2013-14 Broadway Series: Blue Man Group, 'Memphis (The Musical),' 'Mamma Mia!'

2013-14 Broadway Series: Blue Man Group, 'Memphis (The Musical),' 'Mamma Mia!'

A theater season is being squeezed into four months at the State Farm Center's WCIA 3 Broadway Series.

Because the building formerly known as the Assembly Hall is being renovated in the spring, the truncated Broadway Series can take place only in the months before basketball season ends, State Farm Center Director Kevin Ullestad said.

The cost for a series subscription ranges from $126 to $190. Orders are also subject to additional ticket fees. University of Illinois students will receive a $24 discount on the series ($8 per show).

Tickets can be ordered by calling the State Farm Center ticket office at 866-ILLINI-1 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or by going online at http://www.uofiassemblyhall.com.

Three blockbusters highlight the series, Ullestad said.

"We've got three of the top touring productions across the country," he said.

A quick rundown:

Blue Man Group makes a return trip to Champaign at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19-20.

The blue men are best known for concerts that combine comedy, music and technology. The New York Times called the show "one of the most delightful performance pieces ever staged."

With no spoken words, a Blue Man Group performance can be enjoyed by people of all ages, languages and cultures, according to a State Farm Center news release.

"The Blue Man Group is a thrilling show to see; it's not your traditional Broadway show," Ullestad said.

"Memphis (The Musical)" is at 7 p.m. Oct. 30.

"From the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, comes a hot new Broadway musical that bursts off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs and a thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love," a State Farm Center news release noted.

This show is inspired by actual events, about a radio deejay "who wants to change the world," and a singer ready for a big break.

The show won four 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. "Memphis" was a Tony-winning book by Joe DiPietro, author of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change."

The music has a rock pedigree: a Tony-winning original score with music by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan.

"It's the entire history of blues and jazz and growing up in America," Ullestad said.

"Mamma Mia!" will take the stage at 7 p.m. Dec. 8.

Writer Catherine Johnson's play is set on a Greek island. A young woman seeks to find her biological father, so three men who were involved with her mother return to the island after two decades.

The show is based on ultra-frothy hits by the Swedish band Abba.

"We've been working on getting 'Mamma Mia!' for about year and a half," Ullestad said. "We had it three years ago, and it did very well."

Compared to usual cavernous events at the former Assembly Hall, the Broadway Series is on a smaller scale.

"There are 3,600 seats, making for a more intimate setting," Ullestad said.

But not that intimate, he added, mentioning the 80-foot curtains.

The director said the UI is unique among college campuses in having a large arena that can be transformed with a rigging structure and theater grid to capture the Broadway experience.

Topics (1):Theater