Before my official NY fall preview, I wanted to write a little bit about some shows that just left NY and are hitting the road, and some shows that are originating outside of NY.
In the last few weeks, Broadway saw the closing of Sister Act, One Man, Two Guvnors and Clybourne Park. Of these, One Man, Two Guvnors was the only to officially recoup. I want to talk about a different one, Sister Act. In my head, it was always Priscilla Queen of the Desert vs. Sister Act. I liked the former better, but the latter won the battle. Sister Act received a Tony nomination for Best Musical, lasted longer, and proved that Raven-Symoné would actually sell tickets. (I know, I was surprised too.) Both shows did something remarkable -- they spent money to reinvent their marketing mid-run. In the end, that step didn't help either become a Broadway hit. But I was still impressed with it.
Then there were two notable off-Broadway shows that closed -- Voca People and Traces. Mentally I conflated the two because they opened around the same time in summer 2011, I often received releases for them on the same day, and they each fell into the category of non-traditional theater. I typically like shows that have a story; I am not the audience for most revues, Stomp, Blue Man Group, De La Guarda (or its successor) and others of that ilk. So I didn't want to see Voca People or Traces. Then sometime last fall I ended up seeing Voca People. I have blocked out the circumstances that led me to see it, but sadly the actual experience still resonates in my mind. The cast was amazing, the premise and construction so painful it was hard for me to sit there.
Traces it took a lot longer to get me to. The press agent, The Hartman Group's Matt Ross, kept telling me it was amazing, but I refused to believe it. He showed me the StageGrade "A" rating, he told me he loved it, he told me pretty much everyone loved it; this went on an entire year. I'm pretty hard to convince, rarely do people even try. Yet it somehow worked -- the final week of Traces I found myself purchasing a ticket as if I suddenly needed to see it. And it was amazing. The performers were astounding. The majority of their patter was not for me, but in the end it didn't matter, that's how thrilling the numbers themselves were.
All of these shows are touring the country during the 2012-2013 season. On top of these, there is work worth seeing at regional theaters throughout the country. Last year I had the pleasure of going to the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, CA for the first time to see the charming world premiere of the Burt Bacharach musical Some Lovers. Situated inside Balboa Park, there is something magical about the theater. This fall it is presenting the world premiere of the musical Allegiance starring Broadway favorite Lea Salonga and Star Trek's George Takei.
Chicago has at least four noteworthy shows in the next few months: the Kinky Boots pre-Broadway tryout, the Goodman Theatre's revival of Sweet Bird of Youth with Diane Lane, Lookingglass Theatre Company's revival of Metamorphoses (also playing at D.C.'s Arena Stage in the winter) and Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Gary Griffin-helmed Sunday in the Park with George. Boston's American Repertory Theater and New Haven's Yale Repertory Theater are co-producing the world premiere of David Adjmi's Marie Antoinette, directed by the talented Rebecca Taichman. Yale Repertory also has the world premiere of the new Sarah Ruhl play, Dear Elizabeth, a play chronicling the friendship between poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. The McCarter Theatre Center right now has Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike before it comes to Lincoln Center. The Seattle Repertory Theatre and Arena Stage have their co-production of Pullman Porter Blues, a new play with music by Play On! scribe Cheryl L. West.
The above is just a sampling of what's going on at some of the more well-known regional theaters. There is tons more out there. Those of you exposed to local papers know what is happening in your area a lot better than me. All throughout the country new plays are being produced, old ones revived. I can't properly express how important I think it is to support local theater. It's essential for each theater, of course, but it is also a great thing to do for you. I realize in these economic times it is hard; theater is not generally top on anyone's budget. Do it when you can though, if you can. Remember to keep it on that "to do" list, no matter how low down. And sometimes take a risk; Traces paid off for me, who knows what will for you.