For the last several seasons, “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Jersey Boys” have been the three-legged stool upon which the economic fortunes of the road have stood. Other shows have come and gone, but this triumvirate has filled theaters and kept the concession stands humming, even on the umpteenth engagement.
The 2012-13 road season still has three solid legs, but one pervasive view is that “Jersey Boys” is being replaced by “The Book of Mormon.”
It’s not that Frankie, Bobby and the boys are done. On the contrary, the Dodgers note that “Jersey Boys” productions are planned in Singapore, South Africa and the Far East, and there’s the movie in the works, likely to appear in late 2013 or early 2014. But the long-running North American road companies are consolidating some bookings during the 2012-13 season, even as “The Book of Mormon” is unveiling a pair of companies ready to go by the end of 2012.
The Los Angeles opening of “Mormon’ in September attracted a formidable red-carpet, by legit standards anyway, and Chi is next in December. Producer Scott Rudin won’t say how long he plans to leave his show in the Windy City, although tickets are only on sale through next June. One likely scenario would have “Mormon” at Chi’s Bank of America Theater through January 2014, before heading out as a second road company in 2014, allowing two companies to blanket the country, assuming the show finds the guys to play some of the most conservative markets, when the progressive sector is likely more ravenous than elsewhere for this kind of fare. And while there might be cities that just won’t be hospitable to “Mormon,” period, presenters right now say they’d take all the weeks they can get, especially if they can use the show to sell subscriptions.
“It’s really a great anchor for subscription seasons,” said Laura Matalon, managing partner of Allied Live, which markets the show on the road.
“We went up 17% or 18% with subscriptions this year,” said Al Lichtenstein, who runs Broadway in Detroit. “People really want to see that show.”
“We are anxious to get it,” said Lyn Singleton of the Providence Performing Arts Center. “It’s a tent-pole show.”
“It seemed like we worked on it for so long and then ‘poof,’ they were gone,” said Randy Weeks, prexy of Denver Center Attractions, which launched the first “Book of Mormon” tour. Show sold every available seat and could, Weeks said, have sold many, many more. Although the Chi production has yet to go into rehearsal, it appears that Rudin and his partners are attending to quality, with the original creatives reprising their duties, rather than handing everything off to assistants. “Really, this season is reminiscent of 1975,” Weeks said, “when it was very difficult for anyone to get from under ‘A Chorus Line.’ ”
Beyond “Mormon,” 2012 is shaping up as a fairly standard-issue road slate. There is some optimism among presenters when it comes to “Sister Act,” which has been doing well with groups and could be more of a road show than a boffo Broadway title. “People like nuns here in Michigan,” Lichtenstein said.
“Catch Me if You Can,” which is going out as a non-Equity company, opens in Providence, R.I., this month. With a $225,000-plus 10 weekly guarantee, the turner, which did not do well on Broadway, has been kept affordable for the road.
“A lot of presenters felt that if the economics were right, their subscribers would like the show,” said Stephen Lindsay, prexy of the Road Company, which is booking “Catch Me.” “Plus, when you look at everything else on the road this fall, this really is among the traditional style of offerings. Which means that a lot of presenters felt they knew how to market the show.” Singleton said that “Catch Me” was doing reasonably good business.
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is also getting a tour, likely culminating in a stand in Las Vegas, filling out the slate with what would seem to be a natural booking in Sin City. Other non-equity attractions headed across the hinterland include “Memphis,” “American Idiot” (which is reprising several major markets), “Rock of Ages” (which sat down in Chi this last summer and did well) and “The Addams Family.” There’s also a striking number of touring holiday shows vying for business this season, including “Elf” (presenters report strong sales for that one), “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “White Christmas,” not to mention “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” all of which have to make back their money in a very tight window. “La Cage” isn’t selling well, presenters say, although auds tend to like it. Presenters are liking “Jekyll & Hyde” in a pre-Broadway tour; those with long memories know that worked out pretty well the last time around.
The critically acclaimed “War Horse” is something of a wild card for the road, with presenters perennially nervous about presenting plays. However, the National Theater and the show’s bookers insist that “War Horse” can perform like a musical if marketed as a major event. Joey, the show’s famous puppet, has been doing a dog-and-pony show wherever the show has been traveling, trying to persuade people that the level of spectacle is at least equal to the likes of “Les Miserables,” which continues to do boffo business this season, with the upcoming movie seen by most presenters as a pending positive. Steve Schnepp of the Broadway Booking Office argues that “War Horse” has a hefty upside, pulling down close to $1 million on a recent single-week stand in Atlanta.
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