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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Anticipating 5 winners: 'Producers,' 'Aida' head Broadway series coming to the Stranahan

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Four top Tony Award winners and one that could have been are due in the Stranahan Theater for the Theater League's 2004-2005 Harold Jaffe Jewelers Broadway Season.

It is no less than Toledo deserves, according to Theater League president Mark Edelman.

"Toledo supports theater," Edelman said in a telephone interview from his office in Kansas City.

"Ticket sales were so strong last season, Ward [Whiting, executive director of the Stranahan] urged me to expand the number of performances, and I had to agree. Mamma Mia! sold out, Miss Saigon sold out, and the other shows did really well," Edelman said.

Traditionally, the Theater League has opened most its Toledo shows on Fridays. For the coming season, Crazy For You, Contact, 42nd Street, and Aida will open on Thursdays, playing for four days. The fifth show, The Producers, will open on a Tuesday and play for six days.

Theater League was formed by Edelman in 1975 to bring Broadway shows to smaller cities. Along with Toledo, Theater League serves Long Beach, Pasadena, and Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Witchita, Kans.; Kansas City, Mo.; Phoenix; Indianapolis; Greensboro, N.C., and Richardson, Tex.

The season gets under way on Sept. 30 with the family-friendly show Crazy for You, which runs through Oct. 3. It's the first of three shows on the season's bill choreographed by Susan Stroman, whom Edelman calls the best choregrapher/director working in theater today.

Crazy for You, an intensely reworked version of George and Ira Gershwin's 1930 show Girl Crazy, is about a spoiled New York playboy who headswest, falls in love with a local girl, and helps her work to save an old theater. The show opened on Broadway in 1992, featuring such songs as "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," and "But Not for Me." It won nine Tony Awards,

including best musical.

What many consider to be the highlight of the season comes next: The Producers.

The Mel Brooks comedy "takes a theatrically sophisticated audience to appreciate," Edelman said. "We have that in Toledo."

Expecting a high demand for tickets, Theater League is opening the show on Nov. 16, a Tuesday, and running it for eight performances through Nov. 21.

The Mel Brooks comedy opened on Broadway in 2001 and is still going strong. With original direction and choreography by Stroman, it is based on the 1968 movie about a con artist and his accountant who attempt to deliberately stage a Broadway flop, only to have their plan backfire. With the musical interlude "Springtime for Hitler," the show has been called funny, fearlessly irreverent, and a blissful spectacle, and it won 12 Tony Awards, including best musical.

The Producers, is, however, "a little risqu, with lots of jokes about chorus girls and bimbos," Edelman said. It is recommended for mature audiences.

Also recommended for mature audiences is Contact, which runs Jan. 13-16, 2005.

Three thematically short stories told mostly through dance, illustrate the need for and search for human contact. The first story is set in 1767 in a forest glade, the second in 1954 in an Italian restaurant, and the third in 1999 in Manhattan.

There's no nudity, Edelman said, but the show, also directed and choreographed by Stroman, is about sexuality. Among its six Tony Awards, it was named the best musical of 2000.

Next up is another all-ages show: 42nd Street, running Feb. 10-13.

With its elaborate production numbers and songs such as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" and "The Lullaby of Broadway," this tale of a chorus girl who becomes a star won eight Tony Awards, including 2001 best musical revival.

Ending the season is Aida, with music by Elton John and Tim Rice. It is scheduled April 21-24.

Based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, the story is a love triangle among Aida, a Nubian princess stolen from her country, Amneris, an Egyptian princess, and Radames, a soldier.

"It's a wonderful retelling of the opera," Edelman said. "We're doing a more Egyptian-looking version of it. On Broadway, it was much more of an Armani look."

Aida is the only one of the five production that didn't win in the best musical or musical revival categories. "It was up against Contact that year," Edelman said. "I think they both should have won."

Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. weekdays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Season tickets are still available and range from $155 to $215. Individual tickets go on sale Aug. 2. Information: 419-381-8851.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at:

ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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