When the pandemic shut down performances, some theater professionals suggested that the break should be thought of as intermission. If so, the pause would have lasted 500 days for the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, where "Fiddler on the Roof" opens for the holidays in the glassy building on St. Paul's Rice Park.
After false starts and scheduling hiccups brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the multi-arts venue has announced a four-show roster for the 2021-22 season for its 1,900-seat music hall main stage.
"The Ordway has been closed since last spring, and we can't wait to welcome our community, returning guests and new audiences alike," said Christine Sagstetter, interim president and CEO, in a statement.
"Nothing can match the experience of a great Broadway musical with the people you love inside our beautiful venue."
During the closure, the Ordway also lost its president and CEO, Jamie Grant. And it has put on socially distanced concerts on its loading dock.
For its Broadway lineup, the company is banking on audiences' desire to be reassured by heartwarming stories and ebullient music. The venerable "Fiddler," which tells the story of a Jewish community under threat in czarist Russia, was revived on Broadway by Bartlett Sher in 2015.
He enlisted Israeli-born choreographer Hofesh Shechter to give his contemporary take on Jerome Robbins' Tony-winning choreography from the 1964 debut.
The show features such classic songs as "Tradition," "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker."
"It's like a house that has been lovingly renovated," said Rod Kaats, the Ordway's producing artistic director. "You still have the things in there that you love but it's also new and fresh." (Nov. 30-Dec. 12)
Kaats said that a sense of renewal and refreshment runs through all the titles.
"Summer: The Donna Summer Musical," about the '70s diva who rode beats to fame and fortune, has three actors playing the title character at different parts of her life: awkward teen, breakout star and disco diva.
Actor-turned-playwright Colman Domingo, who was in "The Scottsboro Boys" at the Guthrie, co-wrote the book of this jukebox musical with Robert Cary and director Des McAnuff. It includes such hits as "I Feel Love," "Love to Love You Baby" and "Hot Stuff" (Dec. 28-Jan. 2).
The Ordway has a new stage adaptation of the 1980s Oscar-winning film, "An Officer and a Gentleman," complete with songs from the era. This is the third iteration of the show, which played in England and Australia before Dick Scanlan, who co-wrote "Thoroughly Modern Millie," was brought in to retool the show. The musical numbers include "Owner of a Lonely Heart," "Higher Love" and "Up Where We Belong" (Jan. 20-23, 2022).
For its final title, the Ordway will be smelling like pies. It will present "Waitress," singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles' show about a woman who finds solace in baking after her life is cast into tumult. The musical includes such folk-pop songs as "When He Sees Me," "Opening Up" and "She Used to Be Mine" (March 8-13, 2022).
"All four of these shows are fresh in one way or another, whether interpretations or brand-new to this market," Kaats said.
"Audiences are hungry for authentic stories. Yes, we want to laugh but we've all struggled through this period, and some of us didn't make it. After the pain and suffering, I wanted to present shows with meat in them. The way to get to joy is to acknowledge pain and struggle, and that's what the season does."
Flexible pick-your-own subscriptions, which range from $123-$395, are on sale now at Ordway.org.
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390