Touring Musicals Set to Hit the Road

  • by Richard Dodds
  • Wednesday February 14, 2018
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'Falsettos,' which begins as a coming-out story before the arrival of AIDS changes its course, is headed here in a touring edition based on the recent Broadway revival
'Falsettos,' which begins as a coming-out story before the arrival of AIDS changes its course, is headed here in a touring edition based on the recent Broadway revival

What had been the most important casting mystery among the seven shows recently announced by SHN for its latest season of touring musicals was has just been solved. It will be Betty Buckley starring as Dolly Gallagher Levi when "Hello, Dolly!" arrives in San Francisco next year. The other six shows, including "Come From Away," "Falsettos" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," do not exist because box-office names are in their casts. But "Hello, Dolly!" would not have been revived without Bette Midler, and it's not the kind of show you'd send out on tour without a big name above the title.

The season starts with the touring version of the recent Broadway revival of "Miss Saigon" playing Oct. 4-Nov. 18. The musical, a Vietnam-era reimagination of "Madama Butterfly," was Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil's follow-up to "Les Miserables." With tweaks to a book and a new director, it was back on Broadway in 2017 for a modest run compared to the decade span of the original. The helicopter, however, remains.

It will be the only one of the seven series shows to play the Orpheum Theatre, with the rest headed for the Golden Gate. Perhaps it's to keep the Orpheum open should the off-series return of "Hamilton" in February become a multi-month affair. Subscribers to the seven-show season will get first crack at "Hamilton" tickets.

"A Bronx Tale - The Musical" failed to get a single Tony nomination last year, but Chazz Palminteri's loose retelling of his young self in awe of the wise-guy life has proven a scrappy Broadway survivor. Palminteri first created it as a one-man show for himself, which was optioned by Robert DeNiro, who directed and co-starred with Palminteri in a film adaptation. On Broadway, DeNiro was joined by Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks to direct the musical, with songs by composer Alan Menken ("Little Shop of Horrors") and lyrics by Glen Slater ("School of Rock"). It runs Nov. 27-Dec. 23.

If "A Bronx Tale" was the scrappy survivor, "Come From Away" was the surprise sleeper hit. Arriving last season with a cast few of whose names anyone would recognize, written by the novice Broadway husband-and-wife team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein, whose main credits had been "My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding" in Canada, and dealing with the story of airplane passengers stuck on the ground, it has turned into a runaway hit. Specifically, it's the story of the thousands of passengers of the planes rerouted to Gander in Newfoundland immediately after 9/11, and how the townsfolk embraced their diverse visitors. The musical, also embraced by audiences, will run Jan. 8-Feb. 3.

Betty Buckley, a frequent visitor to San Francisco as a concert and cabaret performer, will return to the city when "Hello, Dolly!" plays here Feb. 19-March 17, 2019. Buckley made her Broadway debut in 1969 in "1776" just as the original run of "Hello, Dolly!' was coming an end, and she would go on to win a Tony Award singing "Memory" in "Cats." Subsequent credits include roles in the ignoble "Carrie" and a celebrated turn as Glenn Close's replacement in "Sunset Boulevard."

The march of time could have obliterated "Falsettos," playing here March 19-April 14, 2019, but when a revival of the 1991 musical opened on Broadway two years ago, critics reported it still had the gut-punch of the original. Created from two off-Broadway musicals, "March of the Falsettos," written pre-AIDS, and the post-AIDS "Falsettoland," the William Finn-James Lapine musical follows an insecure gay man who has recently come out to his wife and with whom he must help plan his confused son's bar mitzvah just as his relationship with the virile young man develops. AIDS isn't even a concept in the first act, but becomes a centerpiece of the second.

Roald Dahl's "Charlie and Chocolate Factory" has indeed become a factory as adaptations have been continually spun off since its publication in 1964, with the latest running here April 16-May 12, 2019. The children's novel was the source of the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" starring Gene Wilder, then the 2005 "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with Johnny Depp. The next spin-off was the elaborately produced musical "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which had a successful run in London, and in revised form, a somewhat less successful Broadway engagement last year. The songs are by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman of "Hairspray" fame, with Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's "Candy Man" and "Pure Imagination" carried over from the 1971 movie.

The season concludes with the Sept. 3-29 run of "Anastasia," the current Broadway musical that stokes the myth that the youngest daughter of the Russia's last royal family survived execution by the Bolsheviks. The creators are the same team that put "Ragtime" on stage: songwriters Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and librettist Terrence McNally, and their official sources are the 1997 animated musical (also with songs by Flaherty and Ahrens) and the 1956 Hollywood costume drama starring Ingrid Bergman. "Anya," another Broadway musical mining similar territory, didn't survive the critical firing squad in 1965.

Current SHN subscribers can now renew, with new sales starting March 13. Single tickets will go on sale later. Go to for more information.