2023/24 ASU Gammage Broadway Series Announcement

Theater Commentary – March 13, 2023


2023/24 Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

An interesting postcard arrived March 9 announcing the top-secret Broadway Across America – Arizona season before the scheduled March 13 revealation.at ASU Gammage.

No real surprises in the nine shows since several Broadway Across America seasons had already been announced as have the touring Broadway shows so deciding the l0cal line-up wasn’t rocket science.

The expected shows are coming – “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” (October 10-15), “Ain’t Too Proud The Life and Times of The Temptations” (November 14-19), “The Wiz” (January 2-7), “Jagged Little Pill” (January 30-February 4), “MJ The Musical” (March 12-17), “The Kite Runner” (April 9-14), “Peter Pan” (June 11-16), and “Hamilton” (June 25-July 28), and a season option “Les Miserables” (December 5-10).

The new “Peter Pan” is supposed to solve the show’s terrible sexism and “Les Miserables which has played here numerous times is the show’s new production.  This is “Hamilton’s” third time in Tempe and it plays for five weeks, the only show playing more than a week.

Missing was the expected local premiere of “Moulin Rouge,” the huge Broadway hit that is still sold-out since its 2019 New York premiere.  It was on hiatus during the Covid Broadway and touring closures.  Why is “Moulin Rouge” missing Phoenix again after already playing smaller areas throughout the country?  The locations that have presented it run it for two-weeks or longer suggesting that ASU Gammage is afraid to book any show for more than a week unless it is “Hamilton.”

Broadway Across America seems fearful (or is it ASU Gammage management?) to take a chance on our metro area supporting longer engagements.  The single week local engagements here are over 90 percent sold-out to subscribers making it difficult, if not impossible, for non-subscribers to get tickets. There are also lots of demand for season tickets that cannot be met.

Other recent Broadway hits that are bypassing Phoenix include “Company,” “Into the Woods,” and the new “Funny Girl” revival.  As we’ve been told in the past when major shows miss us, “There is always next season.”  Fortunately, some Broadway duds that are touring aren’t scheduled including “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Clue,” and “The Girl From the North Country.”

And Phoenix remains stuck without an effective theater for the tours.  When I arrived here in 1979, the huge downtown Phoenix Fox Theatre had just been torn down instead of renovating it like many cities did to save building new facilities.  Most old movie palaces presented vaudeville and just required enlarged stages which was possible if there was sufficient land behind them which was the case with the Fox.  After the Fox was gone, the tiny Orpheum Theatre was saved but it sits empty most of the time because it is too small to support or house major road tours or anything else.

We must see touring Broadway musicals in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed ASU Gammage which was built as a concert hall and not as a place to present Broadway musicals.  ASU Gammage had expensive backstage renovations completed that placed the rarely used sound shell in a special storage chamber to help accommodate touring shows.

ASU Gammage also spent over $1 million to renovate its terrible sound system but audiences still can’t always hear musicals and usually miss lots of dialogue when plays are booked.  Local audiences pay prices equal to Broadway to sit in a facility where seeing and hearing shows is a challenge if not an impossibility.

Someday a rich philanthropist may build a live theater big enough to support touring shows but also intimate enough so audiences can see and hear productions.  Only in Phoenix!  Broadway Across America season tickets may be obtained by calling the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-3434 or ordering tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

In future weeks, other major local theater seasons including Arizona Theatre Company, The Phoenix Theatre Company, and Stray Cat Theatre will be announced here.