Brian Jacobson

Marcus Center’s Broadway series gets new name, strong lineup

By - Sep 6th, 2009 09:24 am

Upgrade in name leads to an increased lineup of national touring companies

Spring AwakeningWhen the lineup for the 2009-10 season at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts was released earlier this year, many a mouth dropped. Top names and a few 21st century Broadway hits were coming to Milwaukee via national touring companies. Even the Center’s VP of Marketing Heidi Lofy admitted that larger cities often get these titles instead. Neighboring Chicago can make a long-run and a lot of money out of shows like Wicked, so why should such shows come up here?

The recession and a stronger push from the local theater community are among the factors leading to the currently touring shows. Milwaukee will be graced with no less than Spring Awakening, Dreamgirls, Grease (the new version), Legally Blonde the Musical, and Wicked. Oh — and the Marcus Center just found out that Rent the Broadway Tour was available; and, it will now head our way the week of Thanksgiving. This re-launched version will feature original cast members Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, who only planned to be with the show until January.

For Broadway musical lovers, this series is a big deal. Heidi Lofy says the mindset about Broadway shows has changed. “It’s no longer, ‘You must close on Broadway to go around the country,’ ” she says.

While an intial tour of the smash hit Spring Awakening rests and a new cast gears up, Marcus Center has been gathering ‘Guilty Ones’ (an inside reference from the play) as street-team members to get the word out about the production. These people earn points, which can lead to stage seating alongside the players.

Awakening is an “edgy, adult” rock musical that asks potential audiences to take a risk with the material, and it pays off with music by Duncan Sheik and original source material from a controversial 1891 play by Frank Wedekind. It’s been recognized as a kind of Rent for the next generation. More importantly, it hasn’t been seen in Milwaukee before.

With the recent film treatment of Dreamgirls, the enduring cult popularity of Grease (combined with TV reality show that profiled players auditioning for roles), the surprise stage version success of Legally Blonde (again, new to Milwaukee) and the overwhelmingly loved alternate telling of the Wizard of Oz tale through the life story of Elphaba in Wicked — Milwaukee’s Water Street is going to look like Broadway’s Great White Way itself for the next 11 months.

Categories: Theater

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