Kennedy Center plans four Tony Award-winning plays

March 6, 2012

The Kennedy Center is placing its bets on four Tony Award-winning plays — including “The Book of Mormon” — in its 2012-13 season, the center announced Tuesday.

Besides “Mormon,” the winner of nine Tonys, the center has booked “Anything Goes,” holder of three Tonys, and “Million Dollar Quartet,” awarded one Tony. Also in the lineup is the critically acclaimed “War Horse” — winner of five Tonys — from the National Theatre of Great Britain, with puppets from South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company.

The price of theater tickets has been a major concern for Washington and New York audiences. “Mormon” was asking $636 for a center orchestra seat. “There will be normal prices,” said Michael M. Kaiser, the center’s president.

The center also announced its own production of “The Guardsman,” directed by Gregory Mosher, scheduled for May and June 2013. This farce goes way back to a Broadway premiere in 1924 with the famed couple Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt.

“It is being updated with young stars,” Kaiser said.

International festivals have become a hallmark of the center, and the spotlight next year will be on “Nordic Cool 2013.” Theater, dance and orchestras from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, and the Faroe and Aland Islands will be featured.

“There is so much interesting and important art coming out of the Nordic countries. A lot isn’t known to the man on the street in America,” Kaiser said. The four-week festival will cost $8.2 million, and Kaiser said the financial crisis in a number of countries had no impact on the selections.

On the Nordic roster is a play based on Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander,” from Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre. Bergman was managing director from 1963 to 1966. The region’s largest modern-dance company, Sweden’s Goteborg Ballet, will bring a series of contemporary dances. Ilan Volkov will conduct the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

Additionally, several jazz artists will appear, including Cecilia Persson, the award-winning Swedish pianist. Also on the jazz program is Norway’s Terje Isungset, a percussionist who plays on instruments made from glacier ice.

The Kennedy Center is the busiest interdisciplinary venue of any performing arts organization in the country. The classical side of things is all the more dominant now that the Washington National Opera is part of the center’s official lineup.

This WNO season — the first one to be announced under the new administration of Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello and Executive Director Michael Mael — looks auspicious, especially if you’re a fan of bel canto opera; the company is offering “Anna Bolena,” with Sondra Radvanovsky, and “Norma” with the young soprano Angela Meade making her stage debut in a role that helped clinch her as one of the winners of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 2007.

Also planned is Patricia Racette’s debut in the role of Manon Lescaut; a “Don Giovanni” with Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role; and, as anticipated, Zambello’s production of “Show Boat.”

The NSO is attempting to shake things up with a focus on young artists and different kinds of programming — such as having the same artist play different concerti on different programs. One coup is a residency with pianist Lang Lang, who will perform three different Beethoven concerti with the NSO and two recitals in a week-long residency.

Wholly new is the organ, which will make its bow in November, replacing an outdated one in the Concert Hall. The NSO Pops will feature Roberta Flack, Chris Botti, the Chieftains and Seth MacFarlane.

One particular highlight of the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts Series is Anonymous 4 in a co-commissioned evening-length, fully staged new work by David Lang based on medieval song. Midori will celebrate her 30th anniversary of her professional debut with the Fortas.

Jason Moran, the new artistic adviser for jazz, has lined up his first season with more than 70 performances. The center is adding a new space with a dance floor called the Atrium Supersized Jazz Club to accommodate those who can’t sit still. Moran will hold a “Fats Waller Dance Party.” A jam session is planned for Election Night, followed by an evening of comedy and music with David Alan Grier.

Veterans such as the Heath Brothers, Kurt Elling, Kenny Barron and Jack DeJohnette are scheduled to appear.

For centuries, melding a message with music has been an American tradition. The center is saluting this practice with two concerts. “This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie at 100” features John Mellencamp and Arlo Guthrie. In June, “The Legacy of Bob Marley” will be performed.

Many of the names on the dance card are familiar, but some are bringing new twists to their selections. The National Ballet of Canada will perform Christopher Wheeldon’s lavish version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” This year’s “Nutcracker” is promised by Ballet West, the Salt Lake City company that rarely performs in the area. The company has revived the 1944 version of the classic, choreographed by William Christensen.

Newcomers on the contemporary program include the long-established Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and new work from Monica Bill Barnes and Company. Malavika Sarukkai is returning after her successful appearance in last year’s India festival.

In the third installment of “Ballet Across America,” the Dance Theatre of Harlem is bringing its reconstituted company. In that series, the Richmond Ballet and Ballet Austin will be making their Kennedy Center debut.

For its young audiences, the center has commissioned two works: “The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg,” by Tom Isbell, and “Jason Invisible,” by Laurie Brooks.

A compete schedule is available at www.kennedy-center.org .

Critics Sarah Kaufman and Anne Midgette contributed to this report.

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