The 2013 production of Les Miserables
Photo: CenterStage


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They must be doing something right at CenterStage to last 100 years. The popular theatre company, located at the Jewish Community Center on Dutchman’s Lane, announced its 2014/2015 season of shows and events for the public to help commemorate the company’s Centennial.

There is something for everyone in the season’s lineup, from Chicago’s sexy, sizzling numbers to the exhilarating, socially conscious Spring Awakening, to the wicked fun of Sweeney Todd and the family classic Beauty and the Beast to the enchanting fable Once on This Island and, finally, the timeless masterpiece, Fiddler on the Roof.

Originating as the Young Men’s Hebrew Association Players, the first production, a review called Behind the Scenes, was presented on April 27, 1913, at the old YMHA at Second and Jacob Streets in downtown Louisville. The theatre group has also been known as The Center Players and Heritage Theatre through its history. Among well-known actors who have appeared in productions are Kentuckians Ned Beatty and Warren Oates. John R. Leffert took over as Artistic Director in 2000, gave the company the name CenterStage and has been instrumental in the theatre’s success over the last 14 years.

Leffert is especially adept at staging musical theatre of distinct quality and range, mixing sturdy classics such as Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music with modern, more introspective material such as A New Brain and Next to Normal. In November of last year, CenterStage became the first local company to stage Les Miserables, and introducing recent musicals to Louisville audiences has become a common part of their schedule.

The 2014/15 season opens with Chicago, June 26-July 13, which is set in the legendary city during the roaring “jazz hot” 20s, and tells the story of two rival vaudevillian murderesses locked up in Cook County Jail.

Spring Awakening, winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, is a rock musical adaptation of an 1891 expressionist play about the trials, tribulations and exhilaration of teen years. It runs Aug. 7-17 and CenterStage is planning a panel discussion for local teens to talk about the issues they face today.

Perfect for the spooky autumn season, Sweeney Todd plays Oct. 23-Nov. 9. It’s a musical thriller about a vengeful 19th century London barber who goes on a murderous rampage and the baker who cooks his victims into pies.

The year 2015 kicks off with Disney’s classic musical love story, Beauty and the Beast, filled with dazzling numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song. The show runs Jan. 8-Jan. 25 and the little ones are invited to have tea with their favorite characters before a matinee show.

Once on This Island, an enchanting musical fable, tells the story of forbidden love between people from two different worlds. During its Feb. 12-23 run, CenterStage invites the public to enjoy and learn more about the craft of storytelling at a special event with a gifted practitioner of the art.

The season finale celebrates the company’s cultural roots with the beloved classic Fiddler on the Roof, March 12-29. Tevye, the father of five daughters, tries to balance Jewish tradition with the modern world and its ever-changing political and social landscape. The production dovetails with the JCC of Louisville’s 125th anniversary and a joint celebration will mark the occasion.

Throughout the season, there will be opportunities aplenty for theatre-goers to help CenterStage celebrate 100 years of incredible community theatre, including:

100th Season Launch Party –  June 25, 2014 Join Louisville’s arts community and government leadership as we celebrate the Commonwealth’s oldest theatre with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and a special preview performance of Chicago.

Teen Awakening – Aug. 17, 2014 What’s it really like to be a teen in 2014?  Enjoy a special performance of Spring Awakening and then join the conversation with real-life teens and parents, plus a live twitter feed, to discuss what’s really going on.

Louisville’s Got Talent – Sept. 21, 2014 Who knew there were so many talented young people in Louisville?!  Come vote for your favorite acts in the final round of Louisville’s Got Talent. Does your kid have what it takes? First Round Auditions are September 7.

Broadway Musicals – A Jewish Legacy – Oct. 11, 2014 Join CenterStage and the Jewish Film Festival  for a special viewing of this documentary to celebrate the role Jews have played in making Broadway what it is today.

Light Up CenterStage – Dec. 6, 2014 Join us for our annual fundraiser, a dazzling night of Broadway scenes by your favorite CenterStage performers, live and silent auctions, o’rdeauves, decadent desserts and a full open bar.

Tea with Beauty and the Beast – Jan. 11 & 18, 2015 It’s a dream come true! Bring the little ones for a special event before the matinee performance of Beauty and the Beast.

Once Upon and Island – Feb. 15, 2015 Did you know that storytelling is a historical art form? Bring the whole family to learn the do’s and don’ts of storytelling followed by lunch and a performance of Once On This Island.

CenterStage Auditions – March 14-22, 2015 Are your friends and family tired of you humming along to all of the songs during each performance? Come strut your stuff and see if you have what it takes to be part of the CenterStage company.

a birthday party June 25 with some of the biggest names in Louisville to kick the season off.

“I’m incredibly proud to continue the 100-year tradition of CenterStage with this season’s line-up. We’ve carefully selected highly entertaining productions and planned so many wonderful ways the community can engage with the shows and the company. It’s going to be tremendous centennial year, truly worthy of CenterStage’s history and legacy for top-notch community theatre,” said John Leffert, CenterStage artistic director.