The holidays are behind us, and it's time to turn our attention to what's shaping up as an exciting first quarter in the Hampton Roads arts arena. Several premieres are coming our way, and some major talent is dropping by. Here's a look at some upcoming highlights:
"Disney's Beauty and the Beast." Jan. 19-20, Ferguson Center for the Arts.
More than 35 million people worldwide have seen this eye-popping musical based on the beloved 1991 Disney film about Belle and her Beast. The show opened on Broadway in 1994, and for this tour, the original creative team, including director Rob Roth and choreographer Matt West, were reunited.
The musical's strengths include a strong score by composer Alan Menken and the late lyricist Howard Ashman, with additional lyrics by Tim Rice, and color sets and costumes. Darick Pead stars as the Beast with Hilary Maiberger as Belle and Joe Hager as Gaston.
Adults will enjoy the love story, and the kids will be captivated by the colorful dance numbers.
There are four performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Jan. 20. Tickets are $47-$67 by calling 757-594-8752 or online at fergusoncenter.cnu.edu.
Jane Monheit and Mark O'Connor. Jan. 31, The American Theatre.
HamptonArts always does a great job bringing in over-the-top performers who complement its intimate American Theatre setting and play off each other's talents. Vocalist Jane Monheit and string player Mark O'Connor are friends who enjoy working together. Both have appeared in this area but never together.
The pair will perform American jazz and popular songs. Monheit has a great style with jazz standards, and O'Connor improvisational skills are a sure bet.
There's one 7:30 p.m. performance. Tickets are $27.50 and $32.50 by calling 757-722-2787 or online at http://www.hamptonarts.net.
Virginia Opera's "A Streetcar Named Desire." Feb. 16-24, Harrison Opera House.
Virginia Opera has embarked on an exciting new mission to introduce Hampton Roads audiences to new works sprinkled in with the familiar repertoire. Some will be contemporary American works, such as Philip Glass' "Orphee" presented last season. The company also has pledged to open each season with an opera standard that has never been seen here before.
In February, the adventure continues with "A Streetcar Named Desire," Andre Previn's 1998 musical adaptation of the classic Tennessee Williams play. Previn is a composer with a strong jazz influence, and critics have given him high marks for infusing the score with a New Orleans flavor. Previn has said that Williams' emotional, Southern-drenched story was tailor-made for opera.
Sam Helfrich, who directed the well-received "Orphee," returns to direct "Streetcar." The conductor is Ari Pelto, who has worked at New York City Opera and numerous regional companies since 2004.
The cast is led by hunky baritone David Adam Moore as Stanley Kowalski. Kelly Cae Hogan, who appeared in Virginia Opera's "Die Walküre" in 2011, returns as Blanche DuBois.
Tickets are $32-$114 available by calling 757-877-2550 or online at http://www.vaopera.org.
Virginia Stage Company's "Frog Kiss." Jan. 15-Feb. 3, Wells Theatre.
The stage company brings a sassy new musical to town in "Frog Kiss," which is subtitled "A Fairytale for Consenting Adults." The project is adapted from a book, "The Frog Prince" by Stephen Mitchell, with book and lyrics by Charles Leipart and music by Eric Schorr.
In the light-hearted tale, a scientist-princess named Clementine meets a frog she is determined to turn into a prince.
"Frog Kiss" was well-received when it was mounted at the 2010 New York Music Theatre Festival. The Norfolk run will be directed by Kenneth L. Roberson and stars Curtis Holbrook as The Frog, who's in love with Clementine played by Stephanie Rothenberg. Holbrook appeared in "Xanadu" on Broadway last season and played Zac Efron's best buddy in the movie version of the musical, "Hairspray."