Last night the KeyBank Broadway Series was announced is a surprisingly fun and informative evening. I attended with my chorus buddy Patrick and our excitment in this picture was both genuine and shared by the rest of the capacity crowd in the Connor Palace (which seats 2,800). The announcement of each show was accompanied by some enthusiastic discussion between series producer Gina Vernaci and local newscaster Natalie Herbick. This patter was often joined by a special guest star and/or live musical performance. My thoughts on each announced show – as well as notes on the presentation specials guests and performances – is below.
For the record, I correctly predicted 5 out 7 shows (and one more was a prediction until I changed my mind on February 21st). Correctly predicted shows will be GREEN. Incorrectly predicted shows will be in RED.
Show #1: Fun Home
Show Thoughts: I was pretty confident that Fun Home would come to Cleveland, but I did NOT expect that the tour would LAUNCH from here. The show was done on a proscenium stage in the original off-Broadway production, but was successfully re-staged in-the-round on Broadway. Will the touring version go back to the off-Broadway staging or will it be completely re-re-defined to play 3,000 seat proscenium houses? AND WHO WILL BE IN THE CAST?
Presentation Notes: The special guest was goddamn Jeanine Tesoro and I almost died. She spoke a bit about the process of writing the show, and why it resonates with audiences. The discussion also made a point of describing things that would appeal to not-gay people, saying that it’s the first father-daughter story to be musicalized on Broadway. (Can that really be true?). As if I hadn’t already died a couple gay deaths by this point, Tesori walked over to the piano and was joined by current Broadway standby Alessandra Baldacchino who effectively performed “Ring of Keys”. I loved hearing the audiences collective response to “no, HANDSOME”.
Show # 2: Finding Neverland
Show Thoughts: I admit I’m not particularly excited about this show, and Vernaci/Herbick’s attempts to sell me on it weren’t all that convincing. But I am curios, and it’s kinda the perfect subscription show for that reason.
Presentation Notes: Cleveland native and former Phantom Christine Trista Moldovan sang a pretty-enough ballad (about being a mom and dying or something). She has apparently been singing this song at Broadway Series launch events across the county, because that’s a thing one can get hired to do now.
Show #3: Into the Woods (the Fiasco production)
Show Thoughts: You could have knocked me over with a feather I was so surprised. Not only did I have no idea my favorite musical of all time was touring (though it will apparently be a “limited” tour), I could have never conceived that a 10-person-and-a-piano production of the show would ever get its act together and take it on the road. I was pretty bummed that I wasn’t able to see it at off-Broadway’s Roundabout Laura Pels theater, so I’m pretty excited about this one.
Presentation Notes: There was no special guest to promote this show, but a local children’s signing group called The Singing Angels sang challenging arrangement of “Children Will Listen” because why not? Also, the wore sparkly gold vests.
Show #4: The King and I
Show Thoughts: I was pretty confident about this one. I feel like the infamous boat from the opening scene might not be as impressive on a proscenium stage, but the rest of the show might work better? More importantly, WHO WILL BE IN THE CAST??
Presentation Notes: The special guest was Ted Chapin (who is President of the Rogers and Hammerstein organization and appears in just about every documentary or special about Broadway in the 40s-60s and also wrote a memoir about being a PA for the original Follies which is one of the best books I’ve ever read. So I fan-girled about Ted Chapin–deal with it. There was sadly no musical guest, which was disappointing.
Show #5: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Show Thoughts: I am so so excited about this one. And several other people in the audience gasped audibly when it was announced, so my flailing throughout the evening felt somewhat justified. Or at least in like company.
Presentation Notes: The folks who make these promo videos (did Playhouse Square make them, or did each show make their own?) seem to know their audience because the footage for Curious Incident featured raves on such mom-friendly shows as Live with Kelly and Michael and The View. “Don’t be afraid that’s it’s not a musical and has no famous people” – the subtext.
Show #6: Something Rotten!
My Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this show. Had I not seen it before I would have been very excited about its inclusion, so to feel sorta “meh” about it is admittedly selfish. I didn’t love the show on Broadway, and can’t imagine I’ll like it more without Brian D’Arcy James and Heidi Bilkenstaff, but I’m sure I’ll be ready to see it again in 13 months.
Presentation Notes: Fortunately, the show’s songwriters – brothers Warren and Karey Kirkpatrick – were on hand to peddle their wares, and they were really quite charming. They certainly make me more interested in seeing again.
Show #7: An American in Paris
Show Thoughts: This was the one show I regretted missing on my big trip to NYC last spring, so I’m very glad I’ll get the chance to see it. And now that I don’t have to worry about it winning the Tony over Fun Home, I’ll truly be able to enjoy it. That’s healthy, right?
Presentation Notes: Earlier in the evening Gina Vernaci said that when you plan a season like this, “you don’t book titles, you know thy producer.” The special guest representing this show was producer Stuart Oken (at least I’m pretty sure that was his name) who talked about wanting to make a show “like the ones he grew up loving.” He was also introduced as one of the producers of The Addams Family, and that show got recognition applause!! He said the idea for the show cam after he was approached by the Gershwin estate, because OhMyGod they will not be satisfied unless there is always one Gershwin show running on Broadway at any given moment.