The Orpheum's newly announced 2013-14 Broadway series mixes chestnuts with surprises

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Book of Mormon! is coming to the Orpheum. I can't believe it!

Why, it seems like only yesterday...

(For best enjoyment play the Youtube clip before going any further)

I was sitting in Pat Halloran's office, admiring the photos on the wall behind him, while the Orpheum's President and CEO waxed eloquently on racehorses, his still-new proposal to build a performing arts education facility, and why, in spite of its nine Tony Awards and popularity, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's musical, The Book of Mormon, would never be a part of his theater's Broadway subscription series.

I was working on a piece for Memphis (the magazine), about Memphis (the musical), and trying to get a handle on the business of show, what it means when the Orpheum invests in musicals like Memphis, and how the Broadway season is built.

Halloran had a point as strong as it was frustrating. Although BOM would almost certainly attract single ticket buyers, and possibly even sell very well, he had to think of his season ticket buyers. He didn't think the demographic was overflowing with South Park fans.

For some perspective on the kind of 3-D chess Halloran was playing, The Book of Mormon, still running on Broadway, recouped its $11.4-million investment in only 9-months while the similarly capitalized Memphis, made its $12-mil back in just under two years, moving from the red to the black shortly before it closed in August, 2012. At a time when many shows struggled, Mormon cruised. Its cast album reached number three on the Billboard charts making it the first musical soundtrack to crack the top 10 in 42 years. That would seem like a slam dunk, but, as the old saying goes, the three hardest dates are Christmas, Easter, and Memphis.

Since I brought it up, Memphis (the musical) , which did its namesake city a solid by opening a highly praised national tour here, I should probably mention it makes its second stop at The Orpheum in April.

The possibility that BOM might dock at the Orpheum was never dismissed. Spring Awakening, a differently provocative musical made a one-night-stand at Beale and Main once upon a time, so anything was possible. Halloran just didn't see subscription material, and I'd assumed he meant forever. So I was surprised to the point of being downright giddy to see Parker & Stone's dirty little musical closing a 2013-14 Broadway season. And let's be honest, The Book of Mormon, Warhorse, and to a lesser degree Wicked and West Side Story help to prop up a season front-loaded with spottier material.

BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY

This popular show is an especially jukebox-heavy version of the jukebox musical. It's more Million Dollar Quartet than Jersey Boys and, as anybody who caught Playhouse on the Square's strong 2008 production knows, storytelling isn't the strong suit. But you could do worse than to spend an evening with some of the most infectious Rock-and-Roll songs ever recorded.

FLASHDANCE

Flashdance , featuring the original movie's hit title track and Michael Sembello's "Maniac," has never been on the Great White Way, so it's a bit of a misnomer to include the 1980's film-turned-musical on a "Broadway" season. It did spend some time in London and producers of the revamped American version hope to ride this tour all the way to a New York City opening.

Like Billy Elliot, and Footloose, and The Full Monty but with 100% more wet lingerie, Flashdance is a blue collar dance fantasy. It follows the triumphs and travails of a female welder with a chance to study dance, who picks up extra money working at a shake shack. So far reviews have been mixed.

SISTER ACT

Look, another musical based on a not-that-classic movie. Not to be confused with any of the Nunsense nonsense, this one-time Whoopie Goldberg vehicle tells the story of an earthy nightclub singer who hides out among the nuns after witnessing a murder. So, if you can't resist a good Nuns acting out of character story, this one's for you.


WEST SIDE STORY

Yeah, it's an old chestnut. But I'm here to tell you, that Leonard Bernstein score still kills.

WICKED

It's the year of Oz, the Great & Powerful. And Ballet Memphis is remounting it's version of the Wizard</em>. So, why not try some revisionist Oz too? The score isn't Bernstein, but "Defying Gravity" is catchy enough, and the eye candy deserves its reputation.


THE MUSIC OF ANDREW LLOYD WEBER.

Oh look an Andrew Lloyd Webber revue. People sure do love Andrew Lloyd Weber. I guess.


WAR HORSE

Now we're talking. What happens in Wicked is technology. What happens in this show is what we talk about when we talk about theater magic. Seriously, if you've never checked out the horse puppets, do yourself a favor right now.

THE BOOK OF MORMON

And finally, this...

Oh, wait, that was totally the wrong clip. I meant this...

For dates, times, and ticket information, here's the click.

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