Theatre Under the Stars Announces its 50th Anniversary Season Very Carefully

We're Back!  This time brought to Houston by TUTS, not Broadway at the Hobby.
We're Back! This time brought to Houston by TUTS, not Broadway at the Hobby. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Theatre Under the Stars announced its 2018-19 season today, outlining a line-up that leans almost entirely on the tried and true  — shows boasting long runs on Broadway and years of national tours — with little evidence of the "edgy" that TUTS once offered along with the "classic."

Also, in contrast to years past when TUTS presented a mix of touring shows and home-grown productions, there are no touring musicals on the upcoming roster.

The first offering of the season seems to set the tone for everything that follows. Yes, it's Oklahoma! which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, the same year as TUTS is celebrating its 50th.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein seminal work is followed by The Wiz, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Mamma Mia!, Ragtime and something billed as To Be Announced  — to be unveiled later in the season.

In a press release, the new TUTS artistic director Dan Knechtges, said: “Our 50th Anniversary Season is not only going to be a year-long salute to the best musical theatre in Houston and beyond, we will also be launching new works, community projects and expanding our reach into classrooms across the greater Houston region. We are so excited to share this celebratory Season with you!”

We'll be interested in seeing what new works he's referring to. In the meantime, here's the lineup from TUTS with plenty of opportunity to introduce younger audiences to time-tested treasures and assess new and up-and-coming stars singing and dancing their hearts out.

OKLAHOMA! – September 11-23, 2018

We are opening our 50th Anniversary Season in September with a timeless classic, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, which is celebrating its 75th Anniversary.

The first collaboration by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma! is often considered the single most important work in the musical theatre canon. The original production was a smash hit on Broadway running for an unprecedented 2,212 performances. It’s had countless revivals, national tours, an Academy Award-winning film adaptation, and won a special Pulitzer Prize for Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1944.

Based on Lynn Riggs’ play, Green Grow the Lilacs, with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Oklahoma! centers on life in the early 1900s in the rural farmland of Oklahoma, and the love story between Curly and Laurey.

Full of familiar tunes that will get you humming and your toes tapping, this rousing and optimistic story of love and redemption, renewal and hard work is sure to resonate with our entire Houston community!

THE WIZ – October 23 - November 4, 2018

In October, we invite you to experience a super-soul, energetic Tony Award®-winner for Best Musical – The Wiz! A hip re-telling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz is a jubilant tale of friendship and adventure.

With music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, and book by William F. Brown, the original production won seven Tony Awards® when it opened on Broadway in 1975 including Best Musical. The Wiz resonates with young and old audiences alike, and has had numerous successful revivals and a recent live, television production on NBC.

The Wiz tells the story of thirteen-year-old Dorothy, who lives with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and her dog, Toto. After a cyclone hits her house, Dorothy is transported to the magical land of Oz where she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion who help her on her journey to defeat the wicked Evillene, and find her way home.

Ease on down the road with Dorothy and her friends to find a world full of love, like yours, like mine – like home!

DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – December 11-23, 2018

Twenty-five years ago, Theatre Under The Stars helped usher in a new musical era with Disney Theatrical's Beauty and the Beast right here in Houston! Just in time for the holiday season, this magical, funny, and moving tale of what it means to love and be human will return to our stage to enchant the entire family.

The production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Theatre Under The Stars set box office records for the most tickets sold in one day when it was announced that the run would be extended. Ultimately the show ran for six weeks of sold out performances.

Featuring an enchanting score by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a mesmerizing experience that embodies the magic of the theatre.

Based on the classic fairy tale, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast tells the story of an arrogant prince who is transformed into a hideous beast. Placed under this spell by an enchantress, he must find a way to get the beautiful, bright, Belle to love him before it is too late and he is doomed to stay a beast forever.

Join us as the “tale as old as time” returns to the city where it started in a brand-new production, produced exclusively by the Theatre Under The Stars creative team.

MAMMA MIA! – February 19 - March 3, 2019

Audiences in more than 400 cities world-wide have danced in the aisles over our next production, Mamma Mia!. This raucous, hilarious musical about a wedding on a Greek island tells the sweet story of love and heartbreak.

Mamma Mia! is a juke box featuring all the hits you know and love from ABBA. Written by British playwright, Catherine Johnson, with music and lyrics by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Mamma Mia! is the ninth longest running show on Broadway, and the longest running jukebox musical in Broadway history. The Broadway production ran at the Winter Garden Theatre from October 2001 through October 2013 before transferring to The Broadhurst where it ran from November 2013 until September 2015.

Mamma Mia! is about family - both the one you’re born to, the one you adopt and the family who adopts you along the way.

RAGTIME – April 16 - 28, 2019

Based on E.L. Doctorow’s powerful book about immigrants and the fight for the American soul in the early twentieth century, Ragtime is a magnificent and deeply moving musical. Featuring a Tony Award® winning score and book, Ragtime is set at a time when worlds and cultures are colliding on issues of race, class, gender equality, and politics.

The plot of Ragtime shows the intersection of three groups of people in the United States - African-Americans, represented by Harlem musician, Coalhouse, upper-class suburbanites, represented by Mother, and Eastern European immigrants, represented by Tateh - and the struggles each face as their worlds collide during this time.

Ragtime, with book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, opened on Broadway 20 years ago in January of 1998 and ran for two years at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. It was nominated for 13 Tony Awards®, of which it won four including Best Original Score.

This ensemble musical takes a look at the past and, in it, we see our present, and the opportunities for our future.

To Be Announced – May 28 - June 9, 2019

Our sixth title of the 50th Anniversary Season is one we know you’re going to love. This show has everything you’ve enjoyed seeing on our stages for the last 49 seasons. The title of the sixth show will be announced later on this year. Leading up to that time, we will be posting clues on social media and our website for you to guess the title. Those who guess correctly will be entered into a lottery to win a Season subscription and more!

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