I enjoyed an amazing evening of Broadway trends in action during a preview performance earlier this month of the “Jesus Christ Superstar” revival that opened last week at the Neil Simon Theatre in NYC. Digital projections, folk flavor added to the pop/rock score and more.
All things Victor Hamburger with ASU Gammage in Tempe alerted me to during a recent call to talk trends on Broadway. Turns out ASU Gammage is one of the country’s biggest markets for touring Broadway productions. Also professional home to Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and recipient of a 2012 Arizona Governor’s Arts Award.
ASU Gammage will unveil its 2012/13 Broadway Across America season next week, so we’ll all get the chance to see trends translated into action. Audience engagement via social media and other means is one of the industry’s hottest trends, according to Hamburger. So folks who follow ASU Gammage are among the first to get the scoop — and enjoy opportunites to offer feedback.
Hamburger says they always work to provide a balance of shows that’ll appeal to folks with different tastes. Some prefer revivals, others prefer newer works. Some like nostalgia, others like the here and now. Some favor mature fare, others favor family fare. So I suppose the best season has a little something for everyone.
Simply looking at the Broadway landscape, you might surmise that topics your parents always told you to avoid at the dinner table make for the best subject matter. Religion, sex and sometimes even politics. “Jesus Christ Superstar” is one of several works that factors God into the mix. Think “Godspell,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Sister Act” and such. Going retro, with shows like “Mamma Mia!” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” seems to be a safe bet too. God is groovy, but dance is divine.
Bringing movies to stage is another biggie these days, according to Hamburger (although “biggie” isn’t really a part of his vocabulary). Think “Once,” “Ghost,” and “Flashdance.” Seems they help introduce audiences fond of the big screen to stories told on stage. I was skeptical until I started reading reviews of “Once” that landed it high on my list of shows to see during future trips to NYC.
Casting artists dubbed celebrities is also on the rise — as evidenced by the current cast list of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which includes Nick Jonas as J. Pierrepont Finch, Beau Bridges as J.B. Bigley and Anderson Cooper as Narrator. Jonas started out on Broadway, but that’s not the case for others who’ve finessed Finch — including Daniel Radcliffe and Darren Criss, both of whom my daughter Lizabeth loved in the role. Snagging tix to see Jonas is high on her wish list these days.
Lizabeth lives in NYC, where she most recently saw “Evita” with fellow students at Pace University, and sometimes sees things well before they make their way to Arizona. I’m eager to see “Green Day’s American Idiot,” the next Broadway touring production coming to ASU Gammage, so I can compare notes with Lizabeth — who has seen it performed on Broadway.
I started taking Lizabeth to touring Broadway productions at ASU Gammage when she was just a little girl. Over the years we’ve enjoyed everything from “Annie” and “August: Osage County” to “In the Heights” and “Avenue Q” together. It’s all good in our book — because whatever the buzz on Broadway, sharing mother/daughter time at the theater never gets old.
Coming up: Exploring the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, The fine art of cowboys, In good company