CLEVELAND, Ohio - Let's not shillyshally about, shall we?
Although there are shows in the 2017-18 KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square for every taste, the ticket everyone wants to know how to score is that little Lin-Manuel Miranda joint about the "$10 founding father without a father," the "crowning glory" of the upcoming season, says Gina Vernaci, architect of the immensely popular Broadway Series.
There are a few fail-safe ways to get a seat to "Hamilton," Vernaci told the crowd gathered at the State Theatre for the ceremonial unveiling of the new lineup Tuesday night.
One is to become a season ticketholder. The other is to open your wallet and donate to Playhouse Square.
But for those hoping to snag a single ticket to what will arguably be the artistic event of the season? There's hope, Vernaci says.
"Hamilton" will play for six weeks rather than the traditional three, with tickets going on sale in the spring of 2018. "But they will go fast," adds Vernaci. "It will probably be the fastest sale that we've ever had in our history."
Another show with high interest is the national tour of "Waitress," which will launch from Cleveland in October. The show's composer and lyricist, Sara Bareilles, was at Tuesday's kickoff event and had this to say about the complicated characters populating the production: "There are no clear-cut heroes and villains . . . It's good people who make mistakes and I think we can all relate to that."
The singer/songwriter surprised the crowd by heading to a piano positioned on the stage and performing one of her tunes from "Waitress," the emotional, show-stopping ballad "She Used to Be Mine." As she played the final note, those gathered rose to their feet, their applause thundering through the space.
Times, tickets and more
All shows will play in the Connor Palace, except for "Love Never Dies," "Aladdin" and "Hamilton," which are slated for the State Theatre. Opening dates and show times vary, so visit playhousesquare.org/broadway or call 216-640-8800 for tickets and details.
Season tickets are available now. Seven-show packages range from $100 to $680, with monthly payment plans available.
Single tickets for "On Your Feet!," "Love Never Dies," "Rent" and "The Humans" go on sale Friday, Sept. 8. Dates for all other KeyBank Broadway Series single-ticket sales will be announced later.
Single tickets for "Hamilton" go on sale next spring. The best way to stay informed about "Hamilton's" Cleveland engagement is to sign up to receive updates by email. You can do that at playhousesquare.org/HAMILTON.
2017-18 KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square
Tuesday, Oct. 17-Sunday, Nov. 5, Connor Palace: "Waitress." Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. Book by Jessie Nelson. Choreography by Lorin Latarro. Directed by Diane Paulus. Based on the 2007 film written by Adrienne Shelly.
Jenna is a pregnant, small-town waitress in a loveless marriage who hopes to enter a pie-baking contest in a neighboring county to spark a much-needed change in her life.
Nominated for four Tony Awards, the production is the first Broadway musical in history to have four women at the top of the creative roster. (Joining Paulus and singer-songwriter Bareilles are book writer Jessie Nelson and choreographer Lorin Latarro.)
The female protagonist at its center (another Broadway rarity) is a complicated creature, imperfect and imprudent, embarking on an affair with her baby doc. "It's about the messiness of life," says Vernaci. "Anytime I make pie, I've got flour in my hair, stuff is everywhere. You deal with the messiness to get to the sweetness afterwards - I think it is a wonderful metaphor for life.
"It is a very human story, because we all make bad calls sometimes and have to figure out how to clean up the mess and move on."
Tuesday, Dec. 5-Saturday, Dec. 23, Connor Palace: "On Your Feet!" Featuring music produced and recorded by Emilio Estefan, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine. Choreography by Sergio Trujillo. Directed by Jerry Mitchell.
The Havana-born Gloria Estefan looks back on her life, including her fateful meeting with bandleader Emilio Estefan, the husband and collaborator who helped ignite her remarkable career.
"It has that joyful vibe," says Vernaci. "I love the music. It is so appropriately titled 'On Your Feet!,' because you will be challenged to stay in your seat."
Expect to fight the urge to dance in the aisles to hits "Conga," "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" and "Turn the Beat Around."
Tuesday, Jan. 9-Sunday, Jan. 28, State Theatre: "Love Never Dies." Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Glenn Slater. Book by Slater, Ben Elton and Frederick Forsyth. Choreography by Graeme Murphy. Directed by Simon Phillips.
