One year after winning the prestigious Regional Theater Tony Award, and with two productions that originated at the theater on Broadway this spring ("A Bronx Tale," currently playing, and "Bandstand," opening in April), the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn is aiming to up its game still further.
For its just announced 2017-18 season, the theater will be mounting two world premiere musicals, and two East Coast premieres -- arguably the most ambitious line-up in the theater's history.
A number of these projects are high-profile efforts that have their ultimate eyes on Broadway -- further heightening Paper Mill's national profile. In addition to "A Bronx Tale" and "Bandstand," the theater has also premiered "Newsies" and "Honeymoon in Vegas" in recent years.
"Paper Mill Playhouse has become one of the nation's leading theater incubators, nurturing shows in multiple stages of development," said Mark S. Hoebee, the company's Producing Artistic Director, in a statement.
The season will kick off in September with the world premiere of "The Honeymooners," based on the classic television show, to be directed by John Rando, who mounted the ravishing 2014 Broadway revival of "On the Town." The show has been in development since 2011. Although no cast has been announced, workshops have featured Michael McGrath, Hank Azaria, Leslie Kritzer and Laura Bell Bundy.
The second show on the list is the most familiar, the musical "Annie," to be directed by Hoebee. It's the first time Paper Mill has staged "Annie" in fifteen years. That production starred Sarah Hyland in the title role; the young actress has since gone on to fame in "Modern Family.
January brings "The Outsider," a comedy by Paul Slade Smith, which has had only one previous production in Wisconsin. Last year, Paper Mill initiated an industry reading of the show that featured Kelsey Grammer in the lead.
John Rando will again return to the theater starting in March 2018 for "The Sting, a new musical" -- another world premiere, based on the classic Paul Newman-Robert Redford film. The composers are Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, who wrote "Urinetown."
The season concludes with "Half Time," to be choreographed and directed by Jerry Mitchell ("Kinky Boots"), and based on a documentary called "Gotta Dance," about a group of New Jersey seniors who set out to become halftime dancers at a major league basketball game. The musical had a well-received tryout in Chicago in 2016 and has been talked about for Broadway ever since -- though Shayne Miller, the Paper Mill's Director of Press and Public Relations, said it has undergone significant work since then.
"People are looking at us as that next step, just before they cross the river," said Miller. "None of these shows have specific Broadway plans, but every one of them hopes to make it over the river."
Season-long subscriptions are available now at www.papermill.org. Single tickets for the shows go on sale in August.
More information about the individual productions from the Paper Mill's press release is below:
September 28 through October 29, 2017
"The Honeymooners" is a brand new musical comedy inspired by the classic television series. Ralph Kramden and his buddy Ed Norton are back and still shooting for the moon in this world-premiere musical. After shocking their wives by winning a high-profile jingle contest, they are catapulted out of Brooklyn and into the cutthroat world of Madison Avenue advertising, where they discover that their quest for the American Dream might cost them their friendship.
November 22 through December 31, 2017
"Annie," the world's best-loved family musical returns to Paper Mill Playhouse just in time for the holidays. Little orphan Annie is taken from her orphanage, and the clutches of cruel Miss Hannigan, to stay at billionaire Oliver Warbucks' mansion for the holidays. When Annie wins the hearts of Warbucks and his staff, they set out on an epic mission to find Annie's parents.
January 24 through February 18, 2018
At once a razor-sharp comedy and a sincere tribute to democracy, "The Outsider" is a timely and hilarious take on modern American politics. Ned Newley doesn't even want to be governor. He is terrified of public speaking; his poll numbers are impressively bad. To his ever-supportive chief of staff, Ned seems destined to fail. But a political guru named Arthur Vance sees things a little differently: Ned might be the worst candidate to ever run for office. Unless the public is looking for... the worst candidate to ever run for office.
"The Sting, a new musical"
March 29 through April 29, 2018
Chicago. 1936. Get ready to enter a smoke-filled world of cons and capers, where nothing is what it seems and no one is who they appear to be. Based on the 1973 Academy Award-winning film, "The Sting" tells the tale of a pair of con men, small town grifter Johnny Hooker and big time hustler Henry Gondorff, who plot to bring down the city's most corrupt racketeer.
"Half Time, a new musical"
May 31 through July 1, 2018
From the director/choreographer of "Kinky Boots" comes the incredible true story of ten ordinary seniors with extraordinary dreams who audition to dance at halftime for a major basketball team. Only after making the cut do they learn they won't be dancing tap, salsa or swing--instead, they will bring down the house with a style that is entirely new to them: hip-hop. Take the uplifting journey with these dreamers--and the young coaches who inspire them along the way--as they battle self-doubt, stereotypes and even each other for a chance to bust a move at center court in front of 20,000 screaming fans.
Christopher Kelly may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @chriskelly74. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook.
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