Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati has announced its 2011-2012 season, one that offers a few new choices but also represents what Broadway musicals are all about. (The series seldom includes plays, which don't sell all that well, and this season is no different.) Up first will be Disney's Beauty and the Beast (Sept. 27-Oct. 9), a tried and true hit that ran for 5,461 performances between 1994 and 2007. It's followed by a month-long visit by another long-running hit, Wicked (Nov. 2-26). That one opened in 2003 and has been given more than 3,000 performances to date; tours of Wicked have been to Cincinnati twice previously and the show's drawing power appears to be undiminished.
The best news is that the tour of Billy Elliot The Musical (pictured) will be here to start 2012 (Jan. 18-29). It won the 2009 Tony for Best Musical and has drawn strong audiences to nearly 1,000 performances since it opened. Based on the 2000 movie about a boy who wants to be a ballet dancer, the show features music by Elton John. Another Tony winner, the revival of the classic dance musical West Side Story will make a tour stop here early next year (Feb. 28-March 11, 2012), followed by the only other new item on the schedule, The Addams Family (March 27-April 8, 2012), derived from the longtime New Yorker cartoon and TV series.
The season finishes with two one-week runs that subscribers can choose between to give them a six-show season package — Mamma Mia! (May 1-6, 2012) and Les Miserables (May 8-13, 2012) — oldies but goodies that have played here numerous times.
It's disappointing that none of the better contemporary works presently on tour won't show up in Cincinnati, including the 2009 Tony nominee (and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner) Next to Normal, a tough but moving show about a woman suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Million Dollar Quartet, a musical that brings together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, was a Tony contender a year ago. Its national tour is kicking off in Cleveland in October, but skipping Cincinnati (it's been a while since a tour has launched here). We'll see it eventually.
Nevertheless, with a lot of well known titles, the 2011-2012 season should be a strong one at the Aronoff Center.