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VOL. 133 | NO. 43 | Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Orpheum Announces All-Musical Broadway Season

By Bill Dries

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Patrons of The Orpheum Theatre’s Broadway series have known for more than a year the phenomenal Broadway musical “Hamilton” was coming to town in the summer of 2019.

The Orpheum Theatre Group announced the rest of the 2018-2019 Broadway season Monday, Feb. 26, with an all-musical lineup of six productions and two other musical options for subscribers.

Actors with the Chicago Company perform a scene from “Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical coming to Memphis for The Orpheum Theatre's 2018-1019 season. (Joan Marcus)

“Six musicals that have never been to Memphis,” Orpheum president and CEO Brett Batterson said, noting that three are still running on Broadway and a fourth just closed. “I think our audience has gotten more sophisticated. I think there’s more people who know what’s current on Broadway that this year we are able to bring shows … that are really current.”

The lineup is:

• “Love Never Dies”: The sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera,” running Sept. 4-9.

• “School of Rock”: Another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on original songs from the movie and with a live kids rock band, running Oct. 9-14.

• “Waitress”: The musical based on the 2007 movie with music and lyrics composed by singer-songwriter, actress and author Sara Bareilles, running Jan. 15-20, 2019.

• “On Your Feet!”; A musical based on the lives and music of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, running Feb. 12-17, 2019.

• “Anastasia”: A musical based on the several films about a woman who claimed to be the youngest daughter of Russia’s last Tsar, running June 4-9, 2019.

• “Hamilton”: The Tony Award-winning masterwork with a musical score of hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap and Broadway, running July 9-28.

Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Kling perform in the national tour of “Waitress.” The production is part of the lineup for The Orpheum Theatre's 2018-2019 season. (Joan Marcus)

The series also offers two options to be added to any season ticket package. They are a new production of “Les Miserables” Nov. 27-Dec. 2 and a new production of “Fiddler on the Roof” March 19-24, 2019.

The Orpheum’s series is the first of several theater announcements. Playhouse on the Square unveils the lineup for its 50th season Wednesday. Hattiloo Theatre will soon announce its 13th season of four plays and three musicals.

Hattiloo and the Halloran Centre of The Orpheum open a production March 28 of “The Mountaintop,” the play by Memphian Katori Hall set at the Lorraine Motel on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The play runs through April 1 at the Halloran Centre.

Batterson said the advance word on “Hamilton” has paid off nicely for The Orpheum.

“It’s more than just a Broadway musical,” he said. “But what we have seen is a tremendous growth in our season-ticket holders. We currently have the highest number of season-ticket holders we have ever had as an organization. We expect that to go up even more next year with ‘Hamilton.’”

The series has included plays and Batterson said he is always open to a mix of plays and musicals.

“I looked at a couple in the past two seasons that I thought were very worthy of it,” he said. “Never rule out a play. But right now there is an abundance of musicals on Broadway.”

And Batterson said the crop of musicals based on an artist’s song catalog – known as jukebox musicals – or movies is giving way to other kinds of musicals.

“Waitress” is based on a 2007 movie starring Keri Russell that isn’t a musical at all and is quite different than the version coming to The Orpheum.

“It wasn’t a huge, huge hit when it came out. But that musical is one of my favorites,” he said. “It’s about the power of one woman. It’s about a love story. It’s about making pies. It’s a great piece of theater.”

There are more options for theaters like The Orpheum because taking a Broadway play on tour is more profitable.

“What’s true now is that shows touring on the road actually are generating more revenue than Broadway itself,” Batterson said. “The touring market has become so strong in this country and people are so proud of their hometown theaters that it’s become a great source of business for these shows.”

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