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Schubert offers 2001 subscription series

Two Los Angeles theater presenters announced their 2000-01 seasons Tuesday, more than doubling the number of Broadway productions that will come through town.

For only the second time in its 18-year history, the Shubert Theater in Century City will offer a subscription series of Broadway shows in 2001.

The Abba musical “Mamma Mia!” kicks off the series on Feb. 22, followed by “Dame Edna” (May 15-27), “Saturday Night Fever” (May 28-June 24) and “Kiss Me, Kate” (Aug. 21-Oct. 14).

Broadway/L.A., run by the Nederlander Organization, is moving most of its productions from its former home, the Pantages, to the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills due to Disney’s “Lion King” taking up residence in the Hollywood Boulevard venue.

Broadway/L.A. opens its sixth season Nov. 21 with the Brit import “Gumboots,” which closes Dec. 17, and then follows with an open-ended run of “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding” at the Henry Fonda Theatre starting Nov. 30. From there, “Annie Get Your Gun” (Feb. 27-March 18); “Stomp” (March 27-April 8); “Catskills on Broadway” (May 1-13); Savion Glover in “Foot Notes” (May 29-June 10); and “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Oct. 16-28) comprise the lineup. Broadway/L.A. will also present the nonsubscription show “Riverdance” Jan. 16-Feb. 4 at the Shubert.

The Pantages seating capacity of 2,670 is a good 700 seats more than the Wilshire. The Fonda is being configured to allow 250 theatergoers per performance of “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding.”

Stiff competish

Competition for the theater dollar will be increasingly fierce over the next season as the not-for-profit Ahmanson Theater will offer the straight-from-Broadway “Swing,!” “Contact” and “Flower Drum Song.” In April, new operators of the 1,400-seat Wadsworth Theater in Westwood said they were attempting to bring in theatrical productions as well but have yet to announce shows.

This year, the Shubert has been dark with the exception of a few industrials and a four-week run of “Fosse.” The subscription series guarantees that the lights will be lit for most of the new year.

When the 2,000-seat Shubert opened in July 1972 with a production of “Follies” direct from its Broadway run at the Winter Garden Theater, the Stephen Sondheim musical was part of a subscription series in a season that included “Twigs,” “Butley” and “Grease.”

“We broke away from the subscription series initially,” said Phil Smith, president of the Shubert Organization. ” ‘A Chorus Line’ ran longer than anyone expected. And people did not want to wait 18 months for their next show on the series.”

The 1970s and 1980s produced several long-running musicals that filled the Shubert but made it difficult for the parent org to maintain a subscription series at their Los Angeles venue. In addition to “A Chorus Line,” megahits such as “Evita,” “Annie,” “42nd Street,” “Dreamgirls,” “Cats” and “Les Miserables” ran from one to two years there.

The L.A. venue took on new prestige when Andrew Lloyd Webber held the world premiere of his “Sunset Boulevard” at the Shubert in 1993. Star Glenn Close left the production seven months later, and Lloyd Webber became embroiled in controversy — and a lawsuit — when he shuttered the tuner prematurely instead of continuing its run with a new Norma Desmond, actress Faye Dunaway. In 1997, lightning missed twice when the Livent musical “Ragtime” did not perform up to expectations in its U.S. debut at the theater.

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