Ravinia Festival Chairman Michael E. Lavin and President and CEO Welz Kauffman today announced details of the 2007 season of music theater and dance events. Highlights include new productions of the musicals The Most Happy Fella and West Side Story; a Broadway night featuring powerhouse vocalists and Ravinia favorites Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald; the Martinis at the Martin series showcasing Heather Headley, Hershey Felder, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Lillias White; diverse dance events by such companies as Mark Morris Dance Group, Rubberbandance, The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater and Concert Dance, Inc.; and two national radio broadcasts of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and Christopher O'Riley's From the Top.
"The one thing that I love about this festival is that it is just that, a festival where you can enjoy every kind of art including music theater, dance, cabaret and even live radio. We're not limited to what we can present to people, and we enjoy watching our patrons have the full Ravinia experience, whether that's sitting in the pavilion during a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert, listening to a Broadway singer in the Martin Theatre or watching dancers create visual art to wonderful music," said Kauffman.
THE MOST HAPPY FELLA
Based on Sidney Howard's 1924 play They Knew What They Wanted, Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella revolves around the complications that arise when Tony, an aging Italian vineyard owner, proposes by mail to Rosabella, a young waitress who once served him in a San Francisco restaurant. Rosabella has no recollection of Tony, but accepts his proposal, largely because he has sent her a picture of Joe, his handsome ranch hand.
Tony Award-winner George Hearn, who won raves in Ravinia's productions of Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music and is fresh from his triumphant role as the Wizard of Oz in the Broadway production of Wicked, will return to the festival to play Tony for the first time. Two-time Grammy Award-winner Sylvia McNair will play Rosabella. With over 70 recordings and two Grammy Awards, McNair's repertoire has included classical and cabaret, opera and Broadway musicals. This performance marks her sixth consecutive season at the festival. Rod Gilfry, who will play the role of Joe, in Fella has established himself as one of today's most sought-after and compelling baritones. He was last seen at Ravinia's 2004 centennial season-ending concert "Carousel of the Animals" along with McNair.
Marking his 29th Ravinia season since his 1978 festival debut, conductor Erich Kunzel has appeared on the podiums of nearly every major orchestra in North America and conducts Ravinia's annual "Labor Day Spectacular" concert. He will lead the Ravinia Festival Orchestra in this musical theater project. The Most Happy Fella will be directed by Marc Robin, who has staged over 40 productions for the Drury Lane Theatre and has directed/choreographed extensively throughout the region, garnering eight Joseph Jefferson Awards (27 nominations) and eight After Dark Awards.
WEST SIDE STORY
Ravinia presents a fully staged revival in honor of the 50th-anniversary of the landmark musical West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, for one performance only. Conductor John Mauceri, chancellor of the North Carolina School of the Arts, will bring a cast and crew who have been coached by veterans of the original Broadway production of the seminal hit, including Carole Lawrence and Chita Rivera. The NCSA is famous for such theater alumni as Chris Parnell, K. Todd Freeman, Tom Hulce, Mary-Louise Parker and Jada Pinkett Smith.
The tunefulness of the score has earned numerous songs a permanent place in the roster of great Broadway hits, including "Maria," "Jet Song," "One Hand, One Heart," "Somewhere," "I Feel Pretty," "Tonight" and "America." This seminal American musical features the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, whose works Ravinia has explored over the past six seasons including Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Passion, Sunday in the Park with George, Anyone Can Whistle and Gypsy to rave reviews. The original book was penned by famed American playwright, novelist, screenwriter and stage director Arthur Laurents. Jerome Robbins conceived, choreographed and directed the original production. Hailed as a groundbreaking classic, West Side Story earned Robbins his second Tony award for choreography in 1958. The new production will be directed by Gerald Freeman, who originally assisted Robbins for the world premiere. Long-time Bernstein protégé John Mauceri conducts this musical masterpiece.
Patti LuPone AND Audra McDonald
After delighting Ravinia audiences in the monumental role of Mama Rose in last summer's hit Gypsy, Patti LuPone returns with Audra McDonald, a four-time Tony Award winner and star of last year's Gala Benefit concert, for a night of musical theater delights on Aug. 26. This unstoppable team of vocalists have starred together in the festival's performances of Sondheim's Passion, (the Lincoln Center's performance with Ravinia's lead cast was later broadcast live nationally on PBS) Sunday in the Park With George and Anyone Can Whistle and are currently appearing in Los Angeles Opera's production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The Aug. 26 performance also features the Ravinia Festival Orchestra conducted by Ted Sperling.
MADAMA BUTTERFLY AND A FLORENTINE TRAGEDY
Opera sings at the festival as Ravinia Music Director James Conlon brings Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Zelminsky's A Florentine Tragedy to life in two one-night-only concert performances.
One of the world's most popular operas, Madama Butterfly passionately explores the consequences of romantic devotion of a delicate Japanese geisha for an American naval officer. Soprano Patricia Racette, internationally acclaimed for her sensitive portrayal of the title role, joins tenor Frank Lopardo as Lieutenant Pinkerton along with baritone Fred Burchinal, mezzo-soprano Ning Liang, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and Conlon conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for this masterpiece on Aug. 11.