2017-2018 SHN Season Preview
Artistry. Enchantment. Spine-tingling exhilaration. Soul-stirring joy.
If these sound like the items on everyone’s wish list for a night at the theater, they’re also the guiding principles behind SHN’s efforts to present each new season of first-rate shows. But what makes the 2017-2018 season so exceptional is the abundance of thrilling productions the SHN team had to choose from. “There’s a wealth of top-caliber shows on Broadway now,” says SHN CEO Greg Holland. “In seasons past we had five or six shows on the SHN Season, but this time we found it impossible to limit ourselves.” As a result, SHN is offering season tickets to an astounding seven shows—eight if you include the much-anticipated, Member Opt-In return of The Book of Mormon.
The lineup includes musicals that reimagine iconic source material, such as An American in Paris, Disney’s Aladdin and The Color Purple, as well as thoroughly original productions like Something Rotten!, a hilarious “what-if” tale set in Shakespeare’s England. The season also bears the unmistakable imprint of Broadway legends like Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the music for School of Rock and Jerry Mitchell, who directed On Your Feet! Other luminaries include Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, who collaborated with director Diane Paulus to create the theatrical adaptation of Waitress.
The 2017-18 season welcomes back many of SHN’s dear friends, with contributions from directors, producers, writers and choreographers whose previous work has delighted audiences at both the Orpheum and Golden Gate theaters. “We’ve had so many connections and past successes with the creative teams of these shows,” Holland says. “It’s a special privilege to again host talents like director Casey Nicholaw, choreographer Sergio Trujillo and Diane Paulus, who continue to take the theater experience to new heights.”
As always, Holland and the SHN team have made sure there’s something for everyone in the season’s offerings, which promise to uplift and inspire theatergoers in transcendent new ways. Additionally, members can expect invitations to special programs throughout the season, including the “In Conversation With” series, featuring intimate dialogues with creators and cast members from the productions.
Here’s a look at what makes each upcoming show a not-to-be-missed event.
SHN Orpheum Theatre
August 15–September 10, 2017
Something Rotten!, which opened on Broadway in April 2015, comically reimagines Shakespeare’s England. It follows two playwright brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, as they attempt to compete with the towering figure of Will Shakespeare. After a fortuneteller foresees the advent of the musical, the brothers are inspired to create one of their own.
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), Something Rotten! is both a cheeky tribute to the Bard and a paean to the golden age of musicals.
Shakespeare lovers will appreciate the show’s many layers and allusions, but there’s no need to have a background in Renaissance literature to enjoy Something Rotten! “You don’t have to know all the references to understand the show because it’s funny as it is,” says ensemble cast member Kristie Kerwin, a Bay Area native. “But we find that people see it again and again because they always get new things out of it.”
Kerwin, who last performed at the SHN Orpheum Theatre in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, believes the production is perfectly suited to local theatergoers. “San Francisco has wonderful, smart audiences who will totally get this show,” she says. “And the message behind it—‘to thine own self be true’—is something everyone can relate to.”
An American in Paris
SHN Orpheum Theatre
September 12–October 8, 2017
Based on the 1951 film of the same name, An American in Paris takes the classic tale of an American soldier, a mysterious French woman and their adventures in post-World War II Paris and gives it a cool, contemporary spin. With irresistible songs (“I Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”) by George and Ira Gershwin, the musical is a unique mélange of dance, music and evocative storytelling.
Cinephiles might remember the film’s 17-minute ballet sequence as one of the greatest performances in movie history. The dancing in the stage version is also in a league of its own; choreographer and director Christopher Wheeldon earned a Tony for his work on the show in 2015. (An American in Paris scored additional Tony awards for lighting, orchestration and scenic design).
Nick Spangler (whom TV audiences will recognize as the 2008 winner of The Amazing Race) assumes the role of Henry Baurel in the touring production of An American in Paris. “It’s not just ballet and it’s not just a musical,” Spangler says of the show. “It’s this new art form that just sweeps you away.”
Spangler, a Mountain View native, believes that audiences will find An American in Paris especially poignant in today’s uncertain world. “The show’s main themes are about the importance of art, life and beauty,” he says. “And at a time when things like the support for the arts and the basic right to the pursuit of happiness are vulnerable, it’s thrilling to see a production that celebrates creative expression and individual freedom.”
SHN Orpheum Theatre
November 1, 2017–January 7, 2018
Disney’s Aladdin draws upon the 1992 animated film—beloved as much for its compelling plot as for Robin Williams’ memorable Genie—and takes it to a heightened level of character-driven theatrical engagement.
