Singers and ‘Hoofers’ Pull Out the Stops

Stage Door Canteen

For people who delight in a high-quality program of song and dance presented by skilled actors dressed in artful finery, heaven has a new name this season: New Orleans.

Perhaps more than ever before, the city is brimming with musical theater this fall, to the degree that audiences may find it difficult to squeeze in all their choices.
The performances are slated on stages located from Bywater to Rivertown, but the big news marking the season is the re-opening of the Saenger Theatre after years of being dark and following a $50 million renovation of the historic downtown structure.

The theater’s manager, ACE Theatrical Group LLC, has kicked off a splashy season of touring Broadway musicals that this month puts “The Book of Mormon” on the stage. The Tony Award-winning musical, dubbed “best musical of this century” by The New York Times, brings a highly talented cast, lots of laughs and amazingly tight production numbers.

In November, “Ghost the Musical” comes to the Saenger, and the following month brings “Sister Act,” which is billed as a sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship. The Saenger’s 2014 lineup, beginning in January, includes national touring performances of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast, “Memphis” and “War Horse.”

But big talent does not dwell only at the Saenger. Just downriver, at New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, Broadway at NOCCA continues with an Oct. 7 performance by Jane Krakowski, a three-time Emmy nominee for her role in TV’s “30 Rock” and a Tony Award winner for Broadway’s “Nine.”

Hosted by Sirius/XM radio personality Seth Rudetsky on piano, the series continues with Patti LuPone (“Gypsy,” “Evita”); Charles Busch (“The Divine Sister”); Christine Ebersole (“Grey Gardens”); and Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes,” TV’s “Bunheads”).

Audiences are also again being seated at one of the city’s oldest stages, just off Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré presents its first season in several years in renovated quarters, and in November will host the ultimate American rock musical, “Hair.” The story of 1960s teenagers searching for truth, love and peace is filled with show-stopping hits including “Age of Aquarius,” “Good Morning Starshine” and many more.

Those who enjoyed a recent performance of “42nd Street” at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts will no doubt be returning in December when the ever popular “Annie” comes to the Kenner stage. Directed by Kelly Fouchi, with choreography by Heidi Malnar, the musical is likely to become a holiday treat for many area families.

Rivertown Theaters will follow that run with an irresistible lineup of pop hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s in “Under the Boardwalk.” Directed by Rich Arnold, the production features a quartet of dreamy voices with a big band orchestra and cool choreography in a high-energy production that will have audiences swinging along to music of The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, Motown and more.

Not to be outdone, Jefferson Performing Arts Society is also offering a musical blast from the past this month with “Blueberry Hill, at Teatro Wego! on the west bank. Written and directed by Butch Caire, the touching story unfolds on stage with plenty of musical highlights paying tribute to Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe and others.

Throughout the season, beloved musical comedy star Ricky Graham will be making the rounds of local theaters. Late December will find him at Mid-City Theatre where he will join his favorite partners in comedy, Varla Jean Merman, Brian Peterson and Jack Long, for a hilarious musical twist on “The Golden Girls.”

Graham will also star in or direct productions at Rivertown Theaters and  Jefferson Performing Arts Society stages.

Meanwhile, still more musical choices await audiences in the polished, retro theater of the Stage Door Canteen at the Natinal World War II Museum.

The canteen’s war-era line-up includes “Thanks for the Memories: Bob Hope and His All-Star Pacific Tour” (through Oct. 20), bringing back the music of Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, The Andrews Sisters and many more, backed by the Victory Swing band. And the series rolls on in November and December with “Jump, Jive & Wall: The Music of Louis Prima” and “A Swingin’ Christmas” presented by the Victory Belles.

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