This summer, New York City Center Encores! will be launching Off-Center, a series of performances that features some of off-Broadway's most seminal musicals, presented by some of Broadway's biggest stars. Drama Desk Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated composer Jeanine Tesori (Shrek) will serve as Artistic Director.
To promote City Center's mission of increasing accessibility to the arts, the majority of the tickets for Off-Center performances will cost only $25 — a price unheard of to most New York theatergoers. "I strongly believe that we need to build a new generation of musical theater lovers," said New York City Center President & CEO Arlene Shuler. "That's why the $25 ticket for Off-Center is so important. We want young people and people who have never been to a musical theater performance to fall in love with it and discover something in this art form that speaks to them." In addition to the performances themselves, audiences will also be afforded pre-curtain conversations with various artists, scholars, and musicians that will offer unique insight into the works.
Three productions are slated for the series' inaugural season. Opening the summer will be a production of The Cradle Will Rock, which originally opened off-Broadway at the Venice Theatre in 1937, and in 1938 moved to Broadway, where it ran for 108 performances. With music, lyrics, and book by Marc Blitzstein (Threepenny Opera), The Cradle Will Rock tells a story of corporate greed, following a man named Larry Foreman who tries to unionize exploited workers in an attempt to combat corrupt businessmen. The production is set to run from July 10-13 and will feature direction by Drama Desk Award nominee Sam Gold (Picnic) and choreography by Chase Brock (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark).
Next in the series' lineup is a July 17 one-night-only performance of Violet, a musical based on Doris Betts' short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim," set in the Deep South of 1964 near the beginning of the civil rights movement. Two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster (Anything Goes) will star as Violet Karl, a young girl who travels to Oklahoma in search of a TV evangelist and along the way meets a young black soldier who teaches her what it means to be an outsider. Featuring a book and Drama Desk Award-nominated lyrics by Brian Crawley and music by Jeanine Tesori, Violet originally opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on March 11, 1997, winning the Obie Award, Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical, and Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. Two-time Obie Award winner Leigh Silverman (The Madrid) will direct alongside Emmy Award winner Michael Rafter (Thoroughly Modern Millie) who will lend his musical direction.
Closing the summer series will be a production of I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, which first opened in 1978 and ran for 1,165 performances. With a book and lyrics by Gretchen Cryer and music by Nancy Ford, the musical tells the story of a 39-year-old singer, attempting a comeback as a pop star. Three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall (Nice Work If You Can Get It) will choreograph and direct the production, scheduled for July 24-27.