Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, is well known for its lush, classy, reverent productions of mostly classic Broadway musicals. Has been for years, which is one of its problems. How many times does — even a theater lover — want to see a traditional revival of “South Pacific” “Fiddler” or “Dolly” ? A new interpretation, yes, maybe, but will it fill the 1200-seat space. When the Playhouse took a chance on an innovative production, I saw audiences walking out at intermission.
But things have changed in the past decade since Mark Hoebee, now producing artistic director, started working there, and Michael Gennaro, from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, became Paper Mill’s president and CEO.
They produced “Happy Days, the Musical,” “Little House on the Prairie” and the 25th anniversary production of “Les Miserables.” They all became national tours. That’s cool.
Then the Playhouse made the really smart decision to work with Disney Theatrical Productions. (Yes, I know, there’s a whole movement of anti-Disney folks, especially when it comes to the Disney-fication of Broadway, but that’s another blog.) The 2011-12 season opened with the world premiere of “Newsies!” which moved to Broadway and closes in only a few weeks from now. That’s cool, too.
Paper Mill Playhouse subscriptions up 50%
“We are very proud of our recent accomplishments,” says Managing Director Todd Schmidt on the theater’s website. “In just the past two seasons, Paper Mill Playhouse has grown its subscriber base by more than 50% to over 21,000 and the theater has seen a more diverse audience visit our campus.”
Diversity is good, especially when it includes people 30 and younger in theater seats.
So, with its 2014-15 season, the Paper Mill Playhouse truly is THE place to visit. Click here for tickets.
The 76th season is exciting
It includes the Broadway-bound revival of “Can-Can.” Besides a great Cole Porter score, if features a new book by Joel Fields (“Ugly Betty,” “The Americans”), direction by David Lee (“Frasier,” “Cheers”) and choreography by Patti Columbo (whose work on Paper Mill’s “Peter Pan” really kicked ass, “On the Town,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”).
We’ve got “Elf, its New Jersey premiere, for Christmas. That’s an alternative from the perennial “A Christmas Carol.”
Jersey Boy Christopher Durang’s homage to Chekhov, the 2013 Tony Award Best Play winner “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” comes next. The original production moved from McCarter Theatre in Princeton to Broadway with a starry cast including David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver. It’s simply hilarious. Time to start brushing up on your Chekhov for all the references Durang includes. Oh, yeah. He was born in Montclair, grew up in Berkeley Heights, and attended the Delbarton School in Morristown.
Paper Mill Playhouse again partners with Disney Theatrical Productions, which previously included “Newsies” and “High School Musical.” This season it’s the US premiere of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with music by Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,’ “Beauty and the Beast,” “Newsies,” “Pocahontas”) and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Godspell,” “Pippin”) and book by Peter Parnell. “Hunchback” is produced in association with La Jolla Playhouse.
The season closes with the world-premiere musical (I love those three word together, especially when associated with NJ theater) “Ever After,” based on the 1998 film that starred Drew Barrymore. “Ever After” will be directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall.
“What a thrill to produce another show heading for Broadway next season,” commented Mark S. Hoebee, Producing Artistic Director for the Millburn theater. “Paper Mill Playhouse is honored to bring so many incredible artists to work in New Jersey next season. The list is remarkable and includes Kathleen Marshall, Patti Colombo, Scott Schwartz, David Lee, legendary composers Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz (lyrics), future theatrical legends like Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler and our producing partners Jonathan Burrows and Kevin McCollum. We are proud to have created an irresistible lineup of stories you will love, glorious music that will warm your heart and many memorable moments of theater magic.”
I can’t agree more. Paper Mill is regaining its place as a star among the country leading theater venues.
Tickets range in price from $27 to $98.
You don’t have to like everything to save money on tickets. Three-, four-, and five-show subscription packages are available starting at $87 with benefits including discounts at local restaurants.
For varying subscription packages, new benefits and details, call the subscription office at 973-379-3717 or visit the subscribers’ page at www.tinyurl.com/pv5srex.
Groups of ten of or more are eligible for discounts up to 40%. Call group sales at 973.315.1680
Paper Mill Playhouse season details
October 1 through October 26, 2014
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Abe Burrows
Revised by Joel Fields and David Lee
A brand-new production of Cole Porter’s classic musical heading to Broadway from Paper Mill Playhouse. Pistache, a Parisian café owner, decides to feature the scandalous dance, the Can-Can, but will her defiance of the law end her business and her love life? This fresh new production features direction and a re-crafted script by the legendary David Lee (Frasier, Cheers) and showstopper choreography by Patti Columbo (Peter Pan, On the Town, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers).
November 26, 2014, through January 4, 2015
Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Music by Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
It’s the fantastical holiday musical for the entire family in its New Jersey premiere! This is the hilarious and joyous tale of Buddy, an orphan who is mistakenly transported to the North Pole and raised by Santa’s elves. Now, as a grownup, he embarks on a journey to discover his true identity. Based on the 2003 film that starred Will Farrell, Elf was a smash hit on Broadway. This is a holiday treat for your whole family from Paper Mill Playhouse.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
January 21 through February 15, 2015
By Christopher Durang
Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play! Outrageously funny! The master of comedy, Christopher Durang, mixes four distinct characters and dishes up a hilarious stew. “Will Vanya and Sonia ever find happiness? Will Masha sell the Bucks County farmhouse out from under them? And will Spike ever put his pants on?” —USA Today. Touching and wickedly, hysterically funny.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (US Premiere)
March 4 through April 5, 2015
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by Peter Parnell
Directed by Scott Schwartz
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
PRODUCED BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT WITH
DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS
Inspired by the classic Victor Hugo novel, this is the only stage collaboration between two giants of the American musical theater—composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Pocahontas) and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). An intimate retelling of the famous love story featuring a lush, emotionally rich score, Hunchback of Notre Dame will leave you inspired. See it now in its US premiere.
Ever After (World Premiere)
May 21 through June 21, 2015
Book and Lyrics by Marcy Heisler
Music by Zina Goldrich
Directed by Kathleen Marshall
The world premiere of a sparkling new musical! Adapted from the film that starred Drew Barrymore, directed and choreographed by three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall, Ever After is a wondrous tale that sets the Cinderella legend straight with the “true” story of Danielle de Barbarac, beautiful and independent, friend of da Vinci, a renaissance woman for all time. Fantastically funny, hopelessly romantic, it’s the must-see musical you’ve been waiting for!
Paper Mill Playhouse offers our audience an opportunity to enhance their theater experience with behind-the-scenes views of our main stage productions. Have you ever wanted to sneak a peek behind the curtain? Or wondered what the director was thinking, or how the cast prepares for a show? Well, here’s your chance! Join us for one of many revealing insider’s experiences. Visit the Paper Mill Playhouse website at www.papermill.org for dates for our Director’s Viewpoint Series, Conversation Club Series, Q&A With the Cast and more.
Paper Mill Playhouse offers people with disabilities the opportunity to see live theater with dignity and independence through our myriad of award-winning access programs and services, including audio description and sensory seminars for the blind, Braille and large-print programs, American Sign Language interpretation for the deaf, open-captioning for those with hearing loss, and assistive listening devices.
PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, a not-for-profit arts organization, is one of the country’s leading regional theaters. Paper Mill Playhouse programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, A Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.