Worth a LOOK
This summer, the newly renamed LOOK Musical Theatre offers a diverse slate of modern musicals.
“Sesame Street” this is not. LOOK Musical Theatre will present the Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q” as part of its 2012 season.
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Musical theater. For many folks, that phrase immediately evokes images of classic Broadway: choreographed dance numbers, larger-than-life performances, lavish sets and costuming, show-stopping songs, etc. Nowadays, though, some folks might add a few more descriptors to that list — words such as “edgy comedy” and “full puppet nudity.”
If that’s the kind of good-natured variety you crave in your local summer musical fare, look no further than LOOK Musical Theatre’s 2012 season. It definitely has you covered. But first, a little history.
Once upon a time (back in the early ’80s), a local theater company called The Gilbert and Sullivan Society sprang up and began staging the light comic operas of its namesakes, classics such as “The Mikado,” “HMS Pinafore” and “The Pirates of Penzance.” The company’s popularity grew. In 1997, it changed its name to Light Opera Oklahoma and expanded its repertoire to include such works as “South Pacific,” “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd.”
In 2011, the company presented its first season of all modern musicals and changed its moniker to LOOK Musical Theatre to reflect its ever-broadening repertoire. This summer’s lineup continues that trend while nodding to some classic Broadway fare. LOOK will present “Gypsy,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “Avenue Q” in June and July at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
“We’re trying to give people an experience with musical theater that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise get in Tulsa,” says Rachel Robb, marketing director for LOOK. “We want to retain our loyal crowd that knew us as Light Opera Oklahoma, so we’re still going to do some of those classics. But we also want to expose younger generations to quality local musical theater, past and present, within a variety of cultural contexts.
“Our artistic director, Eric Gibson, decided that he wanted to present more of the shows that were happening on Broadway today … more of what musical theater and comedy is now.”
In fact, it’s precisely that desire for more current musicals that led Gibson to include the envelope-pushing 2003 Tony Award triple-crown winner “Avenue Q” among this season’s offerings. Puppets alongside human actors satirize the problems and concerns of young adulthood, but this production is definitely not intended for kids. Songs include “It Sucks to be Me,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet is for Porn,” among others.
“We have a disclaimer for this show that we really mean,” Robb says, laughing. “There’s full puppet nudity involved. Basically, ‘Avenue Q’ is a ‘Sesame Street’ parody. The characters talk about how you grow up watching PBS and thinking you’re special and everyone’s going to treat you special when you get out into the real world … but that doesn’t happen. It’s a brilliant show.”
LOOK will round out the season with two perennial Broadway favorites: “Gypsy,” often called “the greatest American musical” by critics, featuring such classic tunes as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You,” and the fast-paced, irreverent farce “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” widely regarded as one of the funniest musicals ever written. Both productions feature songs written or co-written by Stephen Sondheim.
“Our audiences always like Stephen Sondheim,” Robb says. “Plus, Eric prefers humorous productions that he can put a twist on. With ‘Gypsy’ being burlesque and ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ being one of the funniest musicals out there, I think he saw both of these as good clay to work with.”
For more information about the upcoming season, visit www.looktheatre.org.