Broadway in Akron lineup includes two ’50s rock ’n’ roll musicals, Struthers as Dolly

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal arts writer

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The 2013-14 Broadway in Akron series at E.J. Thomas hall will open in October with the rockin Million Dollar Quartet. (Paul Natkin)

E.J. Thomas Hall has announced a 2013-14 Broadway in Akron lineup that will bring in some star power — Sally Struthers in the classic Hello, Dolly! — as well as two newer Broadway hits, Million Dollar Quartet and Memphis.

The season will open in October with the rockin’ Million Dollar Quartet, which reconstructs the famed recording session where Sam Phillips of Sun Records in Memphis pulled together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for a pivotal jam session that brought R&B and gospel together for the birth of rock ’n’ roll. Musical theater lovers who saw the national tour in Cleveland in 2011 will have the chance to see it again in Akron.

The 1956 story, set in Memphis, dovetails nicely into the musical Memphis, set in 1951 in the same town. The musical, explosive with song and dance, tells the tale of pioneering DJ Huey, who dares to play “colored music” on a white radio station and has a forbidden love with black club singer Felicia in the segregated South. The musical, whose tour played last year in Cleveland, will make its Akron premiere in March 2014.

“We’re always looking every year for what’s most current,” said Dan Dahl, executive director for E.J. Thomas Hall. “Memphis was one of the hot titles that we hadn’t had yet.”

According to Dahl, many people want to see their favorites more than once. That’s why the special presentations lineup is bringing back Mannheim Steamroller, Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams and the Beatles tribute Rain, plus the hit musical Mamma Mia!, which last played in Akron in 2005.

Dahl called Hello, Dolly! a chestnut that doesn’t go on tour often because it requires an incredibly strong actress as the title character. “Sally Struthers will be great in that show. She’s been getting great reviews,” he said.

E.J. Thomas Hall will be celebrating its 40th anniversary season in 2013-14, with lots of announcements coming later for a jam-packed season. The mix is expected to include a major Broadway star to headline a Nov. 2 gala celebration with the Akron Symphony.

Paired with the Broadway in Akron three-show lineup are seven special engagements, from the science-oriented cooking of Alton Brown to Mannheim Steamroller to the circus flair, storytelling and fantasy of Cirque Dreams Holidaze.

Amid the newer fare is a special engagement geared toward young audiences — Bring It On: The Musical, a coming-of-age story about cheerleaders that played on Broadway last year.

“It’s a broad spectrum for every age at every genre,” Dahl said of the new season. “From the fine arts to pure entertainment and fun, E.J. really has it going on and this is going to be a spectacular year.”

Here’s the season schedule:

Million Dollar Quartet, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22-23. The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical features Blue Suede Shoes, Fever, That’s All Right, Sixteen Tons, Great Balls of Fire, I Walk the Line, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Who Do You Love?, Matchbox, Folsom Prison Blues, Hound Dog and more.

Hello, Dolly!, starring Sally Struthers, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9-10, 2014. The Broadway classic stars Emmy award-winning Struthers (All In the Family, Gilmore Girls) as the strong-willed matchmaker Dolly as she travels to New York to find a match for the ornery Horace Vandergelder.

Memphis, 7:30 p.m. March 25-26. Inspired by a real-life radio DJ who wants to change the world, and a club singer who is ready for her big break, this winner of four 2010 Tony Awards, including best musical, features music by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan.

Special engagements:

Alton Brown Live!, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5. Brown brings his brand of quirky humor and culinary-science antics to the stage in a 90-minute show that blends stand-up comedy, food experimentation, talk show, multimedia and live music.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, 4:30 p.m. Nov. 17. Grammy Award winner Chip Davis has created a show that features the music of Mannheim Steamroller along with multimedia effects.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze, 8 p.m. Nov. 30. An international cast performs astonishing feats. An original score and some seasonal favorites accompany hundreds of costumes and a holiday setting of gigantic gifts, colossal candy canes and 30-foot soldiers.

Bring It On: The Musical, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5. A 2013 Tony nominee for best musical, inspired by the film about competitive cheerleading, features explosive dance and aerial stunts. The musical features an original story by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyrics by Amanda Green (High Fidelity).

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles returns 7:30 p.m. March 4. The internationally acclaimed concert brings the full range of the group’s discography live onstage, including complex songs that the Beatles recorded in the studio but never performed for an audience.

Blue Man Group, 7:30 p.m. April 22-23. The wildly popular theatrical show combines comedy, music and technology to produce a unique form of entertainment.

Mamma Mia!, 7:30 p.m. May 6-7, 2014. The smash-hit musical utilizes ABBA’s greatest hits, including Dancing Queen, S.O.S., Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me and The Winner Takes It All.

Broadway In Akron series packages go on sale Monday for returning and new subscribers. Package prices for the three Broadway in Akron shows are $108.75, $128.25, $147 and $159.75. Subscribers also may purchase tickets for special engagements Monday. New subscribers will be seated in August. The starting date for single ticket sales will be announced. Call 330-972-7570 or see www.BroadwayInAkron.com.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com.


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