2018/19 ASU Gammage Broadway Season Announced

Theater Article – March 13, 2018


ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Announcing the 2018/19 Broadway Across America – Arizona series has become a big production for ASU Gammage, the local venue that presents the touring versions of major Broadway hits.  It stars Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Executive Director of ASU Gammage.  While Jennings-Roggensack implies that she selects the shows local audiences see, the season is dependent on Broadway producers willing to take a gamble that sending a show around the country will prove financially viable.  Tempe needs most, if not all, of the shows touring to create a season.  Deciding not to include a touring show is really not an option.

The new season will have one less show, seven instead of this season’s eight productions plus three returning musicals that will be optional for subscribers.  Because of two longer than one-week runs, the total weeks of Broadway shows at ASU Gammage next season moves to 16 weeks.  Jennings-Roggensack is quick to point out that her local Broadway season is sold-out on subscription, but the long standing one week runs haven’t expanded to two weeks so new audiences aren’t accommodated.  Most major cities both smaller and larger than the Phoenix metropolitan region, play Broadway touring shows longer than a week.  True success will occur when Jennings-Roggensack takes a gamble and expands local runs of every show.  The reason for next season’s overall length is that one regular season show will play three weeks and a returning show will play five weeks.

The seven show subscription opens October 2-7 with “Waitress,” a 2015 Broadway hit that looks at the relationships between personnel at a small diner.  Next will be Broadway’s most recent jukebox revue, “On Your Feet,” November 6-11, that weaves Emilio and Gloria Estefan songs into a scant story.  This year’s Tony Award-winning Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen,” plays November 27-December 2.  The show is about a lonely kid trying to find his way in a complex world.

2019 kicks off January 8-13 with the touring production of the Broadway “Hello, Dolly” revival but not with New York star Bette Midler or even her replacement Bernadette Peters but with Betty Buckley whose last Broadway hit was when she replaced original star Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard.”  Buckley made her 1969 Broadway debut in “1776.”

A three-week run of Disney’s “Aladdin,” brings the company’s lavish Broadway reincarnation of one of its movie cartoons here for three weeks, January 31-February 17.  The annual non-musical, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” pulls into Tempe March 19-24.  The season ends June 11-16 with Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” based on the children’s story.

The three returning musicals include a five week run of “Wicked” (April 3-May 5), the third time this popular show has played ASU Gammage, the 20th anniversary staging of “Rent” (May 28-June 2), and “The Book of Mormon” also back for a third engagement from August 6-11.

Two questions were shouted at Jennings-Roggensack as she ended the program.  The first was about parking.  It’s been suggested that there will be a charge to park in ASU lots near the theater.  Jennings-Roggensack didn’t want to talk about that subject but said they were working on it.  Another audience member wondered why other major cities were getting “Come From Away,” a major Broadway musical hit.  No answer was given as Jennings-Roggensack made a hasty retreat but it seems safe to assume the musical will be on a future season.

Yes, ASU Gammage will have 16 weeks of Broadway shows but we still seem to be a second-class touring city getting shows well after major American cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C, and even Denver that see touring Broadway shows much earlier than a one-week town like Phoenix/Tempe.  At least we eventually get most major Broadway tours.