The Orpheum theater plans to hold a mirror up to Memphis in its lineup of Broadway tours for its 2011-12 season.
The highlight is the launch of the tour of "Memphis the Musical" in October, the first time a national tour has been mounted here. Locals will also get to rock out to "Million Dollar Quartet," a show set in Sun Studio that features look- and sound-alikes of music legends Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
"We wanted to make this the 'Memphis musical' season," said Orpheum president Pat Halloran. "It was a great year for tours, and we managed to get great titles. Five of the seven are still on Broadway."
Two other hits include "The Addams Family," based on the TV sitcom about the Goth clan, and the Tony-winning revival of "La Cage aux Folles."
"Memphis the Musical" has been a boon for the city, just by having its name on the Shubert Theatre's marquee on Broadway since October 2009, said Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. In the show, a young white disc jockey in the 1950s falls in love with a black R&B singer on Beale Street.
"The musical 'Chicago' might not have had a huge impact on Chicago, but it's a much bigger deal for us because it showcases our musical history," Kane said.
He said the CVB has already bought scores of tickets for the show and it will be included in a marketing junket for more than 30 meeting planners from all over the country.
Also, the Orpheum landed the 25th anniversary tour of "Les Miserables," which features a new set based on the paintings of Victor Hugo. Another return engagement is the ABBA jukebox musical "Mamma Mia!," which is not part of the Orpheum subscription series.
The holiday musical offering is a remounting of "White Christmas," based on the film with songs by Irving Berlin.
"One of the reasons this is such a strong season is that we were the first to commit for a lot of these touring companies," Halloran said. "Another is that the Orpheum is really known as a positive experience for touring shows."
Bolstered by hit touring shows such as "Wicked" and "Jersey Boys," the number of Orpheum season subscribers has grown for three years.
Currently, the theater has 6,300 subscribers. Halloran's goal for this season is 7,000.
He says several corporations have already bought more than 1,000 tickets to "Memphis" due to its positive message.
"People who see this show immediately tell others to go see it," Halloran said. "The board is unbelievably excited about this one."
Because the Orpheum was among the original investors in the Tony-winning Broadway production, Halloran was able to negotiate its tour launch here. Auditions will be held in March in New York and Los Angeles.
In 2010, the show won four Tonys: Best Musical, Best Book (Joe DiPietro), Best Original Score (David Bryan and Joe DiPietro) and Best Orchestrations (Daryl Waters and David Bryan).
Halloran says the first 61 weeks of the tour are already booked.
Previous subscribers to the Orpheum can renew their subscriptions now. Season ticket sales open to the public on April 15, and individual tickets go on sale eight to 10 weeks before each show opens.
2011-12 Orpheum season
Sept. 13-18: “Les Miserables” — The 25th Anniversary touring production comes to Memphis after being relaunched in London with a new set based on Victor Hugo’s paintings.
Oct. 14-23: “Memphis, The Musical” — The national tour of the Tony-winning show opens in its namesake town.
Nov. 22-27: “White Christmas” — The Irving Berlin musical about two old army buddies who open a hotel in the country.
Feb. 14-19, 2012: “Million Dollar Quartet” — Inspired by a true story, this musical takes place on the night famed Memphis music producer Sam Phillips brought together the greatest rockers of the 1950s: Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
March 20-25: “La Cage aux Folles” — Winner of last year’s Tony for best revival, the cross-dressing comedy classic is set in a nightclub
April 24-29: “The Addams Family” — The creepy, kooky and mysteriously spooky television family comes to life in this musical still running on Broadway.
June 5-10: “Mamma Mia!” — The smash jukebox musical set to the music of ABBA makes a repeat appearance.
For details, go to orpheum-memphis.com