The Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park, has announced its 2022-23 season, which opens in November with the adults-only musical comedy “Avenue Q” with puppets.
In February, Axelrod will present the 50th anniversary revival of the forgotten black musical “Raisin,” followed by Jersey Shore’s first professional production of “The Prom” in May and the first musical in the theater’s recently announced Sondheim Centennial Project in November. : Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sunday in the Park with George,” according to a press release.
“Avenue Q” is the R-rated satire “Sesame Street” send-up that ran in New York for 16 years (six off-Broadway and 10).
Directed by Todd Labron Underwood and with original Broadway puppetry designed by Rick Lyons, “Avenue Q” was written by Robert Lopez, co-creator of “The Book of Mormon” and won three Tony Awards.
It tells the story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York City apartment on Avenue Q, far from a typical neighborhood (even until 2022!) Performances will run from November 4-20, according to a press release.
The musical “raisin” is transformed Lorraine Hansberry’s original Black American story “A Raisin in the Sun” is a soulful, inspiring musical that tells the story of a proud Black family’s search for a better life.
Well received in 1974, “Raisin” won the Tony Award for Best Musical and ran for three years on Broadway.
Axelrod’s revival is being presented with the approval of the Hansberry Estate in collaboration with production consultant Phylicia Rashad, who won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a play for “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2004, and director Evelyn Collins (Denzel Washington School of the Arts). Performances will run from February 24 to March 12, according to the press release.
“As part of New Jersey’s observance of Black History Month, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center is excited to present the musical ‘Raisin,’ celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023,” said Axelrod Artistic Director Andrew DePrisco. “We are thrilled to be working with TV and theater legend Phylicia Rashad and director Evelyn Collins for this historic revival.”
Broadway veteran and Tony Nominee Hunter Foster returns to Axelrod this season, following his highly acclaimed production of “The Bridge of Madison County,” to direct another new musical: “The Prom.”
With six Tony nominations, “The Prom” was a critical favorite and received rave reviews. It tells the story of four eccentric Broadway veterans who desperately need a new stage.
When they hear that trouble is brewing around a small-town prom because a student wants to bring his girlfriend as his date, they focus on the problem and themselves. Jersey Shore’s first professional production of “The Prom” runs May 5-21.
“Sunday in the park With George,” coming in November 2023, will be the first musical in Axelrod’s Sondheim Centennial Project, curated by DiPrisco.
According to the press release, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center will present a Sondheim musical each year until Sondheim’s 100th birthday in 2030, along with concerts and live composer showcases to honor Sondheim’s commitment to new voices and the future of musical theater.
“As an avid Sondheim lover, I am creating this new project to honor the late, great Stephen Sondheim, whose influence on Broadway theater is immeasurable,” said DePrisco.
“From ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Gypsy’ to ‘Company’ and ‘Into the Woods,’ Sondheim’s scores represent the cutting edge of musical theater.
“Many theatergoers are beginning to explore Sondheim’s music or give it a second chance. We hope to become the Sondheim place in New Jersey and this new production of ‘Sunday’ will be truly exceptional,” said DePrisco.
Axelrod’s new production of “Sunday in the Park with George” will be directed and choreographed by Eamon Foley, whose new concept revolves around the use of color, lighting and movement, according to the press release.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, “Sunday in the Park with George” originally starred Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Performances will run November 3-19, 2023.
Axelrod Performing Arts Center, 100 Grant Ave., Deal Park, offers free parking. Tickets are available at 732-531-9106 or www.axelrodartscenter.com.