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Kennedy Center plans Iberian festival, new musical

WASHINGTON (AP) — Artists from Spain and Portugal will be a centerpiece of the Kennedy Center's next season, along with a first for the performing arts giant: its own new musical.

The 2014-2015 season, announced Tuesday, includes an ambitious slate of theater, dance and music totaling more than 2,000 performances beginning in the fall. The center's next major international festival — after past series focused on Japan, the Arab world and Nordic arts — will come in March 2015. "Iberian Suite: Arts Remix Across Continents" will showcase some of the best artists from Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon, as well as artists from Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere, said Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser.

"There's really, really amazing art that's emerged from Spain and Portugal, but very importantly, that art has also influenced so much of the world," he said. "So it's art that goes beyond its own borders and crosses many continents."

Beyond the performing arts, the three-week festival also will include visual art exhibits, film, literature, architecture and cuisine from the Iberian peninsula to show the cultural roots of Spain and Portugal that have spread around the world.

This is the final season planned under Kaiser, who is stepping down in August after 13 years leading the cultural center that serves as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy. Deborah Rutter, the head of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will become the center's next president as its new season begins.

The center's budget totals nearly $200 million, and a record $124 million is devoted to programming. The new season includes new works in theater, opera, music and dance with the first visit of the Scottish Ballet and a new production of "Don Quixote" by The Royal Ballet" from London. The center will also host a 2015 revival of the musical "Gigi," which is bound for Broadway for the first time in more than 40 years.

The theater season also includes tours of "Once," ''Evita," ''Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and a return of "The Book of Mormon" for an extended run after its sellout Washington premiere last year.

While the Kennedy Center has produced new plays and other musical revivals in the past, October will bring the premiere of its first new musical with "Little Dancer." It's inspired in part by an Edgar Degas sculpture, "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen" at the National Gallery of Art. The story is about a young ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas and inadvertently becomes the world's most famous dancer.

A Tony Award-winning team is collaborating on the project. It features a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the creators behind the Kennedy Center's revival of "Ragtime" that moved to Broadway in 2009. "Little Dancer" is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, who directed and choreographed "The Producers," among other musicals.

It will feature New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Tiler Peck in a lead role. Kaiser said that will draw interest from ballet fans who may not normally attend musicals. Producers in Washington are hopeful the show could eventually transfer to another venue.

"Doing a new musical is certainly ambitious, and we have not done one. When I got to the Kennedy Center in 2001, we had not produced any theater of our own in 14 years," Kaiser said, noting the center went on to create several new works. "I thought finally we're ready to do a new musical."

Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat

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