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'Dear Evan Hansen,' 'Les Misérables' and more coming to Broadway in Austin

No 'Hamilton,' but higher quality across the board

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com
Ben Levi Ross plays Evan Hansen in the pop culture phenom, 'Dear Evan Hansen,' on the road. [Contributed by Matthew Murphy]

The 2019-2020 Broadway in Austin season, announced Tuesday, includes revivals of three classic musicals, as well as four recent, well-regarded Broadway shows, three of them still running in New York. Two of revivals — "Les Misérables" and "Hello, Dolly!" — were in some ways the "Hamilton" phenoms of their eras. (That mega-hit musical finally lands in Austin for three weeks at the end of this season, May 28-June 16, at Bass Concert Hall.)

Current subscribers must renew for a six- or seven-show package by March 12 through BroadwayinAustin.com or by calling 800-731-7469, while new patrons are encouraged to sign up for the official waiting list at the website. As in the past, individual show ticket sales will be announced at later dates.

Let’s look at the just announced lineup:

Sept. 10-15: “Les Misérables” — The blockbuster based on a Victor Hugo novel about the French underclass in the early 19th century has been rousing American audiences since 1987. Before that, it played Paris (premiere 1980) and London (1985-present, the longest running musical in the West End). The original Broadway edition ran for 6,680 performances. Two successful revivals also earned healthy runs. An epic movie version came out in 2012. The current road show — the fifth major tour — started out Sept. 21, 2017. So as the saying go, this show has “legs.”

Oct. 8-13: “Jesus Christ Superstar” — The project that made the fortunes of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice — a “rock opera” rendition of Christ’s final days — has never been entirely out of circulation since it debuted on Broadway in 1971. Before that, a cult concept album captivated a generation. It has been revived on Broadway three times and this will be its third major tour. Director Norman Jewison made a credible movie out of the material in 1973 and John Legend starred in last year’s much-watched televised live concert. Three local versions have made headlines, too, including a performance that featured the Indigo Girls at South by Southwest in 1995, and a novel bilingual production at Zach Theatre in 2007.

Dec. 10-15: “Dear Evan Hansen” — It no longer surprises audiences that hit musicals can be based on dark themes, in this case, mental illness and youth suicide. This acclaimed show premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., then wowed critics and audiences off-Broadway before it opened on Broadway on Dec. 4, 2016. That version has not closed. It ran the table at the 2017 Tony Awards, winning Best Musical along with five other major prizes. A few dissident voices have suggested that the musical sanitizes and romanticizes mental illness.

Jan. 21-26, 2020: “Hello, Dolly!” — With immortal songs by Jerry Herman, this show based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farce about a charismatic matchmaker premiered in 1964. It marked the end of what some critics consider the Golden Age of Broadway musicals. The original star, Carol Channing, played Dolly Levi more than 5,000 times, including her final performance right here in Austin. Among the other stars to play Dolly have been Mary Martin (West End), Barbra Streisand (movie) and Pearl Bailey (1975 revival). The 1964 cast album was among the last Broadway shows to reach No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, replaced the next week by Louis Armstrong’s version of the score. The recent Broadway revival starred Bette Midler. Texan Betty Buckley tops the marquee on the current tour, but there’s no guarantee she will still be on the road in 2020.

Feb. 18-23, 2020: “Come From Away” — This sweet show about a Canadian town that adopted travelers stranded by 9/11 took Broadway by surprise. It opened in 2017 and continues to charm audiences on the Great White Way. One local connection is also compelling: Austinite Kevin Tuerff, co-founder of EnviroMedia, a recently closed public relations and advertising firm, was one of those passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland, in 2001. He is portrayed in the show as “Kevin T.” Tuerff wrote an elegant book, “Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11,” about his experiences. He also became one of the musical’s most effective personal promoters.

March 11-22, 2020: “Disney's Aladdin” — Broadway veterans once viewed stage adaptations of animated movies as aberrations. Then along came Disney juggernauts such as “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” which proved that innovative theatrical techniques could be expanded to replace the animation experience. The built-in super-fans of the movies didn’t hurt the box office either. Disney’s “Aladdin,” which opened in 2014, did not impress everyone, but it is still running more than 2,000 performances later. The score by proven talents such as Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin gives it extra sheen. Take the kids to this one.

May 5-10, 2020: “A Bronx Tale: The Musical” — This 2016 show, based on a play by Chazz Palminteri, earned early respect because Robert De Niro, who directed the highly praised 1993 movie version — he also starred — shared stage directing credits with musical master Jerry Zaks. The coming-of-age story about an Italian-American boy who is tempted to join a life of crime by a Mafia boss ran a more than respectable 700 performances on Broadway.