On Theater: Center lifts curtain on 2011-12 season

Oldies, newcomers and the 25th anniversary revival of arguably the greatest musical of all time dot the calendar of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for its upcoming 2011-12 season — which, coincidentally, also is the center's 25th season.

The anniversary production is "Les Miserables," ticketed for June 12-24, 2012, and, according to those who've witnessed it, it's not just another revival. The New York Times described it as "an unquestionably spectacular production from start to finish."

Television viewers were given a taste of the new production in a concert version on PBS Sunday evening, and if those performers' spectacular voices are present when the national tour pulls into Costa Mesa, theatergoers are in for a rare treat.

Starting things off, however, will be a show aimed somewhat lower on the viewing age scale. It's "Shrek the Musical," opening Oct. 4 for a two-week engagement. The swamp-dwelling ogre out to reclaim the deed to his land is joined by a wisecracking donkey and a feisty princess.

Things get a little blue from Nov. 8 to 20, but not in the way you may be thinking. The Blue Man Group takes the Center stage for an evening of comedic pantomime that eschews spoken language for what E! Entertainment News called "what every live performance aspires to be."

Remember "White Christmas," when Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye warmed hearts at a snowless Vermont inn on movie screens back in 1954? Well, it's back as "Irving Berlin's White Christmas," playing the Center appropriately from Dec. 13 to Jan. 1 and featuring a score full of Berlin melodies.

What would happen if you brought Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins together for a one-night stand? You can find out from April 24 to May 6 , 2012, when "Million Dollar Quartet" makes its Center premiere. The '50s will live again, along with some of the more notable songs from that period.

"Les Miserables" arrives June 12, 2012, in a revival that one New York TV station declared "actually exceeds the original." The new production will feature scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, who wrote the original classic novel. You'll look long and hard to find a better musical score.

Another oldie, "La Cage Aux Folles," will close out the Broadway season from July 24 to Aug. 5 of next year. This comedic bonbon stretches family loyalties when the straight and gay worlds collide (as in its movie offspring, "The Birdcage").

Apart from the Broadway Series, the Center has three shows coming up in its 2012 Curtain Call Series. "Come Fly Away" (Jan. 31 to Feb. 5) is a musical featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra. "Traces" (Feb. 28 to March 4) focuses on acrobatics and "American Idiot" (May 29-June 3) follows friends choosing between chasing their dreams and the safety of suburbia.

Old favorites such as "Riverdance" (Oct. 28-30) and "Cats" (Jan. 17-22, 2012) will be paying return visits.

Dance programs include the world premiere of Diana Vishneva in "Madame X" (Nov. 30), Les Ballets de Monte Carlo (Feb. 9-12, 2012), the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (March 6-11, 2012) and the American Ballet Theater (March 29 to April 1, 2012)

The Center's Cabaret Series will offer one-night stands and brief engagements by Audra McDonald (Oct. 15), Stephen Sondheim and Friends (Oct. 29), Chita Rivera — My Broadway (Nov. 10-13), opera star Paulo Szoti (Dec. 15-18) and Steve Tyrell (Jan. 5-8, 2012), Andrea Martin (Jan. 16-19, 2012).

Jazz artists set to play the Center include Sonny Rollins (Sept. 25), the Miles Davis Experience (Oct. 21-22), The Spirit of Django (Nov. 18-19), the Charlie Haden Quartet West (Feb. 18, 2012), the SF Jazz Collective: The Music of Stevie Wonder (March 23-24, 2012) and Nnena Freelon and Earl Klugh (April 26-28, 2012).

Classical buffs will appreciate the Emerson String Quartet (Sept. 21, 2011), the Jerusalem String Quartet (Oct. 4,2011), the Ebene Quartet (March 3, 2012), the Mendelssohn Piano Trios (March 25, 2012) and the Pavel Haas Quartet (April 21, 2012).

Also upcoming are the Off Center Festival, the Free for All Series, the Family Series and Season Bonus Events such as the National Acrobats of China,

Priority renewal information for the 2011–12 season is being sent to current subscribers. Single tickets will go on sale approximately six weeks prior to individual engagements. Theatergoers may call the box office at (714) 556-2787 for additional information.


'As You Like It'

Orange Coast College is offering an updated version of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" this weekend, moving the Bard's comic tale of intrigue and romance to the 1960s.

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Drama Lab Theater, 2701 Fairview Road. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door ($5 and $7 for seniors, children and OCC students). Call (714) 432-5880 for reservations.

The college will hold auditions for its next project, "The Pirates of Penzance," at 7 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday in the Drama Lab.

Peter Uribe is directing, and the Gilbert and Sullivan comic musical will be presented May 4-7.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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