Newly promoting itself as “Wisconsin’s Broadway Destination,” the Overture Center on Monday announced the return of several touring hits as part of its 2016-17 season.
“The Phantom of the Opera,” the 1986 Andrew Lloyd Webber classic that also opened the brand-new Overture Center in 2005, will return to Madison in a re-staged version for a two-week run in January and February. Tony Award winner “Jersey Boys” also comes back in January and “The Book of Mormon,” winner of nine Tony Awards, returns in May 2017.
Shows new to Madison include Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” arriving in October, and “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical,” in mid-June 2017. “The Illusionists — Live From Broadway,” featuring the high-tech effects of seven illusionists, visits during Thanksgiving week, and the bawdy musical “Cabaret” runs for a week next March.
The goal is to continue building Overture’s season ticket sales, which over the past five years have increased by nearly 2,000 subscriptions to 6,550 for the current season, Overture officials said.
The steady increase helped put Overture Center in 98th place for ticket sales among the world’s top 200 theater venues reporting sales in 2015, according to Pollstar.
Madison’s growing appetite for Broadway shows “has been really great,” said Jim Sheeley, who books tours for Broadway Across America in the Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton markets along with others in the Upper Midwest.
“In the past six to seven years, it’s gone from a split-week market — where smaller shows play five or three nights a week — … to a full eight-show week. That’s a big step,” Sheeley said.
“Doing that allows you to bring in higher-quality shows and higher-quality titles. So the audiences appreciate that and our subscriber base grows.
“When the producers see that, then they want to come to Madison. And of course, they love Overture because it’s such an amazing facility,” he said. “It’s a great place to tour to because it’s so accommodating and the audiences are so enthusiastic.”
“Book of Mormon” was such a big hit in Madison — and everywhere — while on the road in 2015 that Broadway Across America definitely wanted to bring it back, Sheeley said.
Tickets on that original tour sold out “in a heartbeat,” he said.
“I think the tour was purposely what we would call ‘under-booked,’ just to make sure the audience response would be what we thought it would be across the country,” he said.
Broadway shows don’t “always translate from New York to the road. So with a big show, for producers who (are) investing millions and millions of dollars, a lot of them are cautious, and for good reason.”
Sheeley works closely with Tim Sauers, Overture’s vice president of programming and community engagement, to line up Overture’s Broadway season each year. Sauers taps into community input to hear what local audiences want to see, he said.
“Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” was “the show people have asked me the most about — whether and when that was coming,” Sauers said.
Highlights of the non-Broadway shows in the 2016-17 “Overture Presents” season, also announced Monday, include “Cannibal! The Musical” by “Book of Mormon” and “South Park” writer Trey Parker, booked for one week in October in Capitol Theater; the Okee Dokee Brothers on Nov. 19; and an Oct. 28 concert by music legend Tony Bennett, who turns 90 this year. It will be Bennett’s first show in Overture Hall, Sauers said.
Overture also is targeting the Gen X market, Sauers said, with appearances by generational favorites such as late-night talk-show host and comic Arsenio Hall and the R&B group Boyz II Men.
A puppet festival featuring a broad lineup of puppetry is scheduled for next spring. And Garrison Keillor will be back in Madison Oct. 16 — after his last performance as longtime host of “A Prairie Home Companion.”
“He’s going on the road as a storyteller,” said Sauers, who noted that Keillor’s “PHC” appearances in Madison have drawn sellout crowds. “So I’m very excited to have him in as a storyteller and for people to get to know him in that way, without that whole show behind him.”
Subscription packages for the 2016-17 Overture season went on sale Monday night. Show tickets for groups are available beginning April 11, and single tickets for Overture Presents go on sale July 9.
Single tickets for Broadway shows go on sale at various dates through the season. More ticket information is on Overture’s website at overturecenter.org or the box office at 258-4141.
Other resident companies at Overture Center have announced their 2016-17 seasons as well. The Madison Symphony Orchestra will present a multimedia performance of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” in September, with high-definition video of celestial images suggested by the music’s themes. Well-known Madison actors James DeVita and Brenda DeVita will appear with the MSO in a “Beyond the Score” presentation for Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” in January. And Madison’s renowned piano duo, sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton, are scheduled to perform in November.
Madison Opera opens its 56th season in November with Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet,” followed in February by the Midwest premiere of Daniel Schnyder’s “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” and in April by Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra continues its popular Concerts on the Square series this summer, and will present five Masterworks concerts through the year featuring guest soloists such as violinist Ilya Kaler and guitarist Ana Vidovic.