ASU Gammage Announces 2022/23 Broadway Season

Theater Announcement – April 20, 2022


2022/23 Broadway Across America Arizona Season Announcement
ASU Gammage
Tempe AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Two words came to mind after the 2022/23 Broadway Across America season at ASU Gammage was announced.  The first word was “disappointment” at the lack of four big Broadway hit musicals all touring and all playing nearby cities.  The shows missing include “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations,” “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” “Jagged Little Pill,” and Broadway’s biggest recent triumph, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”

The second word that came to mind was “miserable” at the seven shows included.  Yes, there are two fine plays – “To Kill A Mockingbird” starring Richard Thomas (December 6-11, 2022) and “A Soldier’s Play” starring Norm Lewis (May 16-21, 2023) – but non-musicals at ASU Gammage struggle to have dialogue heard as the productions fight the ASU Gammage-concert-hall-designed acoustics which are terrible for musicals and miserable for plays.

Of the five musicals coming, two are retreads of shows ASU Gammage and many local theaters have presented numerous times – “Hairspray” (June 20-25, 2023) and “Jesus Christ Superstar” (January 31-February 5, 2023) – leaving just three new Broadway musicals that haven’t been here before – the Broadway hit “Six” (opening the season October 4-9, 2022), the family-oriented “Disney’s Frozen” (February 22-March 5, 2023), and the recently re-opened on Broadway fan favorite “Beetlejuice” (August 22-27, 2023).  Again, where are the four big Broadway musicals that are touring and that are playing nearby cities?

ASU Gammage apparently has little influence with Broadway Across America which books the local season.  It is easy to assume that the shows not coming in the 2022/23 season will show up later.  Unfortunately, after tours have played an entire season or more before playing here, the productions don’t look as sharp.  They are riddled with cast replacements and sloppy stagings because it has been so long since the original directors and choreographers have been around to sharpen them.

Why do tour stops like Seattle, Orange County, Las Vegas, Denver, and San Diego get all or most of these shows long before we do?  Some of these cities are Broadway Across America cities while others use the Nederlander company to book shows.  Other cities have different agencies that schedule the tours.  Excuses that tour routings don’t allow a Tempe stop seem ridiculous when the four major touring Broadway shows are playing in this part of the country.

At one time, ASU Gammage claimed that Tempe’s one-week run was critical to touring producers but that apparently is no longer the case.  For the past several seasons, subscribers purchase the majority of tickets for the single week run.  Why can’t the fifth largest city in the country in one of the 20 largest metropolitan areas support a two-week or longer run like other cities our size?

Yes, adding a week or more to the local Broadway runs would cost more, but ASU Gammage has 11-University-paid staff in development, marketing, and communications that are paid to sell tickets among other things they do.  Shouldn’t this staff have to work to sell more tickets?

Maintaining the status quo seems to be Broadway Across America’s goal here so the best local Broadway musical lovers can expect is short runs of shows that played Broadway and other tour cities seasons earlier.

The local series plays in a converted concert-hall that was never intended to house Broadway musicals or plays.  Remodeling the backstage area at great expense was required to get large touring shows to fit in the space.

When will this community build an appropriate theater like Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre which can accommodate musicals in a 2,100-seat configuration or a play in a smaller seating arrangement?  ASU Gammage and the local Broadway Across America series will always be a second-tier, one-week town for touring Broadway musicals while other nearby cities like Las Vegas, Orange County, and San Diego, some smaller than the Phoenix/Tempe community, are treated to earlier and often longer runs of major Broadway tours.

The local Broadway series remains comparable to touring to such second-tier towns as Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Omaha, Des Moines, and Pittsburgh among others but even these burgs get some or all of the four big shows next season that Phoenix audiences won’t see.  What will it take for ASU Gammage to break out of this second-tier city slump?