Arts & Theater

‘Motown The Musical’ and ‘The Book of Mormon’ among new Broadway series lures

Broadway Sacramento will present “The Book of Mormon” from March 9-20 as part of the 2015-2016 season.
Broadway Sacramento will present “The Book of Mormon” from March 9-20 as part of the 2015-2016 season. Courtesy Broadway Sacramento

California Musical Theatre has unveiled its 2015-16 Broadway Series, offering four premiere performances for Sacramento and three extended runs, including the long-awaited “The Book of Mormon.”

“ELF The Musical” launches the season on Nov. 6, followed by “Pippin,” Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Newsies” and “Motown The Musical,” which winds up the series May 29, 2016.

“Pippin” and “The Little Mermaid” have played in Sacramento as Music Circus productions. The other four shows will be Sacramento premieres and include extended runs for “ELF” and “Motown” in addition to “Mormon.”

The series could be buoyed by the attendance rebound of recent years. During the recession, the Broadway Series saw a decline in subscriptions and a drop in the number of performances. Longer-running shows made a comeback this season with “Jersey Boys,” playing for three weeks with 24 performances, and a two-week “Dirty Dancing” with 13 performances.

This season, with subscriptions at just over 12,000, attendance is expected to reach 90 percent of capacity with two shows left. The remaining shows, “Once” and “Cinderella,” have already exceeded sales expectations.

The new season’s big attraction is the popular and acclaimed “Book of Mormon” by the creators of the long-running cable television comedy “South Park.”

“Book of Mormon” opened on Broadway in March 2011 to strong reviews and set ticket sales records for the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The satire won nine Tony Awards, including best musical, and a Grammy Award for best musical theater album.

The original Broadway cast recording climbed to a 40-year record on the Broadway charts.

The season opener, “ELF” will gauge audience appetite for an early holiday production, according to California Musical Theatre President and CEO Richard Lewis.

“It’s one of the seasonal productions that only exist in the November-December time frame,” Lewis said. Since the musical theater works around Sacramento Ballet’s December “Nutcracker” schedule, Lewis scheduled “ELF” for early November.

“To do as many performances as we think will sell well, we’re using the November date as an audience test,” Lewis said. Family-themed entertainment traditionally has sold well in this market, he said. “We will find out if ‘ELF,’ as a seasonal work in November, is too early,” Lewis said.

California Musical Theatre has high interest in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” since it is co-producing the show rather than just presenting a tour. Artistic director Glenn Casale will direct for its theater partners in La Mirada, Houston, and Dallas where the production will also run. Casale directed the show in Europe and at the Music Circus two years ago, revising the original stage version per Disney’s request. The adjustments Casale fine-tuned here are incorporated into Disney’s licensed version.

“We know the physical production is going to be gorgeous, and we know the work Glenn did on the show is really stunning,” Lewis said. “We’re really delighted to be able to bring it back and to work with our colleagues around the country to do it.”

As Lewis and California Musical Theatre announce their new season and negotiate subsequent seasons, where those productions will be housed has become a pressing civic question. What should be done with the aging Community Center Theater? A recommendation from the task force formed by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and others is expected within weeks.

For Lewis, the Community Center Theater is the right fit and location for his needs and a complement to other venues in the region.

Among them, he said, is the Harris Center, where Stage One in Folsom provides 850 seats; the Mondavi Center, which houses the 1,800-seat Jackson Hall at University of California, Davis. Each has a programming niche. But the Community Center Theater in downtown Sacramento, with 2,400 seats, is where touring Broadway fits best, Lewis said.

“If you’re going to do the same productions that you see in San Francisco, then you need to have that seating capacity,” Lewis said.

Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.

Broadway Sacramento 2015-2016 Season

Presented by California Musical Theatre

“ELF The Musical” November 6-15, 2015

“Pippin”: Dec. 29, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid” Feb. 2-7, 2016

“The Book of Mormon” March 9-20, 2016

“Newsies” April 12-17, 2016

“Motown The Musical” May 18-29, 2016

Six-show subscriptions (including “The Book of Mormon”) range from $138.75 to $417

Five-show subscriptions (without “The Book of Mormon”) range from $100.75 to $324

Single-show tickets range from $19 to $93, depending on show, performance date/time and seating location.

Single-show ticket on-sale dates, to be determined.

Key Dates

Friday: Season subscriptions on sale

May 18: Groups begin booking

June 5: Deadline for subscription renewals

Where: Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L Street

Information: (916) 557-1999, www.BroadwaySacramento.com

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