Oh, yeah, and almost 100 other performing arts events
Hundreds of ticket buyers, current subscribers, donors and friends gathered in Overture Hall on April 8 for the official unveiling of the performing arts center’s 2019-20 season — and the big reveal of the dates for the Madison run of the smash hit Hamilton.
After official welcomes from Overture president and CEO Sandra Gajic and some singing and dancing from the talented teens who make up the Jerry Ensemble, Tim Sauers, vice president of programming and community engagement, introduced videos highlighting each ticketed event in the forthcoming brochure. He was dressed in a yellow shirt, suspenders, red tie and plaid shorts — turns out he was celebrating the only Wisconsin engagement for The SpongeBob Musical, which is part of the upcoming Broadway series.
But he had plenty of enthusiasm left over for all of the other, varied offerings, from Broadway revivals and the virtuoso, genre-bending musicians of Black Violin, to the juggling comedy group The Flying Karamazov Brothers and the live action version of the claymation holiday classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical.
The big news, of course is that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop masterpiece, Hamilton, will finally make its way to Madison — Nov. 19-Dec. 8 — four years after its stunning debut on Broadway. If you haven’t already ventured to New York or Chicago to see the musical about the “ten dollar founding father without a father” you can get your tickets now as part of a six-show subscription package, which ranges from $222 to $771 per person, depending on your seating preference. If you have already seen it … well, I think it’s even more amazing when you know the cast album by heart. For those who aren’t interested in investing in a whole package, there will also be single tickets available for every single performance of Hamilton’s three-week run, as well as a $10 ticket lottery, if you’re feeling lucky. Watch the Overture Center website and Facebook page for more information on how to enter.
Now, back to that absorbent yellow guy who lives in a pineapple under the sea. “Of all of the adaptations of movies and TV to come to the stage, SpongeBob may be the strangest,” Sauers admitted. “But it was also helmed by critically acclaimed Chicago director Tina Landau, so it’s really unconventional and creative, which may be why it was nominated for 12 Tony Awards.” “I loved the show,” he added. “I saw it three times on Broadway, and this season we’re the only venue in the state that will have it.”
Another big musical in the line-up has been recently revamped in an effort to make it more palatable for today’s audiences. Bartlett Sher’s production of the classic My Fair Lady has been both lauded and criticized for reinterpreting the end of the show to make it follow its source material more closely — George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The original musical and film focus on the love story that blossoms between the upper-crust Professor Higgins and the “common guttersnipe” Eliza Doolittle. But contemporary audiences have found the relationship increasingly problematic. This production is an experiment in how far you can bend a classic to fit modern sensibilities.
The feel-good musical Come from Away is making its debut in Madison. Chronicling the days after 9/11 when a tiny town in Newfoundland was overrun by airplane passengers forced to make emergency landings, it’s a life-affirming tribute to a tumultuous time, jam packed with jaunty Celtic melodies. A much lauded, recent revival of the musical The Color Purple also comes to Overture in February, adding to the celebration of Black History Month.
Two huge shows are also taking victory laps this year. It’s the third visit for the aggressively irreverent and enormously funny Book of Mormon, created by the guys behind South Park. And it’s the fourth time around for the boldly reimagined Wizard of Oz musical, Wicked. So audiences have another opportunity to see the bookish green witch Elphaba “defy gravity” and learn how to be “Popular” from her perky sister Glinda.
Alongside the big hits, children’s programming and modern dance there are also a few curiosities this season, such as the R-rated “Naked Magicians,” a duo from Australia that will brave the Wisconsin weather in February to perform amazing sleight of hand without being encumbered by clothing. And truly adventurous playgoers can check out That Golden Girls Show: A Puppet Parody — large-scale puppets performing actual pieces of the show.
When asked how Overture chooses its programming each year, Sauers responded, “The Broadway season is a collaborative process with Broadway Across America. We also send out a lot of surveys every year to past ticket buyers, trying to gauge interest in possible shows. Then we look at the balance of the season, so we can offer a mix of new and classic pieces.
“This year we had 7,700 subscribers,” Sauers added. “Over the past several years that number has gone up dramatically, so now our goal is to keep growing.”