Spring Into Summer

If spring is in the air, music and drama are in the works around New Orleans, which means audiences can look forward to a wide range of choices in theater. Take the lineup at Jefferson Performing Arts Society, for instance.

In March, alone, JPAS makes full use of its three separate stages to offer up “The Bikinis” – billed as a musical beach party from the ‘60s; the raucous and ridiculous interactive comedy “Flanagan’s Wake”; and “The Light in the Piazza,” the Tony Award-winning play that brings the romance of Florence to the stage.

And there’s more. Come May, JPAS presents the hit Broadway musical “Xanadu,” which follows the journey of a beautiful Greek muse who descends from Mount Olympus to Venice Beach, Calif., circa 1980, to inspire a struggling artist.

JPAS has made sure to include younger audiences in its springtime offerings as well, with Disney’s “Cinderella” and the musical “How I Became a Pirate” on tap.

For dates, locations and other details on all the productions, see www.jpas.org or call 504-885-2000.

Drama Will Star at literary Fest

Along with a big lineup of writers and film pros, this year’s Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival will offer some dramatic high points. Local writer John Biguenet will present his new work, “Broomstick.” Billed as the true confessions of a witch, this staged reading of the work will feature Cristine McMurdo-Wallis.

Biguenet terms the play “a funny and frightening return to our childhoods, where we first wrestled with evil and justice.” He has brought three previous plays to the local stage. “The Vulgar Soul,” “Rising Water” and “Shotgun” all played at Southern Rep in recent years.

Another highlight at the festival will be Southern Rep’s presentation of Williams’ classic, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Directed by Jason Kirkpatrick, the production will feature local stars Ashley Ricord, Michael Aaron Santos, Mike Harkins and, in the role of Blanche DuBois, Southern Rep Artistic Director Aimée Hayes.

The Tennessee Williams Festival runs March 21-25, with events slated at sites around the French Quarter. See www.TennesseeWilliams.net for details.

Summer Brings Lyrical Fare

Warm months may slow the dramatic action elsewhere, but around here, summer means music – musical theater, that is. Summer Lyric Theatre at Tulane University is already in the throes of preparations for this season’s three-production lineup. Coming in June is the musical version of the film classic, “Sunset Boulevard,” the story of a fading film star who attempts a comeback.

July will bring a stage full of fun with the company’s production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” a story of rollicking antics aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. The musical, which enjoyed a recent Tony Award-winning revival on Broadway, features such favorite Porter songs as “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

Finally, in August, comes “Fiddler on the Roof,” in a return of the perennially popular classic. The box office opens March 12 for all three productions. For information on full-season or individual tickets, dates and times, see summerlyric.tulane.edu or call 504-865-5269.

Spring Into Summer

Blockbuster Alert

The Mahalia Jackson Theater for Performing Arts will get a full test of its capacity this month as the spectacle of Disney’s “The Lion King” arrives on stage. Award-winning director Julie Taymor brings the amazing animals to life on stage amid music that includes Elton John and Tim Rice’s Oscar-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” The show will run from March 14 to April 15.

Thereafter the Mahalia Jackson Theatre will play host to a string of modern and classical performances, beginning with Complexions Contemporary Ballet. On April 21, this sleek, daredevil company offers a special pairing of dancer Desmond Richardson and New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan in a jazz performance commissioned by the New Orleans Ballet Association.

On May 12 the association will follow with a presentation of The Joffrey Ballet, a well-loved company that will offer an emotionally charged new work called “Age of Innocence.”

Between ballet performances the stage will host the final production of the New Orleans Opera Association’s current season, a double-bill featuring Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” and Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” Some favorite soloists will be joined by the New Orleans Opera Chorus, Loyola University Chorus and New Orleans Vocal Arts Chorale, along with New Orleans Ballet Theatre for this special performance, on April 27 and 29.

Music by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra also will fill the hall on several dates in May. Rachmaninov, Mahler and – believe it or not – the music of Led Zeppelin will be among the highlights. For details on all the shows, see www.mahaliajacksontheater.com or call 504-287-0351.

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