Five Touring Musicals You Must See
Wicked. Jersey Boys. The Lion King. Les Misérables. Phantom of the Opera. When one of those musicals comes to your town you drop everything and attend. It doesn’t matter who’s in the cast, who’s the director, or the name of the production company, you have to get tickets. To put it another way, those five shows, regardless of geography, are can’t-miss musicals.
Of course, they aren’t the only traveling Broadway shows and they aren’t the only musicals worthy of your hard-earned cash and precious time. Below are five other touring musicals that you’ve absolutely must see when they come to your corner of the world. The following five shows are entertaining, inventive, and enthralling—a few are even hilarious. These shows are so good they might even usurp the aforementioned quintet of musicals as your favorite.
The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is in the argument for the greatest musical of the century. The side-splitting show is the brainchild of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the guys who created South Park) and Robert Lopez (co-composer of Avenue Q and the music from the movie Frozen). The original cast included Andrew Rannells (from The New Normal) and Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf in Frozen).
The production, which makes more fun of musicals than of Mormonism, is about a pair of missionaries stationed in Uganda. These intrepid proselytizers try to teach the Book of Mormon but the villagers are more concerned about AIDS, war, and famine then their spiritual life. It’s hard to believe but that’s the backdrop to arguably the funniest musical of all-time.
The Book of Mormon is currently playing on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre. The show is so popular that it has spawned two national touring companies. One will be in Philadelphia until Sept. 14. The other will visit Seattle, Spokane, and Minneapolis during that same time frame. Also, look for TBOM in Miami from Dec. 2 to Dec. 14, Houston from Jan. 20 to Feb. 8, and Chicago from Feb. 24 to May 15.
Kinky Boots came out of nowhere to be the smash hit of the 2013 Broadway season. When it debuted in March of 2013, it was not well liked by critics and it struggled at the box office especially against its rival, Matilda the Musical. Undeterred, the musical kept plugging away and a month later it had surpassed Matilda. Not long after that, Kinky Boots was nominated for 13 Tony Awards. It won six of them, including Best Musical. The following day, fans snatched up $1.25 million in Kinky Boots tickets. The show became so popular that a special lottery system was created to prevent fans from camping outside of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
Based on the 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots is about the relationship between Charlie, a prim and proper shoe factory owner, and Lola, an outrageous and vivacious drag queen. With Lola’s help, Charlie saves his factory by producing shoes for drag queens and kings.
Kinky Boots’ music and lyrics were written by Cyndi Lauper. Her first attempt at writing a musical earned her a Tony Award for Best Score. By winning, Lauper became the first woman to ever snatch up that award all by herself. The book was written by the incomparable Harvey Fierstein.
If you want a great old fashion musical with memorable melodies and rousing dance numbers, then you need to see Newsies. Nominated for eight Tony Awards, Disney’s energetic musical landed on Broadway in 2012 at the Nederlander Theatre. The show is set to close Aug. 24, 2014 after more than 1,000 performances.
The North American tour kicks off Oct. 11 in Schenectady, New York. The trek is scheduled to last 43 weeks and will visit 25 cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
Newsies probably sounds familiar. It’s based on the 1992 film of the same name and it’s about the Newsboys Strike of 1899 that occurred in New York City. Two historical figures are characters in the musical, Joseph Pulitzer and Theodore Roosevelt.
Alan Menken wrote the music while Jack Feldman penned the lyrics. The duo won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Original Score. Newsies is also the second musical on our list with a book written by the great Harvey Fierstein. One of the best things about Newsies is the dance numbers. The extravagant routines are choreographed by Christopher Gattelli.
Once is the third musical on our list based on a movie and the third that won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The show made its Broadway debut in February of 2012 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The stage adaptation contains many of the songs from the movie, including “Falling Slowly,” that were written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. The book was the product of Enda Walsh.
The original Broadway cast starred Cristin Milioti. You may remember her as “the mother” from the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” She originated the role of “Girl.” The male lead is called “Guy.” When actors are done with their scenes they sit on chairs situated on the outskirts of the stage. They also play instruments and serve as the musical’s orchestra.
The touring production of Once is currently in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre. In the near future you can catch the show in San Diego (Aug. 12 to Aug. 17), Costa Mesa (Aug. 19 to Aug. 31), Baltimore (Sept. 9 to Sept. 14), and Nashville (Sept. 16 to Sept. 21).
The U.S. national tour of Pippin begins Sept. 6 in Denver. After that, the show relocates to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Theatre. Then, from Oct. 21 to Nov. 9, Pippin will be in Los Angeles. Other cities on the itinerary include Las Vegas, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. In 2015, look for Pippin in Atlanta, at the Fox Theatre, from May 5 through May 10.
Pippin is the only revival on our list. It premiered on the Great White Way back in the early 1970s. Most people know the work through a watered-down, amateur version. The Broadway version, if done in the vision of its original director, legend Bob Fosse, is actually one of the deepest, surrealist, and most unsettling shows to ever hit the boards. The revival, which adheres to Fosse’s concept, is directed by the incredible Diane Paulus who won a Tony Award for her efforts.
Pippin tells the story of its titular character, the son of Charlemagne, and his search for purpose and meaning in life. Although Pippin and Charlemagne are representatives of their famous namesakes from the Middle Ages, the plot adheres little to historic events. The musical was originally conceived by its composer Stephen Schwartz as a student project. If you recall, Schwartz went on to concoct the music and lyrics for Wicked.
As you might imagine from a musical originally directed by Bob Fosse, the dancing in Pippin is done in his iconic style. The show also features the amazing acrobatics of Les 7 Doigts De La Main. The touring production will star Sasha Allen as the “Leading Player” and the brilliant John Rubinstein as Charles. Rubinstein originated the role of Pippin when the production premiered at the Imperial Theater on Oct. 23, 1972. Also in the original cast were Ben Vereen, Jill Clayburgh, and Irene Ryan.
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