The big news about the 2019-20 season at Overture Center for the Arts isn’t news anymore: It’s "Hamilton."
Overture broke the story last year that the touring Broadway sensation would make a stop in Madison in its next season. But only on Monday did it reveal when and how long "Hamilton" will be on the Overture Hall stage: for 24 performances from Nov. 19 to Dec. 8.
Overture also unveiled the rest of its upcoming Broadway season Monday evening, including the new offerings "The SpongeBob Musical" (Oct. 8-13), "The Color Purple" (Feb. 18-23), "The Play That Goes Wrong" (May 12-17, 2020) and "Come From Away" (Aug. 4-9, 2020).
The season kicks off with "The Book of Mormon" (Sept. 17-22), back for its third run in Madison.
"Riverdance New 25th Anniversary Show" takes the stage Jan. 28-30, and a new "My Fair Lady" is scheduled for an April 21-26, 2020, run.
"Wicked" returns for the fourth time to Overture from March 11-29.
Overture’s announcement last year that 2018-19 season subscribers would have first crack at 2019-20 subscriptions including "Hamilton" resulted in a 48% jump in subscriptions, to about 7,700 current subscribers, said Tim Sauers, vice president for programming and community engagement. Overture is anticipating another 42% increase in subscriptions for the 2019-20 season.
“I’ve been around for a while and have seen ‘The Book of Mormon’ and ‘Lion King’ and ‘Wicked’ take over, but nothing like ‘Hamilton,’” Sauers said. “It just speaks to everyone.”
The "Hamilton Effect" has done wonders for every market where it has been, said Jim Sheeley, president for Broadway Across America-North Region, which books Broadway shows at Overture Center.
Overture CEO Sandra Gajic called it "a great season."
"We are taking a huge financial risk bringing such a big season, but we trust that our community is ready and curious and wants to be challenged and inspired by what's on our stages," Gajic said.
“Hamilton,” which tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton with a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap and R&B, is also coming to two other Wisconsin markets this fall: the Fox Cities and Milwaukee.
Like almost any Broadway show that Overture Center hosts, "Hamilton" could have its detractors, Gajic said. Overture Center’s most recent Broadway offering this season, “Miss Saigon,” met with controversy when a number of people from Madison’s Asian American community objected to its depiction of Asian characters and the Vietnam War.
But it's the art center's role to bring a wide range of works to audiences, Gajic said.
"Is 'Hamilton' going to be controversial because of blind casting?" she said, referring to the practice of casting actors without considering their ethnicity, skin color or gender. "There's 'Book of Mormon,' which has been very, very controversial. It looks to me that the only show that's not controversial is the one little show coming from Canada, 'Come From Away' — a feel-good (show) about us being humans and helping each other."
Subscriptions still available
Broadway season subscriptions range in price from $222 to $771 for six shows — or $267.25 to $926.25 for seven shows including "Wicked." Subscribers can also buy "The Book of Mormon" and "Riverdance New 25th Anniversary Show" as add-ons.
New Broadway subscriptions for 2019-20 at Overture are described as "very limited" and are restricted to four season tickets per household. Group sales rates will not be available for “Hamilton.”
Yet Sauers insists there will be single tickets for “Hamilton” down the line.
“People have been constantly asking me," he said. "They are fearful that if they’re not a subscriber, they won’t have any opportunity to see ‘Hamilton,’ and that’s not true. ‘Hamilton’ will have single tickets available for every performance.
“The show will also have a lottery, so people will be able to get tickets the day of the show,” Sauers said. Day-of lottery ticket sales to Broadway shows are run by the shows themselves, and the winners’ tickets have been known to cost as little as $10.
Dates for the sale of single tickets to other touring Broadway shows will be announced beginning this summer.
More than Broadway
Along with touring Broadway shows, Overture on Monday evening announced its largest-ever “Overture Presents” series, which includes dance and circus arts, comedy, cabaret singers and family offerings. The popular “National Geographic Live” series will return. So will Duck Soup Cinema, Overture’s silent film and vaudeville series that next season will focus on female film pioneers.
The touring act Black Violin will be back Oct. 25, this time in Overture Hall instead of the smaller Capitol Theatre, where the popular music show last appeared. For the youthful mariachi band Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, appearing Oct. 11-12, the orchestra pit of Capitol Theater will be converted to a dance floor, Sauers said.
In conjunction with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Overture will host “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert” (Jan. 31) and “Star Wars Live in Concert” (May 30). Tribute bands will bring rock shows such as “One Night of Queen” and the new Classic Albums Live offerings “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” and “AC/DC’s Back in Black.”
“This town is very into classic rock. Very into,” Sauers said.
Overture is also bringing in country acts Thompson Square, Royal Wood and Kathy Mattea. Irish group The Chieftains will stop in Madison on their farewell tour, while emerging artist Kittel & Co. will bring Celtic fiddling to the Capitol Theater stage.
Sauers’ said the season’s “guilty pleasure” for him is “That Golden Girls Show,” a puppet parody where performers use life-size puppets to retell stories from the famous TV sitcom.
Revivals and originals
The Broadway season’s “SpongeBob Musical” will be a Wisconsin premiere. Based on the animated Nickelodeon series, the Tony-winning musical “is one of the most creative and inventive Broadway shows I have seen in years,” Sauers said.
"I saw it three times on Broadway, because it brought me so much joy," he said. "The first time I saw it with the millennial crowd, which grew up with the show. Then I saw it with kids, and the kids were actually shouting out to the characters on stage. They’re like rock stars to them."
“The Color Purple,” now in a Tony-winning revival, has never before played Madison, Sauers said. The new Lincoln Center production of “My Fair Lady” “is gorgeous and has a modern take on the show — which I don’t want to talk about because it will give it away,” he said.
Overture audiences requested the musical “Come From Away,” based on the true story from 9/11 when 38 international flights carrying almost 7,000 passengers were diverted to the tiny community of Gander, Newfoundland. The musical follows the unexpected friendships that developed over the next five days as community members took in the stranded travelers.
Gajic said that she'd like to bring in even more diverse shows in future seasons, but Overture faces a challenge because international promoters feel the Madison market is too small.
"If there is anyone in our community that really has these connections, and knows promoters with access to acts coming from other countries in the world, we would be very, very happy to engage in a conversation" with them, she said.