Out to make a killing, shows could end up as roadkill

With “Hairspray” awaiting its retro crown on Tony night and Billy Joel reportedly ready to do some network warbling in support of “Movin’ Out,” at least two new tuners are likely to get a decent June bounce to take them down the road in the months that follow.

Over at Actors’ Equity, they’re breathing sighs of relief that no one from either of those productions has asked for concessions.

“Definitely both full production contracts,” roars Equity prexy Alan Eisenberg. “No question about that.”

Presenters, sources say, are angling for as much Joel as possible in the touring mix for “Movin’ Out.” The piano man — who never met a keyboard he didn’t want to tinkle — has been taking the stage on Broadway from time to time. And a guest spot would be a big-news bonus in the hinterlands. “We’d love him to come to town with the show,” says one booker. “But there have been no commitments.”

“Hairspray” will, for sure, play in Baltimore this summer — it’s not only the city of the show’s setting, but it gave the Broadway opening massive media coverage. “Baltimore is very important to this show,” says producer Margo Lion, who’s relying on the city for a huge sendoff.

Beyond that, the plumb cutie already has some decent stands slated for major markets, including six weeks in Chicago. And thereafter, she probably has enough oomph to trickle down to single-week markets in the season that follows.

But while there’s plenty of road buzz for other attractions, there also are plenty of other problems in play. Take “La Boheme.” There’s the issue of whether road punters will pony up for opera, even brand-name opera. If multiple casts are tricky on Broadway, they’re even trickier on the road.

According to producer Jeffrey Seller, several regional opera companies including the Michigan Opera Theater want to put “La Boheme” on their subscription seasons — which would give the show the chance to cross-pollinate auds.

“A lot of cities want the show,” Seller says. “With a partnership in cities like Detroit, we could do four weeks.”

In all likelihood, the previously announced L.A. production will become the national tour, although Seller says he has enough interest from young singers to come up with another separate tour.

As for “A Year With Frog and Toad,” road auds love family attractions, as a rule.

But this one has a less-than-stellar brand name and a big ticket price.

“We think it would do well all over the country,” says Peter Brosius, artistic director of the Minneapolis Children’s Theater, where the show originated.

Brosius and the Children’s Theater, a $9 million kiddie-play colossus that works with the likes of Nilo Cruz, Kia Corthron and Graciela Daniele, had their own Tony (for excellence in regional theater) to celebrate last week.

But when “Frog and Toad” was in Minneapolis, tix cost only about $20. On Broadway, the ducats have been far higher, generating some negative press. Unless some kind of special deal could be reached on the road, presenters are worrying whether families will pony up the big bucks. People involved with the show point out that the Broadway top didn’t reflect average cost.

“The price issue has been blown out of proportion,” says David Petrarca, the director of “Frog and Toad.” “We will have a lot of tickets at lower prices.”

Over at “Enchanted April,” producer Jeffrey Richards has signed on much of the Broadway cast (Elizabeth Ashley, Jayne Atkinson, Michael Hayden, Molly Ringwald) for a fall 2004 tour. Richards ticks off the show’s assets on the road.

“It’s feel-good romantic comedy, which have been in very short supply,” says Richards. “With ‘Enchanted April’ you don’t have to tell subscribers what it is about,” he adds, putting it in the same movie tie-in category as “The Graduate” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Of the special-event shows, “The Play What I Wrote” has firm plans to tour — slated, say the producers, to begin in 2004. In places where the names Morecambe and Wise mean nothing, it will require a lot of audience education, as will Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam,” set to go out this fall.

Then again, after Broadway the road may be a snap.

“In cities like Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, we can go right to the jugular vein of our audience,” says “DPJ” director Stan Lathan. “On Broadway, we had to educate.”

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