- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The Kennedy Center yesterday announced its upcoming performing arts season, touting a record number of diverse productions — ranging from “Sweeney Todd” to symphonic originals and a Shakespeare festival.

“Shakespeare in Washington” could be the season’s artistic zenith, a collaboration of more than 40 local arts groups, including the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Arena Stage, the National Building Museum and the National Gallery of Art. In all, the Kennedy Center will produce or present 10 productions to showcase the Bard’s enduring genius.

The festival begins in early January with a reading of “Twelfth Night” by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

The Prelude Festival, in its fifth year, will begin the KenCen’s 36th season on Sept. 1. The monthlong presentation will feature a multitude of events, many of them free, that will conclude with the world premiere of Synetic Theater’s “Frankenstein.” Synetic Theater is a new Kennedy Center constituent and will present one production a year in the center’s new Family Theater.

Another festival, Jazz in Our Time (scheduled for March 2007), will showcase some of the best-known performers of America’s music. The lineup includes pianists Marian McPartland and Ahmad Jamal, drummer Louis Bellson, saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Jackie McLean and trombonist Slide Hampton. The Cadillac Platinum Series also includes a Shakespeare-jazz fusion presentation featuring vocalist Dame Cleo Laine and her husband, Sir John Dankworth.

The upcoming season also marks the 20th anniversary of the center’s Millennium Stage and its free daily presentations, a milestone that will be celebrated Feb. 5 with gala performances on the center’s three main stages. About 2 million patrons have attended performances through the Millennium Stage series, a program underwritten by former Kennedy Center President James Johnson and his wife, Maxine Isaacs, center President Michael Kaiser said.

Among the new season’s other highlights:

• “Proteges,” an international ballet academy festival, becomes a biennial event in 2007 to host dancers from across the globe. The all-female Compagnie TcheTche from the Ivory Coast will perform in the Terrace Theater in early November.

Dance lovers also can look forward to the return of the Bolshoi and Joffrey ballets as well as the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet will perform under the Shakespeare in Washington umbrella. Also scheduled to perform: Shen Wei Dance Arts — a modern dance company and the KenCen’s new resident troupe.

• The National Symphony Orchestra continues its long association with NSO Pops conductor Marvin Hamlisch and also will feature three commissions by American composers (including one in honor of John Adams’ 60th birthday). On the lighter side, NSO conductor Leonard Slatkin will join Peter Schickele for “Serious Fun,” featuring sisters Katia and Marielle Labeque on piano, in May of 2007.

• The new season also will introduce classical music aficionados to Ivan Fischer, who begins a three-year term as NSO principal guest conductor. Mr. Fischer previously worked with the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris.

Conductor laureate Mstislav Rostropovich will lead a Shostakovich Centennial Celebration with the NSO, and opera lovers can look forward to the return of the Kirov Opera and Orchestra.

• Tony winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Baranski (a Kennedy Center mainstay) appear in “Sweeney Todd: The Reunion Concert.” The duo had leading roles in a full production of the Stephen Sondheim musical five years ago during a festival of the composer-lyricist’s works.

• Noteworthy stage productions include Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” (from Dublin’s Gate Theatre), “12 Angry Men,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin reprising their roles from last year’s Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s 1962 play) and the musicals “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Carnival!” and “The Light in the Piazza.”

Reporter Ann Geracimos contributed to this article.

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