“We’ve always felt the need to address the interests of a wide range of people,” said Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center. “Hip-hop will certainly draw in a younger audience. We’ve had hip-hop here before, but never as our own festival.”
Washington Post pop music critic Chris Richards weighed in on “One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide,” one of the most surprising elements of the announcement.
“It’s encouraging to see the Kennedy Center shining its light on the genre. The expected highlight [will be] two performances by Nas, who will celebrate the almost-20-year anniversary of his 1994 debut album, ‘Illmatic,’ with the help of the NSO Pops,” Richards said.
Nas and the NSO Pops: It’s certainly an unusual partnership, but it illustrates a broader theme in the season that runs through the dance, theater and classical programming. The center seems set on merging disciplines in its concert hall. It has even named one of the National Symphony Orchestra’s latest commissions “New Moves: Symphony + Dance.” But for a season of musical fusion and boundary pushing, there are still relatively tame showings of “The Lion King” to appease traditionalists.
In all things, moderation.
The International Theater Festival is another first. The theater-specific festival brings directors together from across the globe to highlight what Kaiser calls “innovative theater.”
The “showcase in March 2014 of theater from around the world — including productions by Peter Brook and Robert Wilson — is perhaps the most wide-ranging example of international theater programming at the center in more than a decade,” said Peter Marks, The Post’s theater critic.
But the centerpiece of the theater season is the Kennedy Center’s revival of “Side Show,” the first major run of the Broadway show since its opening in 1997. After an impressive $7.3 million staging of “Follies” last year, “Side Show” is arguably a riskier endeavor.
“Tackling an unusual subject — the lives of Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who became circus stars — the critically well-received musical failed to catch on with audiences and closed after just 91 performances,” Marks said. “That the new production is being shepherded by Bill Condon, who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning ‘Chicago’ and directed the film adaptation of ‘Dreamgirls,’ has boosted expectations for the revival.”