BY HOWARD POUSNER / AJC
Atlanta Lyric Theatre, the metro area’s only professional musical theater company, has announced a five-show lineup for the 2014-15 season, its 35th.
The musicals it will mount at the Cobb Civic Center’s Jennie T. Anderson Theatre in Marietta are “Cats,” “Chicago,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Damn Yankees” and “Barnum.” “Catch Me,” based on the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, will be a regional premiere.
The 2014-15 season will be the Lyric’s second in the 600-seat Anderson Theatre after five years at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre, where capacity was roughly 100 less. Cobb Civic Center is less than two miles from the Marietta Square, home to the historic Strand.
Artistic director and general manager Brandt Blocker told the AJC that the move, made after extended negotiations with the Strand stalled, has been a “blessing” for the troupe.
“We are often playing to capacity crowds,” Blocker said. “Audiences have commented how much better the seating is, how much easier the parking is, how impressed they are with the larger stage and orchestra pit and, most notably, audiences are overwhelmingly thrilled with the acoustics and sound design.”
Blocker said his patrons often tell him they are pleased they can ”hear every word of the show.”
The larger stage has allowed the troupe to present original Broadway designs, including Robin Wagner’s for “The Producers” and last August and Ming Cho Lee’s national tour version for “Annie,” opening April 4.
As evidence of audience satisfaction, Blocker said that, with subscription renewals just opened for 2014-15, some subscribers are adding multiple seat orders.
Here is the 35th anniversary lineup, with descriptions provided by Atlanta Lyric Theatre (which was formed in 1980 as the Southeastern Savoyards):
Aug. 8-24: “Cats”
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Based on “Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats” by T. S. Eliot – The show that revolutionized musical theatre is opening The Lyric’s 35th anniversary season! Winner of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is inspired by the universally popular poetry of T.S. Eliot. Cats tells the story, in song and dance, of the annual gathering of Jellicle cats, at which time one special cat is selected to ascend to the Heaviside Layer. A true musical theatre phenomenon, Cats opened at London’s New London Theatre in 1981 and ran for a record-setting 21 years. Cats’ London success was nearly matched on Broadway where it ran for just over 18 years. This enchanting musical features the immortal ballad “Memory,” as well as a collection of other whimsical tunes enjoyed by audiences of all ages.
Oct. 24-Nov. 9: ”Chicago”
Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb; Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse – Murder. Greed. Corruption. Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who maliciously murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media, and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today’s tabloids. No wonder Chicago has been honored with six Tony Awards, six Academy Awards, a Grammy, and thousands of standing ovations. *Not suitable for young children.
Feb. 13 – March 1, 2015: ”Catch Me If You Can”
Music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Wittman; Book by Terrence McNally – Based on the hit DreamWorks film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, and the incredible true story that inspired it, Catch Me If You Can is the high-flying, splashy musical that tells the story of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., a teenager who runs away from home in search of the glamorous life. With nothing more than his boyish charm, a big imagination, and millions of dollars in forged checks, Frank successfully poses as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer – living the high life and winning the girl of his dreams. But when Frank’s lies catch the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty, Carl chases Frank to the end…and finds something he never expected. Nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Musical, Catch Me If You Can will make its regional premiere at The Lyric!
April 10-26, 2015: ”Damn Yankees”
Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross; Book by George Abbott and Douglas Wallop – The Lyric welcome the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County with the classic baseball musical Damn Yankees! Winner of eleven Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Choreography, Damn Yankees is sure to be a homerun hit. Based on Douglas Wallop’s “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,” Damn Yankees gives a new twist to the legend of Faust when a devilish dealmaker offers middle-aged baseball fan Joe Boyd the chance to take his beloved Washington Senators to victory over the”damn Yankees” in return for his soul, Joe takes it. But as the Senators’ stats soar, Joe realizes he’s losing his wife and looks for a loophole. Enter sizzling-hot temptress Lola, a charter member of the Home-wreckers Hall of Fame. Who will win? We’re not telling! This classic musical will have fans on the edge of their seats enjoying hit favorites like “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Heart,” and “Six Months Out of Every Year.”
June 12-28, 2015: ”Barnum”
Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Michael Stewart; Book by Mark Bramble – The Lyric proudly presents this exhilarating musical following the irrepressible imagination and dreams of Phineas T. Barnum, America’s greatest showman. The story of his life and his marriage to Chairy reveals a couple who looked at the world from opposite sides of the spectrum, and also reveals that she was the practical one who made Barnum’s dreams come true. The production follows the legendary showman’s life under the big top as he finally teamed up with J. A. Bailey to create Barnum and Bailey’s Circus – the Greatest Show on Earth! Cy Coleman’s wonderfully exuberant score includes the hits “Come Follow The Band,” “The Colors Of My Life,” and “There’s A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute.” Barnum was a smash hit when it opened on Broadway in 1980. Starring Glenn Close and Jim Dale, it won three Tony Awards and a Drama Desk Award.
Season subscriptions for non-subscribers will go on sale May 1 via 404-377-9948, www.atlantalyrictheatre.com.