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Broadway at the Hobby goes Tony bold with Carrie Fisher, underground Memphis

Broadway at the Hobby goes Tony bold with Carrie Fisher, underground Memphis

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Carrie Fisher in "Wishful Drinking" Photo by Joan Marcus
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A scene from the "Tree of Life" segment in "The Lion King" Photo by Joan Marcus
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Montego Glover and the cast of "Memphis" Photo by Joan Marcus
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"Million Dollar Quartet," original Broadway cast Photo by Joan Marcus
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"Come Fly Away," original Broadway cast Original Broadway Cast © 2010, Joan Marcus
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"The Addams Family," original Broadway cast Photo by Joan Marcus
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Bold artistic moves can be risky. But they can also pay off when the risk is calculated.

For its 2011-2012 season, Gexa Energy Broadway at the Hobby Center focuses solely on shows never staged in Houston, a drastic change in strategy from the 2010-2011 lineup — musicals like the revival of Jerome Robbins production of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats (the longest running North American touring production) and Mamma Mia, a love story through ABBA's popular tunes, are traditionally good investments. Tickets sell rather well.

Memphis, Million Dollar Quartet, The Addams Family, Come Fly Away and Wishful Drinking may not necessarily ring a musical bell with Houston audiences, but have certainly made a mark on Broadway earning more than a handful of Tony Awards.

And for those that need something familiar and epic, there is always The Lion King, coming back to Houston for the third time.

Winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical (and three others) and four 2010 Drama Desk Awards, Memphis brings the underground clubs of the 1950s to the foreground through the lives of a white radio DJ and a black club singer who follow their passions together. But there is more to this show than just good singing and dancing. Issues of racism and segregation add sophistication to the otherwise stereotypical story of the pursuit of happiness.

Written by Joe DiPietro who brought you I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change with music by Bon Jovi's founding member David Bryan, Memphis premieres in October.

Behind the dark weirdness of The Addams Family lies the all familiar American story of the girl that falls in love with an unacceptable suitor — in this case, a nice respectable man. Maybe it was Nathan Lane (legendary in The Birdcage and The Producers) as Gomez or Bebe Neuwirth (who played the cold and analytical Lilith Sternin in Cheers) as Morticia that propelled this show forward, or the nostalgic familiarity with the original characters by cartoonist Charles Addams.

Houston is definitely strange and quirky enough to host The Addams Family. Opens January 2012.

Everyone loves a true story set to music, especially when music is the center of the story. Million Dollar Quartet is inspired by that infamous recording session that brought music legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins together at Sun Records in Memphis. Currently playing in Chicago and Broadway, this classic rock 'n' roll drama comes to Houston in February 2012.

Come Fly Away is so new, their website is coming soon. The show mingles classic sultry Frank Sinatra melodies with Tony Award-winner Twyla Tharp, who has been choreographing Sinatra songs since the 1970s.

The skilled ballroom dancers narrate love stories accompanied by a rowdy 14-piece big band. The runs starts in April 2012.

Having premiered in 2006 in Los Angeles, Wishful Drinking traces the life of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). Winning the 2010 Outer Critics' Circle Award, New York Times Times critic Ben Brantley described it as "an extremely funny full-frontal confession" divulging mischievously into the drinking and sobering of this Hollywood legend. Opens May 2012.

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