Union Theater bringing on Broadway

Photo by JOAN MARCUSHilary Maiberger, left plays Belle and Darick Pead is the Beast in the traveling production of Beauty and the Beast, coming to the LSU Union Theater Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.
Photo by JOAN MARCUSHilary Maiberger, left plays Belle and Darick Pead is the Beast in the traveling production of Beauty and the Beast, coming to the LSU Union Theater Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.

Give my regards to Broadway ...

No, really. Musical theater fans in the Baton Rouge don’t have to make a trip to New York this year, because plenty of Broadway will be coming to them.

Make that fully staged and orchestrated musicals in an intimate setting. That’s something fans don’t always get in New York, where the theaters have three tiers.

But that’s not the case in the 1,500-seat LSU Union Theater, where sitting in the seat farthest from the stage feels as if you’re in the middle of the action.

There will be plenty of action as the theater fills its 2013-14 “Union Theater Presents” season with Broadway musicals. Well, mostly Broadway shows, because the season opens with a New York-based dance production with Louisiana roots.

And it all happens after Larry King comes to town and spends time with former Gov. Edwin Edwards.

“ Larry King Live is one of our stand alone shows,” Terry Serio said.

Serio is the theater’s assistant director for event development. She credits Director Michael Derr for developing the Larry King Live idea.

The show’s full title will be Larry King Live with Edwin Edwards and Leo Honeycutt: Oh What a Night. King will come to Baton Rouge on Sunday, Sept. 8. The show starts at 4:30 p.m.

“He’ll follow his television format, interviewing Edwin Edwards for 15 to 20 minutes at a time with Leo Honeycutt providing narration in the breaks,” Serio said. “It won’t be telecast; it will happen only in the Union Theater.”

Meaning you won’t be able to see this interview anywhere else. Ever.

“Michael Derr came up with this concept,” Serio said. “He asked, ‘If you could have anyone in the theater, who would you bring in?’ And he thought of Larry King. Larry King has interviewed everyone, and Michael thought it would be great if we could have him interviewing Edwin Edwards here.”

Honeycutt will sign copies of his 2009 Edwards biography, Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana, after the show.

Other stand-alone shows on the schedule will be an appearance by magician Adam Trent, nicknamed the “Justin Timberlake of magicians.” He’ll spin his magic on stage on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Also, Kid Power: Operation Lunch Line will be offered as a school day performance to school classes on Thursday, Oct. 3, and Comedy Central on Campus, will come to the theater on Thursday, Oct. 10. The latter show will feature Comedy Central Network comedians T.J. Miller and Kevin Barnett.

And then — drum roll, please — the “Union Theater Presents” season begins.

“I know the River Center also offers Broadway shows,” Serio said. “But we’re bringing Broadway shows to Baton Rouge, too. So, Baton Rouge will have a variety.”

In the past, the Union Theater filled its main stage schedule with shows of different genres. But this year is different.

“Our subscribers said they would like to see more Broadway musicals,” Serio said. “So, we decided to fill our season with that this year.”

And again, the Union Theater is smaller than most theaters where these musicals play out, giving its audience a more intimate experience. Audience members will be getting a closer view of their favorite shows, as if they’re in the middle of the action.

Shows in the lineup are the 2010 Tony Award-winning Memphis on Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 25-26; Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014; Sweet Charity on Friday, March 7, 2014; Yesterday — Beatles Tribute on Friday, March 21, 2014; and Hello Dolly on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

And kicking off the season will be Racine D’or, or The Golden Root.

Racine D’or is an original modern dance created by the Movement Workshop of Brooklyn, N.Y. The show is inspired by the culture and folklore of the Deep South, finding its roots in the beats of zydeco music and the rich, colorful communities of Louisiana.

Louisiana native Cedric Watson, a four-time Grammy Award nominee, collaborated with the Movement Workshop in the creation of this work.

“CODOFIL is supporting it, and Christine Chrest, and adjunct professor at LSU, will have open auditions, where she’ll cast up to 10 local dancers who will learn the choreography and have a chance to be in the show,” Serio said. “This will be a chance for them to perform with an international dance company. We’re really excited about this production. We’ve been working with them for two years on this.”

So, New York is coming to Baton Rouge in the form of dance and musical theater, playing out in the personal setting of the LSU Union Theater.

Yes, definitely give my regards to Broadway.