The lineup begins Sept. 22 and delivers roughly a show a month through April 29, 2018

The University of Oklahoma’s performing arts season kick-off promises high drama.

OU’s performing arts season features musicals, operas, dance and theater. (Wendy Mutz / University of Oklahoma / provided)

OU’s performing arts season features musicals, operas, dance and theater. (Wendy Mutz / University of Oklahoma / provided)

There’s no stadium cushion or Boomer banner required for this University of Oklahoma schedule opener. But for fine arts fans, the kick-off of OU’s performing arts season is something to cheer about.

Each year, University Theatre carefully curates a family of nine main-stage performances, corralling a diverse assortment of plays, musicals, operas and dance programs that together fashion the university’s official performing arts season series. The lineup begins Sept. 22 and delivers roughly a show a month through April 29, 2018, staged at a variety of venues across the OU campus.

Tagged Catch a Rising Star, a nod to the student talent powering these productions, this year’s slate shines a spotlight on fine arts scholars at the ascent of their careers, giving each a chance to test-drive the talents they have been honing in class.

Dean Mary Margaret Holt of OU’s Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts said she believes this year’s University Theatre season promises to transport audiences by way of artistry and entertainment while also delivering a host of creative, imaginative and stylistic challenges to the student performers, designers and technicians.

Season strike

The 2017-18 series launches with the Tony Award-winning musical City of Angels, which follows the downward-spiraling journey of a New York novelist who, when his book is tapped for film adaptation, gets spun-up in the seductive, Technicolor world of Hollywood.

In October, another Tony Award-winner, shenanigan-filled dark comedy Noises Off takes the stage. This delirious thespian escapade centers on a cast of rambling actors who endeavor to rehearse and perform a struggling stage production of Nothing On. And it figures that just as the players start getting things right, everything goes wrong.

November ushers in the contrast of classical and contemporary, as Oklahoma Festival Ballet features world-renowned Act II of Swan Lake. This balletic fairytale spins the fable of love promised and challenged by evil alongside an entrancing lakeside setting.

Late November plates up a version of Hansel and Gretel that is anything but cookie-cutter with Hansel and Gretel, the opera. In this classic yarn, a boy and girl find themselves in a gingerbread adventure when the two inadvertently wander into an enchanted forest. This version of the time-honored tale holds tight to all the fantastical elements: a trail of breadcrumbs. a broomstick-riding witch and guardian angels.

Move it

In the New Year, ten newly minted choreographers spread their wings in the Young Choreographers’ Showcase, a campus tradition and audience favorite. Students unveil innovative choreography and brandish a full spectrum of movement styles accompanied by inventive, avant-garde lighting designs.

Set in the 1920s, Nice Work If You Can Get It boasts nostalgic George Gershwin tunes and introduces a cast of outrageous roaring twenties characters who have gathered in New York to celebrate the wedding of a wealthy and charming playboy. But when a gutsy bootlegger captures the playboy’s attention, nothing goes quite as planned. This February 2018 installment includes a blending of slapstick comedy, zippy dancing and even a few ballads.

Then, with choreography that is all at once abstract, mood-inspired and narrative, Contemporary Dance Oklahoma examines the creative and oftentimes challenging range of modern dance with dynamic physicality. Opening in March 2018, this production has been dubbed an exploration of the human condition.

Go gothic

In early April 2018, curtains open on the eerie Gothic romance Lucia di Lammermoor, bringing to the stage a gripping tragedy played out in the ruins of a Scottish castle where, fractured by family feud and strong-armed into an arranged marriage, Lucia goes a little insane and murders her bridegroom on their wedding night. This opera features lavish costumes and sets along with a full orchestra and chorus. It’s performed in Italian with English subtitles.

Finally, in late April 2018, family favorite Alice in Wonderland strives to fling audiences down the rabbit hole to experience a lavish spectacle of intrigue and bemusement. An elegant blending of both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this staged event is billed as a sure-fire memory-maker.

While single performance tickets are also available, University Theatre offers two season subscription options: the Complete Package, which includes tickets to all nine main-stage productions, or the more modest Variety Package that allows staged-entertainment connoisseurs to sample one of each type of production (musical, opera, dance and drama).

Even though the productions that make up OU’s performing arts season are invaluable in boosting experiential learning among the students who bring them to life, Holt believes the series also nourishes audience appreciation.

“The arts have the power to speak across generations, cultures and time because they are expressions of the human spirit and because they illustrate commonalities that draw people together,” she said. “The performing arts don’t require an extraordinary education or study of a foreign language to be understood. They only require shared space and the willingness to embrace a new experience.”

You heard right; all you need is a shared space and a willingness — and, of course, your OU season tickets. Except this time, you can leave the stadium blanket and foam finger at home.

Visit theatre.ou.edu or call 405-325-4101.

print headline: Stage tough, The University of Oklahoma’s performing arts season kick-off promises high drama.

Shel Wagner

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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