Ordway snags slew of current Broadway hits for next season

‘The Addams Family’ is just one of the recent Broadway hits destined for the Ordway in coming months.

In years past it’s taken a while for Broadway’s biggest shows to get to Minnesota, but the Ordway hopes to change that with the 2011-2012 season announced this evening

“It’s a season of firsts. It’s a really, really exciting season because of that. The hits that are on Broadway right now are coming to Ordway next year” says Artistic Director James Rocco.

Top of Rocco’s list is “Memphis” which won four Tonys recently, including for best musical, and for best original score by Bon Jovi member David Bryan. It tells the story of a 1950’s DJ who begins playing rock and roll on a radio station which considers it the devil’s music.

He’s also charged about bringing in Broadway’s other major hit this season “The Addams Family.” It’s the musical based on the famed Charles Addams cartoons.

“And we are even more excited about it because we took part in the creation of ‘The Addams Family.’ We are part of a conglomerate of producers who got together a few years ago to nurture new American musicals, and indeed this is the first fruit of that labor.”

Other major shows include the Bill T. Jones hit “FELA!” based on the work of Afro-beat legend Fela Anikalapo Kuti.

“This man inspired his entire nation,” Rocco says. “And they claim there would be no hip hop music if this man did not write music.”

There’s also “Come Fly with Me” which pairs recordings of Frank Sinatra’s voice extracted from his various albums, paired with a live band and dancers performing the choreography of Twyla Tharp. There will also be a production of “Blind Date” with Rebecca Northan, who as a Parisian temptress named Mimi selects a man from the audience each night to go on a blind date.

“And they not only go out to dinner, they end up at her apartment as well,” he laughs.

The Ordway will also present an original production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” as it’s holiday show in December. “It’s just the best of Rogers and Hammerstein and we are going to create our own little magical world down here in downtown St Paul,” Rocco says.

The World Music and Dance series also promises a number of great shows, including the return of Ronald K. Brown Evidence, A Dance Company, Minneapolis favorites the Ballet of the Dolls, doing a new production of Myron Johnson’s Faith (originally mounted in 1991, and Vox Lumiere, which performs live rock and dance interpretations of the Lon Chaney silent movie classic “Phantom of the Opera,” as the film plays on screen.

The season also includes the return of South African singing legend Vusi Mahlasela with a host of other African and US performers in “Still Black and Still Proud” which celebrates the music of James Brown, while exploring the relationship between funk, soul, and modern African music.

Speaking of exploration the Ordway will also launch a new series featuring Rocco himself. ‘The Broadway Songbook’ will use local vocalists in what’s described as part concert, part lecture to examine some of the great modern writers and performers. There will be three events, on on Irving BErlin, one on Johnny Mercer, and one on contemporary Broadway, which will involve the work of several composers.

Full details can be found at the Ordway’s website.

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