Sacramento’s Music Circus isn’t known for innovation, but as it enters its 65th season of summer musical theater in the round, the company is not intransigent when it comes to audience-oriented improvements.
Putting a dark week between shows two years ago was quickly embraced, and last year curtain times were moved up a half hour in the evenings, which also worked extremely well.
In announcing its 2015 season today, Music Circus has added an optional production at the end of the season with the promise the show will be on the edgy side of its comfort zone. This year the option show will be the iconic “Tribal Love Rock Musical” affectionately known as “Hair,” which made its Broadway debut on April 29, 1968.
The complete season will see “My Fair Lady,” “Big River, “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Peter Pan,” “West Side Story” and “Hair.”
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Richard Lewis, president of California Musical Theatre, which produces Music Circus, said the new option allows the organization to take chances on titles it might not offer otherwise.
“Having an option to the season is something we’ve not done before, so now we have a show like “Hair,” which may be somewhat controversial to some folks,” Lewis said.
As Lewis points out, “controversial” is subjective The legendary musical brought a contemporary pop/rock score to Broadway along with a timely story dealing with the Vietnam War, drug use, and the sexual revolution. And there’s a brief nude scene. “Hair” also ran on Broadway over four years, logging 1,750 performances, and it has been revived several times. It won the Tony Award for Best Revival in 2009.
“If this is successful for us this summer, then I think we’ve got a whole new age of Music Circus to come in the future,” Lewis said. CMT has been successfully offering options to its Broadway Sacramento series for several years, but there isn’t a significant crossover in that audience to the Music Circus.
“This is expanding a familiar idea for us into a new venue,” Lewis said.
“We’re excited by the opportunity to do ‘Hair.’ ... What does that mean for the future? “Rent,’ ‘Parade,’ other titles that are not necessarily mainstream the way some of these others are?” Lewis said.
Lewis said CMT will see how audiences respond to this initiative, but the theater is operating from a position of strength at the moment.
In 2014 Music Circus total attendance was 90,334 tickets and the Wells Fargo Pavilion operated at 92.13 percent capacity. This was a slight improvement over a successful 2013 season in which total attendance was higher as a number (96,969), but lower capacity (89.25 perent) because of extended runs for “The Wizard of Oz” and “Chicago,” which mean more overall tickets were available.
The most-attended show in 2014 was “Mary Poppins,” which had a 99.48 percent capacity and bodes well for this year’s family-oriented offering “Peter Pan.”
The season opens with one of Music Circus’ most popular titles, Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady”
“It’s an anchor title,” said executive producer Scott Klier. “Ideally you open the season with a title that interests the most. ‘My Fair Lady’ is that for us,” Klier said.
Along with the venerable “West Side Story,” there is also the highly regarded but less known “Big River,” which is Roger Miller and William Hauptman’s musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
“The goal is always to create something for everyone not everything for everyone,” Klier said.
“We’re optimistic that there is an experience to be had in all six of these titles that will reach most of our audience.”
Four of the six productions are premieres for the Pavilion, which enters its 13th season, so despite the familiarity of the titles, there is a certain freshness to the season.
“It always begins with our survey,” Klier said.
“We want to give the audience what they want to see, but then we try to create a balanced meal.”
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.
65th Music Circus Season
What: The basic Music Circus season comprises the first five shows. Subscribers have the option of adding “Hair” to their season.
▪ June 9-14: “My Fair Lady”
▪ June 23-28: “Big River”
▪ July 7-12: “Bye Bye Birdie”
▪ July 21-26: “Peter Pan”
▪ Aug. 4-9: “West Side Story”
▪ Aug. 18-23: “Hair”
When: Season subscriptions go on sale Monday; single-show tickets go on sale April 25.
Where: All performances are in the Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
Cost: Subscriptions range from $175 to $353; single tickets range from $40-$68
Information: (916) 557-1999; www.californiamusicaltheatre.com