"From a consumer perspective, this is a juggernaut season," said Jeff Daniel, president of the Hippodrome at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center.
There is little doubt that "Wicked" will once again prove magnetic, as it did in 2007 when it first played the Hippodrome. Also returning to Baltimore will be another popular musical, "Beauty and the Beast," the Disney-created venture based on the animated film about the lovely Belle and the prince who has been turned into a pretty scary creature.
A nonmusical is scheduled to round out the list of multiweek bookings that form the portion of the season subscription package — "Lombardi," by playwright and director Eric Simonson.
As in past seasons, a selection of one-week engagements rounds out the Hippodrome activity (the theater's 9,000 subscribers get first pick of tickets to these). Here is a look at the 2012-2013 season.
'Wicked' The award-winning musical, which provides a back story for the Land of Oz and the two witches who will change the life of an unsuspecting farm girl from Kansas, is scheduled to open the season Oct. 3 and run for a month.
"With 'Wicked,' we have a shot at breaking the box-office record we just set with 'Lion King' this season," Daniel said.
'Beauty and the Beast' This play last visited Baltimore a decade ago at the Mechanic Theatre. When it hits the Hippodrome for a two-week engagement starting in January 2013, it will be with a non-Equity cast — performers who are not members of Actors' Equity Association, the labor union that represents actors and stage managers across the country.
"We're a union house," Daniel said, "but the production quality of non-Equity shows has increased pretty dramatically. I've seen some Equity productions that made me go, 'Really?'"
'Billy Elliot' One more hit musical with a cinematic connection is on the multiweek list next season. "Billy Elliot" is based on the much-admired film of the same name. The show is set in a troubled British mining community, where an 11-year-old boy discovers the urge to dance.
With a score by Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall and imaginative choreography by Peter Darling, "Billy Elliot" enjoyed considerable success on Broadway before closing last month. It will provide the Hippodrome with a holiday attraction, running Dec. 18-30.
'Lombardi' This show about the legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins ran on Broadway during the 2010-2011 season with Dan Lauria in the title role. At this point, that noted TV and film actor is slated to star in the touring production, which would play the Hippodrome in March 2013.
'American Idiot' With a book by Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer, "American Idiot" enjoyed a yearlong run on Broadway. A touring production hit the road in late December and is scheduled for Baltimore in May 2013.
'Million Dollar Quartet' Due in late November for a weeklong engagement, "Million Dollar Quartet" opened on Broadway in the spring of 2010 and transferred the next year off-Broadway, where it continues to run. The musical recreates a remarkable confluence on Dec. 4, 1956, when Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley jammed in a Memphis recording studio.
'Flashdance' The last item in the Hippodrome season does not come from Broadway, but if all goes well, it's headed there — a stage version of the 1983 film "Flashdance." In addition to songs from the film, including "Maniac" and "Gloria," the musical features newly composed material by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary. The show, with a book by Cary and Tom Hedley, premiered in England four years ago. A New York opening is envisioned after a U.S. tour, which will include the Hippodrome for a week in February 2013.
2013-2014 season It may take a little discipline to focus squarely on the Hippodrome's 2012-2013 season, since some tantalizing hints have already dropped about 2013-2014. Daniel would not comment on the possibility of "The Book of Mormon" for that season, but indications are that Baltimore could be a stop when that extremely popular show goes on its national tour. The next season does, however, promise the much-heralded staging of a World War I saga about a boy and his equine friend.
"We do have 'War Horse' in our sights," Daniel said. "That's one I've been stalking for a while. We'll have it in 2013-14."
Subscriptions for the 2012-2013 Hippodrome Broadway Series start at $164.50. Renewals begin Sunday. New subscriptions go on sale March 28. Call 800-343-3103 or go to broadwayacrossamerica.com/baltimore. Also available at the box office, 12 N. Eutaw St.