- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

The Kennedy Center is going “back to the future” for its 2004-2005 season. The national center for the performing arts yesterday announced its new season, a collection of performances that build upon existing programs while offering a few new wrinkles.

None is so bold as “A New America: The 1940s and the Arts,” the largest effort ever put forth by the Kennedy Center. The $13.75 million program features a raft of productions, from a restaging of the Broadway hit “Mister Roberts” to a tribute to jazz great Charlie Parker.

“Many of the most creative people in the world were doing their best work … in the ‘40s,” Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser said yesterday.

The season begins with the third annual Prelude Festival, which tips its hat to Puerto Rican culture.

The National Symphony Orchestra caps the festival with its own season opener, a 60th birthday bash for Music Director Leonard Slatkin. The event will feature Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Sir James Galway and Emanuel Ax, among others.

The upcoming dance season marks the return of the Paul Taylor, Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey dance companies as well as the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The latter will be part of the “Masterpieces of African-American Choreography” showcase.

Theater fans can look forward to the District premiere of “Hairspray” as well as a new, pre-Broadway production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Kennedy Center Honors recipient James Earl Jones will join Diahann Carroll for a new version of “On Golden Pond.”

Mr. Kaiser will even pull a James Lipton (host of Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio”) by presiding over a new interview program dissecting the career choices of some of today’s more intriguing stars. The first two performers lined up for “Voices of the Arts” will be Marilyn Horne and John Lithgow.

Mr. Kaiser said he understood the scale involved with the massive 1940s project, which required “clearing the decks” of several months of scheduling.

“If we were going to do it, we had to do it in a big way,” he said.

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