This sequel to the longest-running show on the Great White Way, "The Phantom of the Opera," takes our twisted antihero to Coney Island in 1907, 10 years after his mysterious disappearance from the Paris Opera House. Will he reunite with his immortal crush, the soprano Christine Daae, now in a troubled marriage with her savior Raoul? Does the Phantom wear a creepy white mask?
Though the show never played Broadway, it toured internationally after a significant retooling following its London premiere in 2010, with stands in Melbourne, Australia, and Hamburg, Germany. And now, like the ghoul himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber's follow-up to his mega hit "Phantom" makes its way to American shores.
"It's a wonderful score," says Vernaci. Audiences can also anticipate a visual rush courtesy of scenic designer Bob Crowley, the alchemist behind the gorgeous, innovative Tony Award-winning sets of "An American in Paris," coming to Playhouse Square this June.
Tuesday, March 6-Sunday, March 25, 2018, Connor Palace: "Rent." Music, lyrics and book by Jonathan Larson. Choreography by Marlies Yearby. Directed by Michael Greif.
The audacious, towering classic inspired by Puccini's "La Boheme" is set in New York City's East Village near the end of the 20th century, a bohemian ZIP code filled with artists, lovers and dreamers grappling with penury, addiction and the spread of AIDS.
The original Broadway musical opened in 1996 and starred a fantasy cast that included Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, Anthony Rapp and, in her Broadway debut, Idina Menzel. The show won four Tonys, including posthumous honors for Larson for best book and best original score.
"What's amazing now is that we look at it as though it's a chestnut," says Vernaci. "Twenty years ago, it was outrageous. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic . . . characters are prostitutes and they're drug addicts. But they're looking for their voice, they're looking for their place in this world - like all of us."
Tuesday, April 10-Sunday, April 29, 2018, Connor Palace: "The Humans." Written by Stephen Karam. Directed by Joe Mantello.
The Blake family gathers for Thanksgiving in a rundown basement apartment in Chinatown, where they drink wine out of Dixie cups and share heaping helpings of sarcasm to help mask their fears - of death, illness and being displaced in a changing economy.
Critics loved the off-Broadway transfer, which earned six Tony nods and four wins in 2016, including best play. Despite the dark themes, the work is mordantly funny.
"There's a lot of humor in the writing of this piece," Vernaci says. And a lot of love. "At the end of the day, the members of this family are very devoted to each other."
While she acknowledges programming the dramedy by the emerging young playwright is "a little out of our comfort zone . . . you can't always make the safe choice. If you don't take a risk, you're not taking the journey. Today's stretch is tomorrow's classic - and 'Rent' is an example of that."
Wednesday, May 2-Sunday, May 27, 2018, State Theatre: "Aladdin." Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Book by Beguelin. Based on the Disney film written by Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.
Princess Jasmine, chafing at her father's plans to marry her off to a royal groom, sneaks out of the palace and meets clever street urchin (and sometime thief) Aladdin. But when Aladdin is sentenced to death for fraternizing with his regal gal pal, his only hope is a genie who resides in a lamp in the Cave of Wonders.
The Disney crowd-pleaser opened on Broadway in 2014 and is still casting its spell. "Obviously, it is Alan Menken, who knows how to write a tune," says Vernaci.
And, she adds, we mustn't leave out costume designer Gregg Barnes. "Every bead you will see is sewn on by hand. The silks are all painted by hand. They're done so beautifully. There are no shortcuts in creating the look of this show."
Tuesday, July 17-Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, State Theatre: "Hamilton." Book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Based on the book "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow. Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Directed by Thomas Kail.
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a / Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten / spot in the Caribbean by providence / impoverished, in squalor / grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
Lin-Manuel Miranda answers that question, posed in his Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning hip-hop history lesson about the all-but-forgotten gifted statesman, fiery pamphleteer and lady killer (among his other skills).Before you see "the show everyone is dying to see," says Vernaci, download the cast album and listen to it in advance. "It's a must," she adds.That homework will help you keep up. "This is a hip-hop opera. The information is smart, it's informative, and it starts coming at you from the first downbeat."
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