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National Tours Take Tony Nominees on the Road

The producers of “The King and I” and “On the Town,” two shows nominated for the 2015 Tony Awards, are already looking beyond Broadway, announcing national tours that will launch during the 2016-17.

Ditto “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” considered by many as the frontrunner in the new play race. That show will launch a North American tour in October 2016. “American in Paris,” one of two new musicals this season to score 12 Tony nominations, announced a tour a couple of weeks ago.

As familiar titles currently playing Broadway in critically praised productions, “King and I,” “On the Town” and “American in Paris” are all natural candidates for the road. “Something Rotten!” also seem to have strong touring prospects, although no road plans have yet been announced; on the other hand, the edgier, more intimate “Fun Home” might need some major Tony wins to spur a touring incarnation.

Plays don’t often hit the road, since most in the theater industry consider the audience for plays considerably smaller than the audience for musicals. But producers of “Curious Incident” are giving it a shot after the show managed to build unexpectedly strong popular momentum here on Broadway: “Curious Incident,” which earned raves in its London premiere and subsequently in New York, has reported consistently robust sales since opening on Broadway in the fall, despite having no big-name stars in the cast.

The timing of such touring announcements highlights the importance of the road producers and presenters who comprise a notable chunk of the Tony voting pool. That segment of the voters is often thought to reward shows most likely to succeed with regional audiences.

In an unusual turn, Tony Yazbeck, a current Tony nominee for his role in “On the Town,” will star in “On the Town” on the road as well. It’s not often that original Broadway cast members tour with a production, although it does happen; Cherry Jones, for instance, reprised her Tony-winning performance in “Doubt” in the national tour.

No cast for the tour of “King and I” — which stars Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe (pictured above) on Broadway — has yet been set. News of the road production coincided with the confirmation that the Broadway staging will run indefinitely at Lincoln Center Theater’s Vivian Beaumont Theater — a move had been expected, given that the musical comes from the same creative team behind LCT’s long-running “South Pacific” revival, and “King and I” has so far proven as successful with critics and audiences.

The “King and I” tour will launch in Providence in November 2016. Exact dates and cities for “On the Town,” “Curious Incident” and “American in Paris” remain to be mapped out.

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