Crowns,” a celebration of African-American ladies' love for their hats featuring gospel standards like “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” “Just a Closer Walk” and “I Shall Wear a Crown.”
The cast will include Nakeisha McGee (recent Lyric credits include “A Christmas Carol” and “Rock of Ages”), Ashley Arnold (Disney’s “When You Wish,” “Dreamgirls”), Kimberly Oliver (“When You Wish”), and Kimila “Kizzie” Ledbetter, half of the popular local music duo Adam & Kizzie. W. Jerome Stevenson, producing artistic director of Guthrie's Pollard Theatre, will direct, and Hui Cha Poos, executive director of RACE Dance Company, will choreograph the show.
Based on the book by Regina Taylor, “Crowns” was adapted for the stage by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.
“Diversity is always one of my goals, and part of our mission statement is to enrich the lives of all Oklahomans,” Baron said. “Throughout my tenure here, we’ve made steps in different areas each year, whether through the deaf community through ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ or the Latino community with ‘In the Heights.’ ‘Crowns’ is... the first show that Lyric has done that was written by an African-American.”
Deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank, a Broadway performer who appeared in Lyric’s 2016 production
of “Fiddler on the Roof,” will return to Oklahoma to co-star in Lyric’s state premiere of“Fun Home”from April 11-29 at Lyric at the Plaza. Lyric favorites Lyn Cramer (“Assassins”), Mateja Govich (“Assassins,” “When You Wish”) and Mandy Jiran (“When You Wish”) also will star.
Based on Alison Bechdel's best-selling graphic-novel memoir, the coming-of-age musical featuring book and lyrics by Lisa Kron won five 2015 Tony Awards. “It’s a truly groundbreaking musical. It’s the first musical with a lesbian protagonist. The creative team that wrote the show are all women,” said Baron, who will direct. “What’s amazing about the show, too, is it explores the functions and dysfunctions of family life so specifically that everyone can relate to it.”
Initiatives and traditions
Following 2017’s first foray into theater for young audiences with “James and the Giant Peach,” Lyric will again cater to children and families with “Junie B. Jones, The Musical” from March 7-25 at the Plaza. A sensoryfriendly performance designed for children with autismand other special needs is planned for 11 a.m. March 10.
“I purposefully picked ‘Junie B. Jones’ because last year we did a show that had a little boy as the lead. … The songs are so catchy. The cast is really fun,” Baron said. “It’s
amazing. I didn’t think that initiative of doing theater for young audiences would take off as quickly and as strongly as it has, but it’s like gangbusters.”
Lyric Associate Artistic Director Ashley Wells will direct and choreograph the adaptation of Barbara Park's best-selling children's books, which is offered as an add-on to the subscription season. Kristin Kuns will play the precocious titular firstgrader, and Emily J. Pace, Micah Marine, Mahalia Groningan, Cole H. Cloutier and Justin Larman will co-star.
“Ticket orders are really coming in fast … and they’re coming in from Kansas, Arkansas and Texas, all the surrounding states,” said Michael Bratcher, Lyric’s audience services and public relations manager.
In fall, the Lyric also will continue its New Works Initiative with the world premiere of Alana Jacoby and Scotty Arnold’s inventive rock musical“When We're Gone,” which follows an angst-ridden teenager in plague-ridden 14th-century London who wants to make art in a time of great need. Lyric received a grant from the National Alliance for Musical Theatre to help prepare for the Sept. 26-Oct. 14 debut run in the Plaza District.
“Of all of our new musicals that we’ve done, this one most reflects the culture that’s in the Plaza,” said Baron, who will direct. “It’s endlessly interesting. The narrator for the show is dead. He’s the bassist, and he’s died from the plague. … And the other bandmates are
like, ‘What are we going to do now?’ They’re trying to be successful while also trying to avoid dying.”
As has become tradition, Lyric will close its 2018 season at the Plaza Theatre from Nov. 23-Dec. 24 with its eighth annual staging of the Charles Dickens classic“A Christmas Carol,” directed by Baron.
Opening the day after Thanksgiving and running for five weeks, the popular yuletide tale, offered as an add-on to the subscription season, will star Broadway performer Dirk Lumbard as he reprises his role as Ebenezer Scrooge for the third straight year.
“‘Christmas Carol’ this (past) year was the third best-selling show Lyric’s ever done, and it was at the Plaza. Only ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Little Mermaid’ sold more tickets than ‘Christmas Carol’ this (past) year at the Plaza,” Baron said.
The popularity of Lyric at the Plaza has prompted the theater to shift its “Summer at the Civic” series to three productions instead of four. Instead of performing an August show when theatergoers already are gearing up for the school year, Baron said Lyric is adding Sunday matinees to its three musicals on the slate for June and July at the Civic Center.
The summer schedule opens June 26-July 1 with the regional premiere of Disney's“Freaky Friday,” written by Bridget Carpenter with Music and Lyrics by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey.
“The mom and daughter still switch bodies, but it’s
a new story that’s an amalgamation of the films and of the original books that were written,” said Baron, who will direct. “The book is really smart, very funny. Even though it’s a Disney show, it’s actually for teens and up."
Fresh off a blockbuster Broadway revival that won Bette Midler a Tony Award, Lyric will present a lavish new production of the beloved matchmaking musical “Hello, Dolly!” from July 10-15 at the Civic Center. Threetime Tony Award nominee Dee Hoty and George Dvorsky, who co-starred in Lyric’s 2014 production of “A Little Night Music,” will reunite for the lavish production.
“Ashley (Wells), who is directing it, and Matthew Sipress, who is choreographing it, were in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ on Broadway with Carol Channing. So, it’s their dream show to do, and we’ve been waiting for the right moment to do it,” Baron said. “They love the grand old version of this show … and I wanted to give them the production that they’ve always dreamed of. So, they’re getting to do the dream ‘Hello, Dolly!’ with all the bells and whistles.”
Lyric will end its 2018 summer stretch July 24-29 with hits by 1970s Swedish pop superstars ABBA all rolled into the smash musical “Mamma Mia!” Cramer will direct, Rachel Dolan will choreograph, and Steve Blanchard and Meredith Inglesby, who appeared in Lyric’s 2014 production of “Spamalot,” will return to OKC to take a chance on the romantic romp.
Dee Hoty, who starred in Lyric Theatre’s 2014 production of “A Little Night Music,” will return to Lyric to star in this summer’s production of “Hello, Dolly!”