Concert re-stagings of “Titanic,” “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Jelly’s Last Jam”; the unveiling of a previously announced rewrite of the Rodgers and Hart musical “Pal Joey”; and dance works by Lyon Opera Ballet and Pam Tanowitz: New York City Center has announced plans for an ambitious 2023-24 season, one in which it will celebrate its 30th Encores! series and the 20th Fall for Dance festival.
“It’s a season that’s equal parts hilarity, innovation and operatic scale,” Lear deBessonet, the artistic director of Encores!, a concert series that revives classic and rare musicals, said on Wednesday in a news release.
A highlight will be City Center’s gala presentation: an adaptation of the 1940 musical “Pal Joey” (Nov. 1-5), now set in a Black community — the South Side of Chicago in the 1940s — starring Ephraim Sykes as Joey Evans, a jazz singer who refuses to compromise his craft in the face of racism, and Jennifer Holliday (a Tony winner for “Dreamgirls”) as a nightclub owner. The production, directed by Tony Goldwyn and Savion Glover with a new book by Richard LaGravenese and Daniel Beaty, will also feature Aisha Jackson (“Once Upon a One More Time”) and Elizabeth Stanley (“Jagged Little Pill”).
This is a new direction for “Pal Joey,” which originally featured white characters; in 2021, the producer Jeffrey Richards said he would bring this re-conceived version to Broadway during the 2022-23 season, which just ended without the show. Now the delayed production will have a City Center run instead — and after that, who knows? Two of this season’s Tony-nominated musical revivals, “Into the Woods” and “Parade,” started at City Center.
City Center’s season will kick off with its 20th Fall for Dance festival (Sept. 27-Oct. 8), which will include a collaboration between Sara Mearns of City Ballet, the choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith and the bass-baritone Davóne Tines, co‐presented with Vail Dance Festival; as well as the premiere of an original work by the street dance artist Ephrat Asherie and the tap dancer Michelle Dorrance. The two-week festival will also include performances by Birmingham Royal Ballet, led by the director Carlos Acosta, and by Bijayini Satpathy, an interpreter of the classical Indian dance form Odissi.
In January, the main Encores! series begins with “Once Upon a Mattress,” the 1959 musical comedy adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Barer. Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes,” “The Music Man”) stars as the brassy, lovable Princess Winnifred the Woebegone, the part that made Carol Burnett a star in 1959. DeBessonet will direct a new concert adaptation (Jan. 24-28) by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of the television series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
It will be followed by “Jelly’s Last Jam,” the 1992 Broadway musical about the life of the jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton, with a book by George C. Wolfe, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and music by Morton and Luther Henderson (Feb. 21-25). The original production won three Tony Awards, including best lead actor for Gregory Hines and best featured actress for Tonya Pinkins. It will be directed by Robert O’Hara, with casting to be announced.
The series will conclude with a revival of Peter Stone and Maury Yeston’s 1997 musical “Titanic,” which recounts the 20th century’s most famous maritime disaster (June 12-16). The original production (no connection to James Cameron’s epic film) won five Tony Awards, including best musical, but has never received a Broadway revival. It will be directed by Anne Kauffman, with casting to be announced.
City Center’s 2023-24 lineup also includes over a dozen dance offerings, among them Lyon Opera Ballet’s “Dance,” the choreographer Lucinda Childs’s 1979 collaboration with the composer Philip Glass and the conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (Oct. 19-21), as well as the choreographer Pam Tanowitz’s “Song of Songs,” which fuses David Lang’s choral settings of the biblical poem with movement inspired by Jewish folk dance (Nov. 9-11).
To close out the year, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the center’s resident dance company, will celebrate its 65th anniversary with a season (Nov. 29-Dec. 31) that includes Ronald K. Brown’s “Dancing Spirit,” a 2009 work that mixes African diaspora and American modern dance styles.
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