by Michael Miller

T his season of Broadway Live at the Opera House has something for everyone:

• a joyful musical comedy from the composer
of some of Disney’s best-loved animated
• the sweeping saga of the Gatsby epic in
the only production of its kind to be endorsed by the F. Scott Fitzgerald Estate,
• a riotous swashbuckling prequel to Peter Pan that has audiences mesmerized and
recently won five Tony Awards,
• the first-time ever Opera House appearance of a musical classic celebrating its 65th
anniversary, and to get things rolling in Nov.
• a special pre-Christmas production of
one of the most beloved Christmas movies of
our time.

The decisions you have to make are made easiest if you subscribe to the entire season. And, remarkably, you can do so at the cost of just one average ticket price on Broadway. It may be Lexington theatre’s best kept secret: you can get an entire season package for the cost of an average ticket on Broadway.

Start your Christmas season early with the Lexington premiere of the Broadway musical adaptation of one of the most beloved Christmas movies of our time. One could say Christmas season doesn’t really officially begin until ELF starts playing repeatedly on cable television. My sister, of the I-will-put-my-Christmas-tree-up-in-October-if-I-want-to crowd, has it on DVD and starts watching it on Halloween. Elf: The Broadway Musical comes to the Opera House the weekend of November 14. I’m guessing this will be the one show this season that sells to even folks who are not typically Broadway goers. And what a grand introduction to Broadway this will be! What’s not to love about a show that opens with Buddy the Elf and the whole company singing “Christmastown.” Should you buy tickets now? Let’s put it this way: the musical broke records at the Hirschfeld box office three times, grossing over a million dollars in one week, and being the third best-grossing show that Thanksgiving weekend, behind only Wicked and The Lion King. So, yes.

Come GAMBLE: Guys and Dolls
How has a show with the signature song “Luck Be a Lady” never toured the Horse Capitol of the World? I don’t know, but sit down, the boat is about to start rockin’. Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway in 1950 and originally ran for over 1200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Subsequent revivals on Broadway and in London have garnered even greater praise. Many may be most familiar with the 1955 film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. The tour coming to Lexington in January is based on the recent 2009 Broadway revival that was nominated for two Tony Awards and has been touring ever since. This is historic Broadway in the grandest tradition. All bets are on. “Can do, can do, this guy says the horse can do.”

Come IMAGINE: Peter and the Starcatcher
This is the show you may know least about, but should see if you are only going to see one show this year as part of this season. By all accounts, it is a revelation. Peter and the Starcatcher is based on the 2006 novel of a similar name by humorist Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It’s the backstory for the character Peter Pan, and serves as a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy (much like Wicked does the same for The Wizard of Oz). Moreso than the clever storyline and the swashbucking action, though, the magic of Starcatcher is in its stagecraft and creative production values. Ben Brantley of The New York Times went so far as to say “When the H.M.S. Neverland goes down in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” it’s the most enthralling shipwreck since James Cameron sent the Titanic to her watery grave in the 1990s. While there’s not a body harness in sight, like those used to hoist the title characters of Mary Poppins and Spider-Man, this show never stops flying.”

Come PARTY: The Great Gatsby
Often called one of the greatest explorations of the American character ever written and certainly one of the most powerful reflections of the jazz age ever to appear in literature, The Great Gatsby is a literary institution. This production, a play by Simon Levy, is the only adaptation approved by The Fitzgerald Estate to be performed in the United States and Canada. The rise and fall of the notorious Jay Gatsby and the alluring and dangerous Daisy Buchanan is being presented at the Opera House by one of the nation’s premiere touring companies.

Come REJOICE: Sister Act
Whoopi Goldberg produced this Broadway adaptation of her glorious musical movie Sister Act for Broadway and it has been touring ever since. Alan Menken, of Disney’s Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast wrote the music, so, yes, this is Broadway at its best. In try-outs in Pasadena, California, it easily grossed over a million dollars to become the highest grossing show ever at that venue. Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Time wrote at the time that it “has Broadway blockbuster written all over it.” He was right. The Broadway production, directed by Jerry Zaks, became one of the biggest hits of the 2011 season and received multiple Tony Award nominations. Since then, Sister Act productions have been launched in Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Australia, Mexico, South Korea, and Brazil. I think Whoopi probably made her investment back. Critics praised the Broadway production with religious zeal. The Philadelphia Inquirer asked, “Dear Lord, what is that joyful noise rising to heaven from the spirited, snazzily habited stage-nuns at the Broadway Theatre?” This show has Girls Night Out written all over it.

So there you have it! Come play this season at Broadway Live. There really is something for everyone! And keep coming back to this space throughout the season as I will have more insider information about each show as it rolls through town.