Ready for Next Season Tucson brings in the Broadway hits in preparation for Hamilton

By Bridgette Redman

“Hamilton” is coming, but before it arrives, Broadway in Tucson is filling the Centennial stage with a season of big hits designed to delight its audiences while celebrating the impact that theater can have on people’s lives.

They recently announced their 2019-2020 season which includes such touring shows as:

“Hello, Dolly,”
October 22 to October 27

November 19 to November 24

“Jesus Christ Superstar,”
December 3 to December 8

The Play That Goes Wrong,”
January 14 to January 19

“The Book of Mormon,”
February 11 to February 16

“A Bronx Tale,” March 24 to March 29

“Jersey Boys,” April 24 to April 26

“Come from Away,”

June 2 to June 7, 2020

Two of the shows, “The Book of Mormon” and “Jersey Boys” are return productions that are add-ons to the regular season. The rest of the shows are what signature subscribers will get if they want to guarantee tickets for Hamilton in the 2020-2021 season.

“You can’t guarantee access to individual buyers, because it is a lottery system that makes tickets available to purchase,” says Diane Wilcox, general manager of Broadway of Tucson. “The best way to make sure you have access to ‘Hamilton’ is to become a signature series subscriber for this season and then to renew next season.”

Signature subscribers are those who purchase a package of six shows, but they have the option to drop one show while remaining a signature subscriber. Those who renew the following year, get “Hamilton” as part of the package.

Wilcox credits Broadway in Tucson being part of the Nederlander organization for the ability to bring Hamilton to Tucson. The Nederlander Organization was founded in 1912 by David Nederlander when it purchased the Detroit Opera House in Michigan. It is now based in New York City and is one of the largest operators of theaters and music venues in the United States.

Wilcox, who recently joined Broadway in Tucson after working at East Lansing, Michigan’s Wharton Center, says it is exciting for her to be working on a pre-Hamilton season for the second time in her career.

“It is very exciting to be able to bring it to a new audience and to be able to work directly with the Nederlander organization,” she says. “We have the support of that entire network through the country. It helps us with bringing titles to Tucson that we might not be able to obtain, except for that strength.”

It’s a strength that explains why this upcoming season, they are able to bring such shows as “Come from Away,” the musical story that takes place after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Planes heading to the United States had to be re-routed. Several went to Newfoundland, Canada, which doubled its population overnight as it took in these international travelers who were stranded for days in highly uncertain times.

“Come from Away is one of the most impactful musicals to come off Broadway for a long time,” Wilcox says. “I came away with (no puns intended) my faith in humanity restored. People at the bottom are kind. When we’re in a crisis, we reach out and help each other. For me, that is my favorite show in the next season.”

Wilcox also says it is a show that takes you back to the basics of theater. Unlike a lot of spectacle shows, “Come from Away” is done with a mostly bare stage, a couple of chairs, a couple of tables and the actors all play multiple roles.

“We ask audiences to use their imaginations and come on this journey with us to feel the joy of knowing how beautiful our fellow humans can be to each other,” Wilcox says. “On every level, that show is really impactful for me. This is one of those shows where I walk in and say, this is why I do what I do.”

The season launches with the revival of “Hello, Dolly,” chosen for people who really like classic musicals. The 1964 Jerry Herman show follows matchmaker Dolly Levi to Yonkers in search of a match for a millionaire.

“It is a nice reminder of how fun (classic musicals) can be—how high quality, the familiarity of those songs and the level of choreography,” Wilcox says. “There are some stunning scenes in a restaurant. The way it is staged is astounding. You come away in awe of the work because of what they are doing on stage and humming tunes you know.”

The next show is “Anastasia,” the musical based on both real-life events and the Disney film. Wilcox says it has the capacity to surprise people who think it is just a princess story.

“It is different,” she says. “It is an empowering story of a young woman trying to discover who she is. It’s gorgeous. We are able to see the beauty of what we can do on stage. It is giving people something familiar and then hitting them with something of extraordinary beauty.”

The December show marks the 50th anniversary tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber super-hit, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The 1970 rock opera started out as a concept album and centers on the final week of Jesus’ life based on Gospel accounts.

Wilcox says it is a great bridge musical because older audiences remember and love it and the younger generation has become interested in it because of the live television broadcast on Easter Sunday in 2018 which featured John Legend and Sara Bareilles.

The opening show of 2020, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” is a departure from Broadway in Tucson’s usual fare in that it is a play and not a musical. A play that won the Olivier Award for best comedy, it follows the travails of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society which is trying to put on a murder mystery play.

Wilcox says they are bringing back “The Book of Mormon” and “Jersey Boys” because their audiences absolutely love them—for the challenge and humor of the first and the pure joy of the second. “The Book of Mormon” is also a show that lets them bring in a younger audience.

“A Bronx Tale” is the musical adaptation of the one-man play that was presented at Broadway in Tucson a few years ago. It is an autobiographical show written by Chazz Palminteri, with music by Alan Menken, and co-directed by Robert De Niro, who also directed the original film. It is the story of a young man, Calogero Anello, who must choose between emulating his hard-working father or following in the footsteps of the local mob boss and becoming a part of organized crime.

While many people might buy into the season because they want the guarantee of “Hamilton,” tickets, Broadway of Tucson is committed to making sure they get their money’s worth all year long.

“I feel like we have a very strong season,” Wilcox says. “You don’t want people just subscribing for ‘Hamilton.’ They are subscribing because it is an interesting, fun season.”