It's Good News --'Rent' Is Due

TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Rent" and the latest revival of "Chicago," two hit musicals going on tour for the first time, have been scheduled for the 1997-98 Broadway Series at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Rounding out the subscription series of six musicals, to be announced today, will be revivals of two very different chestnuts--"The King and I" and "Annie"--as well as a road version of "Big," which earned the dubious reputation last year as one of the biggest flops in Broadway history. A sixth show is still to be named.

Prices for both season subscriptions and single tickets will rise about 3% to 10%, a center spokesman said.

The 1996-97 Broadway Series still has two shows to run: "Smokey Joe's Cafe," playing July 22-27, and "Show Boat," Aug. 26-Sept. 21.

Center officials will also announce today that the musical "Stomp," which played here last July, will be brought back for eight performances June 24-29 as a nonsubscription event.

About the next season, Judith O'Dea Morr, the center's programming director, said: "The leap from Rodgers and Hammerstein's melodic inventions [in 'The King and I'] to Jonathan Larson's rock-based score [in 'Rent'] may seem to be a great one, but in reality all these shows are grounded in a firm tradition: telling exceptional stories through words and music."

British film actress Hayley Mills is to star as Anna in "The King and I," which will open the 1997-98 season in December. The show, with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a score by Richard Rodgers, won the Tony Award for best musical in 1952.

The highlight of the series is expected to be Larson's "Rent," which won not only the 1996 Tony for best musical but also the Pulitzer Prize in drama. Inspired by Puccini's "La Boheme," this downtown musical has been called a pop-rock opera for our time in its celebration of young artists struggling with AIDS and other tough issues.

Larson, who struggled for years to write a musical, died unexpectedly just hours after the final dress rehearsal for the original production of "Rent" when it opened off-Broadway in January 1996. His sudden death, coupled with the show's widespread acclaim, drew more attention to "Rent" than to any musical probably since "A Chorus Line."

"Chicago" is another highly anticipated attraction. Originally done on Broadway in 1976, the year dominated by "A Chorus Line," it currently is enjoying one of those rare, smash-hit, Broadway resurrections that make theatergoers do a double take. It features Bob Fosse's down-and-dirty concept of vaudeville in addition to his razzle-dazzle choreography and, among the songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the one that became Fosse's anthem, "All That Jazz."

"Big," which started out as a movie starring Tom Hanks in 1988, got a musical treatment from Richard Maltby and David Shire and a choreographic injection from Susan Stroman. But when it opened on Broadway last year, it failed to live up to its name. "Big" went bust and closed after losing more than $10 million. It's a "family style" musical, which may be why the producers have reason to hope it will do better on the road than it did in New York.

The touring production of "Annie," which won the 1977 Tony for best musical, is being billed as a 20th anniversary revival and reunites the original creative team of director Martin Charnin and composer Charles Strouse, who is adding a new song to the score. A recent attempt to revive the show on Broadway, however, drew largely negative notices.

Season subscriptions for all six productions will range from $134 to $315 (up from $128 to $305); single tickets cost $21 to $52.50 (up from $19 to $49.50).

(There have been exceptions to the customary pricing for single tickets. "Show Boat" in this year's series, for example, is priced from $32.50 to $67.50. "Stomp" will be another exception, ranging from $24 to $47.)

Parking, which does not earn revenue for the center, costs $6 and is not expected to rise, a center spokesman said.

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The 1997-98 Broadway Series

* Dec. 2-7: "The King and I," by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

* Feb. 10-15, 1998: "Big," by David Shire, Richard Maltby and John Weidman.

* April 28-May 3, 1998: "Annie," by Charles Strouse and Thomas Meehan.

* July 7-12, 1998: "Chicago," by Bob Fosse, John Kander and Fred Ebb.

* Aug. 4-9, 1998: "Rent," by Jonathan Larson.

* One show is still pending.

Subscriptions: $134-$315. (714) 556-2787.

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