By NANCY HERMANN
THE LION KING: One of Broadway’s biggest blockbusters, Disney’s The Lion King, returns to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center for 40 performances, June 4 through July 7.
Courtesy Tulsa PAC
The month of May at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center has fewer events than usual. Why? Early in the month we host West Side Story (April 30-May 5), presented by Celebrity Attractions, and then the focus of the turns towards the launch of SummerStage in our Second Street theaters and Disney’s The Lion King in Chapman Music Hall (June 4 – July 7). 150 seats have to be removed in our biggest theater to make aisles for an animal parade, and the doors need to be enlarged at the back of the theater to allow elephant ingress. The preparation for The Lion King is a story in itself.
Broadway is big business and a major contributor to the PAC’s revenue. If someone tells me they have “season tickets to the ,” they are almost always referring to the Broadway series, which is only one series among the dozen or so staged yearly at our venue. Audiences cannot get enough of Broadway.
I just returned from New York City and spent my evenings at the theater, both on and off Broadway. If you are headed there anytime soon and want to experience something new, here are my suggestions.
If you haven’t seen The Book of Mormon and are not offended by profanity or political incorrectness, this is the show for you. When I saw it two years ago, I arrived at the theater around 6:30 p.m. and waited in a cancellation line. I did get a ticket, along with six or seven other people and, yes, I loved it. You won’t find tickets to this show in the booths in Time Square or listed on theatremania.com, my other source for discount tickets. It may be a while before it comes to Tulsa, but you can always check the tour listing of The Book of Mormon to see where it plays next.
Once, a sweet, understated, non-traditional musical, is still a Broadway favorite. I enjoyed it so much last year, I almost went back again. However, now Steve Kazee (Tony winner for his role) and Cristin Milioti, who were the featured stars, have left the show. The new singers may be just as good and the music is delightful. Once begins a national Broadway tour next fall.
Off-Broadway productions are less expensive and, I think, just as satisfying. I took in two off-Broadway productions recently: The Last Five Years (Second Stage Theatre) and Passion (Classic Stage Company). Stephen Sondheim’s Passion, which I attended in a black box theater on the composer’s birthday, was particularly enjoyable.
Passion was exquisite and simply thrilling, perhaps partly because I know and adore this score. As I awaited the first note, I sat there hoping the production would not take liberties with the story or the notes, and it didn’t. The singers of the Classic Stage Company treated the material with reverence. The Last Five Years recounts the breakup of a relationship. The story mirrors writer and director Jason Robert Brown’s own marital headaches and divorce. If you love musical theatre, you will love this. I prefer musicals with a little bite, like a Sondheim piece, but Brown’s songs are well-crafted and clever.
I wanted to check out the musical Hands on a Hardbody (now closed), about an automobile contest, or Tom Hanks in The Lucky Guy, but I chose instead to see Scarlett Johansson in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Emilia Clark as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce in Christopher Durang’s comedy, Vanya and Sonia, and Masha and Spike. Unfortunately, the excellent Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has ended its run, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s closed due to a lackluster reception on Broadway. But that was not the case for Vanya and Sonia, and Masha and Spike. I highly recommend this play. Sigourney Weaver is a joy to watch as one of the siblings in a wacky family whose parents named their kids after Chekhov characters.
Other Broadway buzz is about the musicals Pippin and Matilda and Alan Cummings as Macbeth. Matilda, people are speculating, just might be the next Wicked.
Shows like Wicked and The Lion King are a huge draw for audiences and for scalpers. When you are buying tickets online in New York or in Tulsa, or anywhere else, be sure you are purchasing from a reputable seller. Scalpers can mimic the websites of theaters and charge many times the ticket price you would otherwise pay. For the , always shop at TulsaPAC.com or MyTicketOffice.com.
You don’t have to leave Tulsa to find good theater, but it’s always fun and interesting to compare.
Nancy Hermann is the Director of Marketing at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.