News Column

Starlight Theatre's 2014 season includes a revamped 'Wizard of Oz'

November 7, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 07--Starlight Theatre, which for several years has offered a six-show Broadway subscription, next summer will pare the season back to five.

On the list are Andrew Lloyd Webber's revamped version of "The Wizard of Oz," Blue Man Group and a show built around the distinctive music of the British rock band Queen titled "We Will Rock You."

Each year since 2010 Starlight has offered a package of six shows, usually a mix of national tours, Starlight productions and co-productions with other regional theaters. Cindy Jeffries, Starlight's vice president of marketing and development, said the decision to limit the 2014 season to five shows was prompted in part because last summer's six-show schedule limited the number of open dates for concerts.

"In terms of pure date availability it hurt our concert season quite a bit," Jeffries said. "So we decided to try five shows."

Jeffries said a five-show season wouldn't necessarily be permanent.

"We could have decided to produce an extra show, but in this year of transition as we're looking for new leadership, this seemed like a pretty reasonable schedule."

Denton Yockey, former president and executive producer, left after his four-year contract expired in September. The Starlight board unveiled a plan to restructure the organization. The position held by Yockey and his predecessor, Bob Rohlf, will be eliminated. The new structure calls for a CEO and a subordinate position of artistic director to handle the Broadway season. The board has launched a search to fill the CEO position.

Audience surveys play a big role in choosing titles, Jeffries said, and the 2014 schedule is no exception.

"Four out of five are at the top of our survey," she said. "Denton did play a big part in (choosing) this season, but it's not in a vacuum. Our marketing team weighs in, our production team weighs in. ... Our surveys tell us what season ticketholders want, what single ticket buyers want, and what people who didn't even come want."

The season:

-- "The Wizard of Oz," June 10-15. This stage show, based on the iconic 1939 movie, has been a Starlight favorite through the decades, but this will not be a Starlight production. This "Wizard" is the North American tour of a new version Andrew Lloyd Webber originally produced in London.

The songs written for the film by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg have been retained, but Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice composed four new songs, and Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams wrote a new book for the show.

--"We Will Rock You," June 27-22. This show features the music of Queen, a band founded in 1968 that became one of the most popular British groups. The show's book, written by Queen and Ben Elton, projects a kind of dystopian future in which commercial conformity is enforced until a young man named Galileo channels mysterious music from the past.

The show includes the title tune, of course, as well as "Another One Bites the Dust," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Are the Champions" and many more. The show originated in London, has played Las Vegas and around the world and is now touring North America. Although it has never been performed in Kansas City, Jeffries said it rated extremely high on audience surveys.

--"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," July 8-13. This was the first collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and is one of their most enjoyable shows. Essentially, it's a retelling of the Old Testament story of Joseph, a boy given to prophetic dreams, who is betrayed by his jealous brothers but rises to power and influence in Egypt after interpreting Pharoah's troubling dreams.

This tour stars husband-and-wife "American Idol" finalists Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo.

--"The Sound of Music," July 25-31. Starlight will produce this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic loosely based on the Von Trapp family of Austria who fled the Nazis. The show depicts the family's strict patriarch falling for the headstrong young nun who becomes a surrogate mother to his children.

--Blue Man Group, Sept. 9-14. Those crazy guys with faces covered in blue paint return to Kansas City with their unique mix of music, vivid imagery, tongue-in-cheek humor and flat-out physical comedy. The group played a one-night stand at Starlight about 12 years ago, Jeffries said.

Season ticket renewals began in October. New season subscriptions and single tickets will go on sale early next year. Learn more at KCStarlight.com or call the box office at 816-363-7827.

To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to rtrussell@kcstar.com.

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(c)2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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