Broadway lights up Wisconsin theater season

FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponBuzz Up!Google BookmarksRSS Feed
(0 votes, average 0 out of 5)

The national touring company of “Rock of Ages.”

From an oversized elf to a creepy TV family from the 1960s, from ”hair bands” of the 1980s to doo-wop legends of the 1950s, from an English nanny who can fly to witches who wish they weren’t, Broadway hits are headed to at least three Wisconsin performing arts venues this season. 

Fans of several of the shows can catch them multiple times during their in-state runs.

Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts and the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton are each offering a five-show series during the remaining 2012–13 season. Three of shows – “Catch Me If You Can,” “Rock of Ages” and “Wicked” – are scheduled to appear in two of the three venues.

Following is a rundown of the hits.

Marcus Center, Milwaukee

“Rock of Ages” (Nov. 13–18). Young love blossoms on L.A.’s Sunset Strip in 1987 as a boy, a girl and a bevy of heavy metal hair bands take us back to the decade that a lot of us might rather forget. If your life has seriously lacked regular doses of Twisted Sister and Whitesnake, this headbanger is for you.

“Memphis” (Jan. 8–13). Music of a different sort vibrates across the stage in this musical about a 1950s radio DJ and a nightclub singer ready to change the world. Boasting soaring emotions and roof-raising rhythmic sounds, “Memphis” returns to the start of the rock ’n’ roll revolution.

“Sister Act” (Feb. 19–24). Oscar-winner Alan Mencken’s music helps tell the tale of a wannabe diva, on the run after witnessing a murder, who winds up hiding in a convent. In this show based on the Whoopi Goldberg film, she does what any diva would do and teaches the other sisters to perform.

“Catch Me if You Can” (April 23–28). Based on the true story of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr., as told in the Dreamworks film, the show boasts a dream cast of creators, with a book by Terrence McNally, a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and choreography by Jerry Mitchell.

“Wicked” (June 12–July 7). So much happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in, including this back story of Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, her green-skinned sister who went on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. The role won Idina Menzel the 2004 Tony for best actress.


Overture Center, Madison

“Jersey Boys” (Nov. 7–25). Combine four New Jersey street toughs, one with an impressive falsetto voice, and a closeted bisexual record producer and songwriter, and you have the story of The Four Seasons, arguably the best doo-wop group of all time and one of Broadway’s hottest tickets.

“Rock of Ages” (Dec. 4–9). See above.

“West Side Story” (Feb. 12–17). Blend Anglo and Puerto Rican street gangs with the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and the music of Leonard Bernstein and you have a Broadway classic that hauntingly retells the story of Romeo and Juliet in 1950s Manhattan.

“Mary Poppins” (March 12–17). One of the season’s two Disney retreads tells the tale of a magical English nanny and a cockney chimney sweep who sing, dance and soar through the air to the music of the film, including the tongue-twisting “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” for those who like to sound precocious.

“Wicked” (May 22–June 9). See above.


Fox Cities PAC, Appleton

“Elf” (Nov. 13–18). This is a faithful adaptation of the 2003 Will Ferrell comedy about Buddy, the boy who thought he was one of Santa’s helpers. He survives a variety of misadventures to discover his inner elf. 

“Catch Me If You Can” (Dec. 18–23). See above.

“The Addams Family” (Feb. 26–March 3). They are still creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, and altogether ooky. (Is that a word?) But this time the tale of Gomez, Morticia and the gang is set to music, with the book by “Jersey Boys” authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and creative consultation by four-time Tony winner Jerry Zaks.

“The Lion King” (April 9–May 5). Award-winning director Julie Taymor’s arresting imagery, which integrates live performers and puppetry, is visually stunning in this reinterpretation of Disney’s tale of Simba, the young lion prince called upon to take back his kingdom. Music and lyrics are by Elton John and Tim Rice.

“War Horse” (June 25–30). South Africa’s life-size Handsprings Puppets tell the tale of a beloved horse shipped to the front lines during World War I and the animal’s courage and survival. This is the rare case of the Broadway show that then became a movie, rather than the other way around.