More Exclusions On Local 24/25 Broadway Season Show Up In Tucson

Theater Commentary – March 25, 2024


2024/25 Broadway Across America – Arizona and Broadway in Tucson Seasons
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Looks like I spoke too soon with regard to the Broadway Across America – Arizona series at ASU Gammage versus the Broadway in Tucson series sponsored by the Nederlander Organization at U of A Centennial Hall. Turns out the Tempe eight-show series plus one option includes two shows previously presented in Tucson, two identical shows, plus four shows that haven’t yet played Tucson.  There are two shows on the six-show Tucson series that aren’t scheduled in Tempe and both are major Broadway shows playing in cities near Phoenix.

The two major Broadway musicals bypassing Tempe but playing in Tucson are “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical” and “Shucked,” both Broadway hits.

Tempe is getting a return engagement of “Wicked” because it will draw well and pay the bills for any season shows not attracting a capacity crowd.  Tempe gets two musicals Tucson has already seen, “Girl From the North Country” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” but neither show got great reviews nor were Broadway successes.  Both shows hope to turn a profit with their tours.

ASU Gammage does get “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” but it comes here in July 2025 well into its lengthy national tour keeping the Tempe series from being cutting-edge.  The very dark play “Life of Pi” hits Tempe plus two more shows that Tucson will have to wait to see – “Funny Girl,” with Katerina McCrimmon as Fanny Brice but not with Lea Michele who made the then sputtering New York revival a huge hit, and “Kimberly Akimbo” another dark musical playing here without Victoria Clark’s Tony Award-winning performance in the central role.

Both cities get the umpteenth return of the popular but widely overdone “Mamma Mia!”  At least in Tempe it is a season option. Tucson also gets “Beetlejuice,” a miserable dud that played here awhile ago.  The Southern Arizona city also acquires “Clue,” a show that hopefully will never show up as part of the local Broadway series because it has played the Phoenix area in community theater productions.  The poor cities including Tucson that get that musical on a season of Broadway hits. Really!

It appears that it may be time to look at the reason Tempe’s Broadway season is so bland and lacking in first rung tours of recent Broadway hits.  It can’t be because of Broadway Across America’s direction because several of their cities include both “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical” and “Shucked” while most major cities have had “Moulin Rouge” much earlier than Tempe.

Could local leadership of the Broadway series and/or limits imposed on ASU Gammage bookings account for the weird local Broadway seasons?  It can’t be because the missing shows aren’t playing in nearby cities negating the excuse that they aren’t “routed” this way.  As ASU Gammage spokespeople have said in the past “don’t fret, the missing shows may show up in a future season.”  Considering Phoenix is a primary national market, it would appear that earlier runs of touring shows should happen.

One of the reasons could be the use of a concert hall-designed venue with miserable acoustics and dreadful sight-lines for Broadway musicals.  Perhaps Broadway producers don’t like to showcase their shows in an inappropriate venue.  It has also been brought to my attention that many Phoenix area residents who live closer to Tucson, choose to see Broadway tours there instead of locally even though U of A Centennial Hall isn’t a perfect Broadway touring house but it has less problems than ASU Gammage.

When will a local wealthy person build Phoenix a proper 2,500-2,750-seat venue perfect acoustically and with excellent sight-lines for touring Broadway musicals?  Shouldn’t local theatergoers have a decent facility for touring shows so they could be seen and heard properly?

Someday, ASU Gammage may again be used for the events that Frank Lloyd Wright designed the hall to house – concerts.  The venue was never designed or intended for touring Broadway musicals and, as has been proven, it cannot be retrofitted for those shows.

Doesn’t the fifth largest city in the nation deserve a perfect venue for Broadway musicals so they could run here longer than the one week allocated by ASU Gammage for most Broadway shows?  Someday!?!?