Glistening with Broadway panache and savvy, but bubbling like your enthusiastic, backyard Arizona neighbor, ASU Gammage Executive Director Colleen Jennings-Roggensack raved about the too-good-to-be-believed 2014-15 season of entertainment that will celebrate their 50th Anniversary. In an interview just before tonight's Season Announce free event hosted in Gammage's beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-designed performance hall, she shared glittery details and rarely revealed glimpses of the shows that will soon arrive.
First things first. Hold onto your New York loving hats! The ASU Gammage 50th Anniversary Desert Schools Broadway Across America—Arizona 2014-15 series is this: Kinky Boots. Pippin. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Dirty Dancing. Cinderella. Motown The Musical. The Phantom of the Opera. Also included are two special engagements: Chicago. Wicked.
Jennings-Roggensack stressed that she, Senior Director of Programming Michael Reed or Marketing Director Victor Hamburger "try to see EVERYTHING" in New York, London, or in workshop before it gets to Gammage's stage. "We want to ensure that the quality is great, that the shows interface well with our mission and that we're focused on our Connecting Communities programs," she said about the theatre seasons that have become a huge economic engine for Arizona, providing $50 million of ancillary growth annually.
With insights and excitement, Jennings-Roggensack, Arizona's sole Tony voter, laid out details about several shows that are galloping to Gammage fresh from this year's Tony-Award's desk:
"Cindy Lauper's music is just lovely and wonderful. She performed for us a couple weeks ago, and this is her very first Broadway work. It's a musical that came from the film industry, a tiny independent work that a lot of people didn't know. Kinky Boots is about staying true to yourself in the face of heartbreak, and it is so colorful. It has truly captured people's hearts."
"We're looking at a Pippin that's never been seen before. It has a Cirque du Soleil quality about it with extraordinary acrobatics. Diane Paulus is a phenomenal director who has re-imagined the show and gave it a brand new life. Stephen Schwartz himself told me he wishes that this is the Pippin that would have come out first."
"The costumes in this show are absolutely magic-packed. In the moment of her twirl, Cinderella turns from rags to a ball gown in front of our eyes. This show was never on Broadway, but because of the live TV performance in New York with Leslie Ann Warren that everyone saw, it was placed in the Revival category for the Tony's this year. It's a beautiful show with the songs exactly as we remember them. I could hum along with every one!"
Roggensack-Jennings elaborated too on Wicked, and especially on Phantom of the Opera. "How could we throw a huge celebration like this and not have two of the biggest warhorses on Broadway return?"
"Many years ago Phantom changed Gammage's life forever," she continued. "Renovations were made to our stage specifically for that show. We are among the number one touring markets in the country, and that started with Phantom coming to us. Sir Andrew [Andrew Lloyd Webber] has gone back and reworked some of it, and now we get to unveil it as our new Phantom!"
Musical Theatre Evolving
Roggensack-Jennings further noted how the overall Broadway philosophy and game is changing.
1) The end goal is not Broadway; the end goal is the road.
"All of the Broadway producers know now they will recoup most of their expenses on the road. They
intentionally figure out now, as they're developing it for New York, what the show is going to look
like as it travels across the country."
2) Movies are driving new Broadway content.
"Every major American film house is now hiring Broadway producers to actualize their catalogs.
Here's the film industry saying, 'We have this wealth of content. How much of this can become
3) Transfers across 'the pond' are going to come straight to the road.
"I went to London, as I'm doing more and more often, to see Dirty Dancing before it made its
transition from the West End. Fresh shows from London's Theatre District are saying, 'Let's make the
leap...We can bypass Broadway and go straight to the American road."
The ASU Gammage 2014-15 Season will be a birthday celebration to remember. One to savor for the inside stories that accompany it. One to earmark the evolution of an American institution. One to hoard personal moments that great art cultivates.
As Roggensack-Jennings so perfectly relayed, "As much as we're cheerleading our phenomenal history, we're also announcing a fabulous future that starts here. It starts today."