SPRING AWAKENING, THE FULL MONTY and More Announced for Skylight Music Theatre 2020-2021 Season
Artistic Director Michael Unger today unveiled Skylight Music Theatre's 2020-21 season, which marks his inaugural season as artistic director. Skylight is Milwaukee's professional Equity music theatre company and located in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.
"Announcing my inaugural season at Skylight is a privilege I do not take lightly. I truly love each and every one of the shows I have selected for our 2020-2021 season. I am thrilled to share them with Milwaukee audiences on our beautiful Cabot Theatre stage, brought to life by outstanding live orchestras, scores of local performers, and with many exciting surprises," said Unger.
"All of these titles are dynamic, engaging stories, filled with fascinating, passionate protagonists; all told through a wide range of musical styles with songs that are memorable and refreshing at the same time," said Unger. "Skylight's mission is to present the full spectrum of music theatre and next season does just that. Variety is not only the spice of life-it is in keeping with the sense of quirk and fun that simultaneously looks back towards Skylight's beginnings while also looking towards Skylight's future."
Unger joined Skylight in September 2019 after the current 60th anniversary season was underway. Skylight was founded in 1959 by Clair Richardson with a simple question to some arts-loving friends: "Do you want to have some real fun?" The answer was "yes," and Skylight was born.
The 2020-2021 season launches with an epic musical to be directed by Unger. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, features book and original score composed by Dennis DeYoung, lead singer and songwriter of the legendary rock group Styx.
DeYoung is from the Chicago area, as is Unger. The two met 26 years ago, and Unger recalls going to DeYoung's home studio to hear the entire score of The Hunchback of Notre Dame sung by his childhood rock hero.
"I have been chasing after this show for decades," said Unger. "Dennis is a magnificent melody maker (think
"Babe," "Lady," "Grand Illusion," "Come Sail Away," and so many more I still have on L.P.) - and his version of this classic novel is wonderfully faithful to Hugo's original - it's a phenomenal combination. I could not think of a better season-opener for me as a way to bring together one of my favorite novels, one of my favorite rock idols, and my new theatrical home."
DeYoung said, "Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have some success in writing songs but the ones I have written for this show I love as much or more than any I've ever done. Years ago, Michael and I met outside Steppenwolf Theatre and became fast friends. He has always been a fan of my version of the Hunchback and he vowed that, should he ever be the artistic director of a theater, we would do the show. Skylight -- that's you."
That pledge comes to fruition Sept. 11-27, 2020 with the Wisconsin premiere of a newly revised version of DeYoung's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 2008 a production won the Jeff Award for Best Midsize Musical when it was presented at Chicago's Bailiwick Theatre.
For the holiday season Skylight presents the three-time Tony Award-winning classic Oliver! running from Nov. 13 through Dec. 27. Based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, this heartwarming musical features such favorite Lionel Bart songs as "Food, Glorious Food," "Where is Love?" and "Consider Yourself."
Continuing a tradition from previous holiday shows such as Newsies (2019), Hairspray (2018), and Annie (2017), the professional cast of Oliver! will be joined by local young performers. Unger said, "Oliver! is one of the most beloved musicals for good reason - the score is phenomenal, and the story pays important attention to the less fortunate segments of society. Dickens knew how to entertain and make social commentary at the same time. I look forward to holding auditions this coming spring to search for 20-24 local young performers to be double-cast in the production."
Skylight will work with a team of local writers to adapt one of the world's frothiest and most-performed operettas, Die Fledermaus. First performed in 1874 Vienna, Skylight's version will exchange champagne for beer and be set in modern-day Milwaukee. Jill Anna Ponasik will direct and Michael Pink will choreograph the piece that runs Jan. 15-31, 2021.
"I am very impressed with Jill Anna's work here at Skylight this season with her inventive re-imaginings of Oklahoma! and Ruddigore," said Unger. As soon as I came upon the idea of an updated, local version of Die Fledermaus, Jill Anna immediately came to mind as the one to bring it to Skylight audiences."
In 2017, Ernest Shackleton Loves Me charmed Off-Broadway audiences with its improbable and enchanting love story. From Feb. 12-28, 2021, Skylight presents the regional premiere of this quirky new musical written by Joe DiPietro (author of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and Memphis), Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda.
Ernest Shackleton Loves Me is a wild romantic ride linking a struggling modern-day, single-mom composer/musician and the intrepid, banjo-playing, early 20th century Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton. This ingenious musical features modern music, quadruple-threat performers (they are part of the band), online dating, and video of Shackleton's actual journey on the doomed ship, the Endurance.
