New shows, fa­mil­iar faces

Lyric The­atre plans 2018 sea­son packed with state, re­gional and world pre­mieres fea­tur­ing fa­vored per­form­ers

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SUNDAY LIFE -

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.”

Cel­e­brat­ing in­clu­sion

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.

Sum­mer changes

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.

[PHOTO PRO­VIDED BY K.O. RINEARSON] Brandy McDon­nell bm­c­don­nell@ ok­la­

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!”

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