The Columbus Dispatch – June 12, 2014 07:20 PM
After one of the oddest Broadway seasons in decades with no overwhelming favorite and a Tony awards show that spread recognition widely, the murky future of Broadway touring remains almost as murky.
Usually, by this point, the producers of the season’s biggest hits have announced plans to start their first national tours within another year or two. That usually whets the appetite of central Ohio theatergoers, who start anticipating the visits of the biggest hits.
Not this year.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder did win the top Tony for best musical, plus Tonys for book and direction. Yet, its fate remains uncertain, despite a nice bump in post-Tony ticket sales.
Jefferson Mays, left to right, as Henry D’Ysquith, Jennifer Smith, and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro in a scene from the Broadway musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.
After opening last fall to the best reviews of the season, this clever musical adaptation of the film Kind Hearts and Coronets – about a British heir who progressively murders relatives in the way of his inheritance – didn’t become a big Broadway hit.
Its new Tony status – with a total of four wins, tied for the most in a weak year – may not confirm it as a major hit, either. Time should tell.
Yet, road presenters around the country and in Columbus are likely to want the musical as part of their 2015 or 2016 seasons even so. It simply may not be the diadem in their line-up.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a feisty Broadway revamp of the quirky off-Broadway hit, tied Gentleman with four Tonys, including best musical revival and nods to its star (Neil Patrick Harris) and equally gender-bent supporting player (Lena Hall).
Will Hedwig tour?
The quick answer: Only if the catty German singer really wants to. (Ba da dum.)
Lena Hall, left, with Neil Patrick Harris in the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch at New York’s Belasco Theatre. Credit: Sara Krulwich The New York Times
I’m hoping for the best, but doubt it for several reasons.
First, musical revivals don’t tour as often as new musicals.
Second, this one is definitely star-driven – and there’s no way road presenters can expect Harris to lead the show on tour.
Third and perhaps most influential with regional presenters, Hedwig is decidedly unconventional as a flamboyant gender-bending show eager to be confrontational with audiences. That might be a few inches too far for some Broadway-loving theatergoers to go across the country.
Perhaps time has partly domesticated its outrageous pleasures — a wonderfully jagged rock musical about a transvestite rock singer whose sad story about unrequited love and a botched sex-change operation is told, rock-concert-style – so Hedwig might well be heading our way in a season or two.
Yet, I fear that even if Hedwig launches a promising tour, audience reactions may force the tour to be – ahem – cut short.
Much more likely is the next national tour from the Disney empire.
No question that Aladdin, with one Tony for its chameleonic title character, seems to be settling in for a long and healthy Broadway run.
The question for Columbus is how many years it will take for this family-oriented show to follow the giant Disney footsteps of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins into the Ohio Theatre.
Since Broadway in Columbus has already confirmed and announced its 2014-15 season, I’m hoping we’ll hear good news about Aladdin for the 2015-16 season.
James Monroe Iglehart, center, and the cast of Aladdin perform on stage June 8, 2014, at the 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Of all the Broadway shows nominated for a Tony, central Ohio audiences might have a chance to see Beautiful –The Carole King Musical first.
The jukebox musical has a built-in fan base with aging boomers who fell in love with Tapestry and King’s other great 1960s and 1970s songs.
Just consider some of her best tunes: Some Kind of Wonderful, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, One Fine Day, Pleasant Valley Sunday, It’s Too Late, I Feel the Earth Move, You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural Woman) and the title song.
Such a string of hits makes me feel like this musicals’ road prospects are some kind of wonderful.
Although Jesse Mueller won the Tony for best lead actress in a musical, that role looks like it can be cast and work well with a wide variety of strong singer-actors. This is a bio-musical that doesn’t need star power to cast its nostalgic spell.
All of which makes me predict that Beautiful is likely to be a beautiful addition to an upcoming Broadway in Columbus season – and quicker than Aladdin can cast another Disney spell or Hedwig can get somewhat domesticated for smoother regional consumption.
Jessie Mueller as Carole King, left to right, Anika Larson, Jarrod Spector, and Jake Epstein in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at New York’s Stephen Sondheim Theater Credit: Joan Marcus
Much less doubtful for tours are Bullets over Broadway, the Woody Allen collaboration with choreographer-director Susan Stroman adapting his Oscar-winning 1920s period film to the stage with a 1920s-30s jukebox full of old songs; or Rocky, the Sylvester Stallone collaboration with the great songwriting team of Ahrens and Flaherty (Ragtime, Seussical) adapting his Oscar-winning film about an underdog boxer gearing up for a big fight.
Neither musical received a make-or-break nomination for best musical.
Yet, both shows seem to be entertaining Broadway audiences – and are fighting to stay open.
If they can survive and thrive through word of mouth, their longevity in New York might arouse talk of possible tours. Yet, they’ll have to do more than break even at the box office and run more than half a year before such against-the-odds success might develop. (Don’t count Rocky out; he’s faced such odds before.)
Meanwhile, it’s indicative of an odd season with no obvious front-runner super hit – like The Book of Mormon or Hairspray or Wicked were in other seasons – that none of the national tours announced for 2014 involve any of the above shows.
The musicals that are still scheduled to begin touring in 2014 are Dirty Dancing (to start in late August), an adaptation of the popular movie musical that’s never played Broadway; Kinky Boots (to start in September), the 2013 Tony winner for best musical; Pippin (to start in late September), the circus-framed revisal of the Stephen Schwartz musical that won the 2013 Tony for best musical revival; Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (to start touring in October), the glossy enhanced revisal of the 1950s TV musical; and Newsies the Musical (to start touring in late October).
Of these upcoming tours, only one has been booked so far for Columbus: Newsies: The Musical, a youth-oriented Disney production that won Tonys for choreography and Alan Menken’s score and focuses on New York newsboys on strike in 1899. Broadway in Columbus and the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts announced months ago that Newsies will visit Columbus Jan. 13-18 at the Ohio Theatre.
That’s good "news" even if other upcoming national tours seem even less definite. Nice Work If You Can Get It, a "new" Gershwin musical comedy that had a disappointing Broadway run of a little over a year, and Chaplin, a Broadway musical that only lasted a few months, both were announced by their producers for 2014 tours that have yet to be scheduled.
Columbus theater troupes, meanwhile, might consider for local productions the musicals that got respectful reviews and won Tony recognition but didn’t last as long.
Best case in point: The Bridges of Madison County, which earned composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown a Tony for best score and another for orchestrations.
But most area troupes will be more interested in mounting their own versions of the Tony-nominated plays – not so much All the Way, the epic political drama about LBJ that went all the way to win the top tony for best play but its also-ran Tony nominees.
Especially Outside Mulligar, a romantic comedy about two Irish misfits by John Patrick Shanley (Doubt, Moonstruck). Brian F. O’Byrne and Debra Massing starred in the central relationship on Broadway, but it doesn’t look like you need star power to make this play work – just a few good actors.
Central Ohio’s leading professional and semi-professional troupes surely have the talent to tackle any of the new Broadway plays of the 2014-15 season. It’s just a question of which show fits local talents best and when the rights can be obtained.
Gentlemen, start your bidding wars.Tags: actor, actress, concert, director, film, movie, music, producer, singer, tour, tv