The Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park, has announced its 2022-23 season, which kicks off with the adults-only musical comedy with puppets, “Avenue Q,” in November.
In February, the Axelrod will present the 50th anniversary revival of the forgotten Black musical “Raisin,” followed by the Jersey Shore’s first professional production of “The Prom” in May, and in November the first musical in the theater’s recently announced Sondheim Centennial Project: Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sunday in the Park with George,” according to a press release.
“Avenue Q” is the R-rated satirical “Sesame Street” send-up that ran in New York for 16 years (six on and 10 off Broadway).
With direction by Todd LaBron Underwood and the original Broadway puppets designed by Rick Lyon, “Avenue Q” was written by Robert Lopez, one of the creators 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 all the way out on Avenue Q, which turns out to be far from an ordinary neighborhood (even for 2022!). Performances run Nov. 4-20, according to the press release.
The musical “Raisin” transforms Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal Black American story “A Raisin in the Sun” into a soulful, inspiring musical that tells the story of a proud Black family’s quest for a better life.
Well received in 1974, “Raisin” won the Tony Award for Best Musical and ran three years on Broadway.
The Axelrod’s revival is being is presented with the approval of the Hansberry Estate in association with production consultant Phylicia Rashad, who won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for “A Raisin in the Sun,” and director Evelyn Collins (Denzel Washington Schools of the Arts). Performances will run Feb. 24 through March 12, according to the press release.
“As a part of New Jersey’s Black History Month observations, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center is excited to be presenting the musical ‘Raisin,’ celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023,” Axelrod Artistic Director Andrew DePrisco said. “We are thrilled to be working with TV and theater legend Phylicia Rashad and director Evelyn Collins to bring this historic revival to life.”
Broadway veteran and Tony nominee Hunter Foster returns to the Axelrod this season, after his highly acclaimed production of “The Bridges of Madison County,” to direct another new musical: “The Prom.”
With six Tony nominations, “The Prom” was the critics’ darling and received rave reviews. It tells the story of four eccentric Broadway veterans who are in desperate need of a new stage.
When they hear that trouble is brewing around a small-town prom because a student wants to bring her girlfriend as her date, they put a spotlight on the issue and themselves. The Jersey Shore’s first professional production of “The Prom” will run from May 5-21.
“Sunday in the Park with George,” coming in November 2023, will be the first musical in the Axelrod’s Sondheim Centennial Project, curated by DePrisco.
Each year the Axelrod Performing Arts Center will present one Sondheim musical until Sondheim’s 100th birthday anniversary in 2030, along with concerts and showcases of living composers to honor Sondheim’s commitment to new voices and the future of musical theater, according to the press release.
“As a passionate Sondheim lover, I am curating this new project to honor the late great Stephen Sondheim, whose influence on the Broadway theater is incalculable,” says DePrisco.
“From ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Gypsy’ to ‘Company’ and ‘Into the Woods,’ Sondheim’s scores represent the cutting edge of musical theater.
“Many theater lovers are just starting to explore Sondheim’s music or to give it a second chance. We are hoping to become the place for Sondheim in New Jersey and this new production of ‘Sunday’ will be truly exceptional,” says DePrisco.
The 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, light 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 Nov. 3-19, 2023.
The Axelrod Performing Arts Center, 100 Grant Ave., Deal Park, offers free parking. Tickets are available at 732-531-9106 or www.axelrodartscenter.com.