If this past week’s presentation of things to come at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is any indication, this is a very exciting time for local theater fans. Unveiling the lineup for the 2012/2013season, those lucky enough to be in attendance were treated to several sneak peaks, special musical performances and a mind-blowing presentation from the puppeteers of War Horse.
There are several Tony winning productions coming to the Segerstrom Center, including the 2010 winner of Best Musical, Memphis. Two cast members came to the stage and performed a total of three numbers between them. I wasn’t familiar with this show prior to tonight, but my interest is definitely piqued. It’s apparent that this is a show with something to say, telling the story of an interracial couple finding love through music in 1950’s Tennessee. The songs were moving and entertaining, and it’s obvious that this is going to be a great show.
Mixed in with the live performances were several pre-recorded segments, including a video from the actor playing Gomez Addams in The Addams Familiy. This was a brief video, but it showcased the morbid humor of the characters as Gomez joked about eating those who didn’t attend. There wasn’t a whole lot to go on with this, but the wit of the original cartoons appears to be present.
Another production coming to the Segerstrom Center is Billy Elliot, and unfortunately, this only got a video segment as well. I would have loved to see the child performers in person, but instead we got a great behind-the-scenes look at the casting process and an analysis of the international success of the show. It’s mind-blowing that they were able to find children who could perform to the extent required. I can’t wait to see how they pull it off in person.
Getting the least amount of attention were Flashdance, Catch Me If You Can and Sister Act. The first two were both given quick videos with no context or behind-the-scenes analysis. Flashdance showcased a montage of sequences from the show and Catch Me If You Can simply showed an animated segment reminiscent of the film that inspired the production. Sister Act had a brief video featuring Whoopi Goldberg emphasizing the fun of the production.
Another highlight of the evening was when the actress playing Elphaba in Wicked performed a stunning rendition of “The Wizard and I.” This very popular show has already been at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts twice, and based on the audience reaction, it would seem that there is an audience hungry for more. Out of every show featured tonight, Wicked seemed to elicit the most excited response from the audience.
My personal favorite moment of the evening was the up-close look at the performers behind Joey, the title horse from War Horse. After showing epic clips from the production, the puppet itself was brought on stage along with the lead human performer. Flown in from South Africa specifically for this evening’s demonstration, the three performers behind Joey’s movements showcased the intricate dance between them that results in one of the most stunning displays of puppetry I’ve ever seen. Even though you could tell this was a puppet, it very quickly started to feel like a living, breathing animal galloping and trotting around the stage. I absolutely cannot wait to see this in the context of the play.
The last production coming to the Segerstrom Center is Anything Goes, which brought the evening to a close with a video of the cast lip-syning to pop music. It was entertaining and silly, but didn’t do justice to what I’m sure is an amazing production.
It was a short event, but it was effective. Everybody left excited for the coming year, and with good cause. It looks as if they have put together an incredible lineup, and I for one, can’t wait.
Here are some photos from the event and make sure to check-out the video above which highlights each show:
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