James Larson says the key to picking a new theater season is variety: contemporary and classic, realism and fantasy, new plays and old favorites.
Larson, retiring artistic director of the Rose, again loaded variety into the 2012-13 season, as well as into a lineup of guest directors unveiled Friday. The Rose is one of the nation's leading children's theaters.
Premium shows headlining the season are audience favorite “Madeline's Christmas,” last staged at the Rose in 2006, and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” an Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical making its first appearance at the Rose.
The regular season kicks off Sept. 7-23 with “Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly,” based on a book by popular children's author Joan Cushing. Larson said she's one of the foremost writers of children's theater.
“The Borrowers,” geared for older children, introduces British author Charles Way, who is well known overseas but just being discovered in the United States, Larson said. It's a tale about tiny folks led by Arrietty.
A former Rose playwright in residence, Karen Abbott, wrote “Ticket to Toyland,” running Dec. 26-30.
Current writers are represented by “Tomas and the Library Lady,” Jan. 25-Feb. 10. Jose Cruz Gonzalez is one of the foremost children's writers today, Larson said, bringing Latino themes to a wider audience.
“George and Martha: Tons of Fun,” about a pair of hippo friends, is another musical by the always popular Cushing. It runs March 1-17.
Minneapolis playwright Kevin Kling adapted Kevin Henkes' book “Lily's Purple Plastic Purse,” running March 29-April 14. Kling is often featured on National Public Radio, Larson said.
“A Year With Frog and Toad,” April 26-May 12, helped Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis win a regional Tony Award, Larson said. Robert Reale and Willia Reale adapted Arnold Lobel's books.
The season's guest directors are meant to ease the load on theater staff as the Rose chooses its new artistic director. Larson is leaving May 31, ending a 28-year stint.
Larson ranks John Hardy, who will direct “The Borrowers,” and Graham Whitehead, helming “Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse,” among the elite of directors for young audiences.
Hardy is associate director at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., which counts Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine and Ned Beatty among its alumni. Whitehead has directed at the Kennedy Center and the Arizona Theatre Company, as well as “Annie” at the Rose in 1998.
Rob Urbinati, who directed “High School Musical” and its sequel for the Rose, returns from New York City to direct “Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly.”
Stephanie Jacobson, who worked for the Jim Henson Company in New York and directed “The Misfits” at the Rose in 2011, has signed on for “George and Martha: Tons of Fun.”
Randi Hard, a professor of theater at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., will tackle “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” while Cindy Phaneuf, professor of theater at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, will helm “Tomas and the Library Lady.”
Rose staffers Kevin Ehrhart and Amanda Kibler will direct the remainder of the season.
“My goal was to make this my parting bow, to do all I could,” Larson said of the season and his director picks. “Now it's onward and upward. Let's see what new good places the Rose can go as I ride off into the sunset.”
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