"This thrilling musical explores the unexpected similarities and sacrifices made by artists and explorers in a refreshing tale that is as much suspenseful, historical travelogue, as fantastical love story," said Unger.
To close the season, Skylight presents The Full Monty from April 30 to May 23, 2021. This hilarious nine-time Tony Award-nominated musical will be produced at Skylight for the first time. An unlikely band of out-of-work friends decide to turn their lives around by baring it all for the greater good. The irresistible humor and songs lead up to perhaps the most anticipated final moment in Broadway history.
"The Full Monty is as funny (and revealing) as it is touching," said Unger. "It centers on salt-of-the-earth characters on whom unemployment has forced desperate measures. It explores many kinds of love stories, but the heart of the show is the love between a father and a son - and the lengths one must go to learn what is most important in life."
Unger also announced a special add-on production to the five-show mainstage season, Spring Awakening, which he will direct. This modern re-telling of teen angst and sexual awakening in the 19th century has a phenomenal, alternative rock score. The original Broadway production won eight Tony Awards.
"Our version will have a dynamic, young cast made up of hearing actor/musicians and deaf performers in a masterful re-imagining for all audiences that will open hearts, minds, and understanding," said Unger.
Spring Awakening is offered to Skylight subscribers at a special discounted ticket price before it goes on sale to the public.
The 2020-21 Season Announcement event was held tonight [Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020] for more than 200 patrons, subscribers, donors, and members of the arts community in Skylight's home, the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, Milwaukee, Wis.
Entertainment included a surprise visit by DeYoung, who spoke about his Hunchback, and surprised everyone by singing his number one hit song, "Babe." The event also featured performances of songs from each of the upcoming shows, performed by a cast of some of Skylight's favorite performers.
Unger added that he is hoping to offer new works initiatives starting in the 20/21 season as well as several concerts, cabarets, and other musical events throughout the year.
The 2020-2021 Skylight Music Theatre Season is as follows:
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
Sept. 11-27, 2020
Adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo
Like no Hunchback you've seen before, this musical version of Hugo's epic and romantic tale of love, lust, and obsession is written by Dennis DeYoung, lead singer/songwriter of the legendary rock band Styx. Its soaring pop score explores the beauty, hypocrisy, and tragedy of Victor Hugo's masterpiece. A Milwaukee premiere!
First Time at Skylight
Nov. 13-Dec. 27, 2020
One of the most beloved musicals ever! Presented for the first time at Skylight, this three-time Tony Award winning classic features a huge cast, including dozens of local youth. With iconic songs like "Where Is Love?" and "Food, Glorious Food," this heartwarming production is perfect for the holidays!
A Milwaukee Adaptation
Jan. 15-31, 2021
(Performed in English)
A team of local writers exchange champagne for beer to adapt one of the world's frothiest and most-performed operettas, Die Fledermaus. First performed in 1874 Vienna, Skylight's version will be set in modern-day Milwaukee. Waltz music, mistaken identities, practical jokes, and plot twists abound in this hilarious and witty production.
ERNEST SHACKLETON LOVES ME
Feb. 12-28, 2021
This 2017 Off-Broadway hit crisscrosses continents and time in an improbable and enchanting love story. With astounding ingenuity, modern music, and video of Shackleton's actual journey on the doomed ship, The Endurance, this quirky new musical is a wild romantic ride linking a struggling modern-day, single-mom composer/musician and the intrepid, banjo-playing, early 20th century Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton. From the author of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and Memphis.
THE FULL MONTY
April 30 - May 23, 2021
This hilarious, smash Broadway hit was nominated for nine Tony Awards. An unlikely band of out-of-work friends decide to turn their lives around by baring it all for the greater good. The irresistible humor and songs lead up to perhaps the most anticipated final moment in Broadway history!
This production contains adult themes and very brief nudity.
SUBSCRIBER ADD-ON: While not part of a subscription package, subscribers have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for the following at subscriber prices before tickets go on sale to the general public.
A Reimagined Version
March 12-28, 2021
This modern re-telling of teen angst and sexual awakening in the 19th century has a phenomenal, alternative rock score. The original Broadway production won eight Tony Awards. This version will have a dynamic, young cast made up of both hearing and deaf performers in a masterful re-imagining for all audiences that will open hearts, minds, and understanding.
This production contains adult themes, adult language, brief nudity, and sexual content.
Subscriptions are on sale now. Subscribers get the best seats at the best prices. Subscriptions can be purchased in person at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office or by calling (414) 291-7800, Monday - Saturday, from noon - 6 p.m. Subscriptions will be available online beginning May 4, 2020. Check for updates at www.skylightmusictheatre.org/subscribe