An added bonus is that material that had been cut from the movie has been incorporated into the stage production. Under Casey Nicholaw’s direction, new scenes, characters and songs by composer Alan Menken (Newsies), lyricist Tim Rice (The Lion King) and book writer Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer) have been added, helping to deepen the nuanced relationships between Aladdin, Princess Jasmine and the Genie.
Adam Jacobs, who played Aladdin on Broadway, will reprise his role in the national tour. “The story is a romance between Aladdin and Jasmine, but it’s also a bromance between Aladdin and the Genie,” says Jacobs, who grew up in Half Moon Bay and studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. “It’s a journey of self-discovery and self-realization, and I think it speaks to people of all ages.”
The Color Purple
SHN Orpheum Theatre
May 1–May 27, 2018
From the 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg to the 2005 Broadway production, Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been adapted numerous times. Now, the current revival takes a strikingly fresh and intimate angle.
Director John Doyle had a clear vision for the revival. “I wanted to go back to the authenticity and honesty of the novel,” he says. “I wanted a no-nonsense, front-porch approach.”
By focusing on the essence of The Color Purple—which tells the story of Celie, a young black woman struggling to overcome obstacles in the early 20th-century American South—Doyle gets right to the emotional heart of Walker’s tale. His interpretation, which opened in London in 2013 and came to Broadway in 2015—has won numerous awards, including the 2016 Tony for Best Musical Revival.
Producer Scott Sanders, who was instrumental in bringing Doyle’s production to Broadway, says the show’s power comes from the emotional resonance it has with audiences. “I don’t know anyone who does not walk out of the theater feeling 2 feet higher,” he says. “It is a triumph-over-adversity story, and people are attracted to stories that make them ‘feel.’”
School of Rock
SHN Orpheum Theatre
June 27–July 22, 2018
Even those unfamiliar with the 2003 movie School of Rock will delight in the Tony-nominated musical adaption that features 14 new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey).
School of Rock, which made its Broadway debut in December 2015, follows struggling musician Dewey Finn as he cons his way into a job as a fifth-grade substitute teacher and turns his class into a stunningly virtuosic rock band.
“School of Rock fires on every cylinder,” says SHN’s Holland. “The kids—who range from 10 to 13 years old—play all their instruments live onstage, and they are nothing short of amazing.”
Bay Area native Emily Borromeo, who made her Broadway debut in School of Rock as the mother of one of the students, agrees. “I’m in awe of their technical talent,” she says. “You are just rooting for them to find their voice.”
Borromeo believes the show’s theme—as well as its roof-raising music—will strike a chord with local theatergoers. “This musical is about following your passion and not just following the status quo,” she says. “Bay Area audiences will definitely connect with that message.”
On Your Feet!
SHN Golden Gate Theatre
September 11–October 7, 2018
As with the hit show Beautiful—The Carole King Musical (which had its world premiere at SHN in 2013), On Your Feet! is the inspirational tale of a living musical legend. The story traces the journey of Cuba-born Gloria Estefan and her producer husband Emilio as they reach the apex of pop music success in the 1980s. When Gloria is in a life-threatening accident in 1990, the couple is faced with new challenges and must find a way to get back “on their feet.” (Spoiler alert: They do, big-time.)
Directed by Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde, Kinky Boots) with choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys), On Your Feet! features familiar hit songs such as “Conga,” “Turn the Beat Around” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.”
“The show offers a fascinating perspective on the American dream and the Latino experience in South Florida,” says Holland. “It’s a story of bravery and triumph. And at the end, everyone is out of their seats and dancing.”
SHN Golden Gate Theatre
October 16 to November 11, 2018
Six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles wrote the rousing original score for Waitress, an empowering musical that opened on Broadway in April 2016 and comes to SHN in the fall of 2018. (Bareilles is also headlining the Broadway production, performing the title role for 10 weeks, ending June 11.)
Based on Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a frustrated waitress in a loveless marriage who uses her baking skills to find happiness.
Directed by Diane Paulus, whose productions of Finding Neverland and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess were highlights of previous seasons at SHN, Waitress is an exuberant celebration of dreams, friendship, motherhood and, yes, great pies.
The show is also a historic first: It is the first production in Broadway history to be developed by an all-female creative team. “Everyone involved in the show is the best at what they do,” Paulus explains. “It’s so important to send a signal to the next generation that women can actually do this and do it well.”
And communicating the message that dreams can be achieved and barriers overcome is not only the essence of Waitress, it’s a compelling theme that runs throughout the entire SHN season.
The 2017-2018 SHN Season is now available for new members at shnsf.com or by calling 888-746-1799 (Press 2). Join and guarantee your seats to 7 blockbuster Broadway musicals at the SHN Orpheum and Golden Gate Theatres in San Francisco. Plus, get first access to The Book of Mormon!