BroadwayCon is the place for theatre fans to get the inside info on their favorite Broadway shows, but it can also be a forum to learn about what’s aiming for the Main Stem.
During the panel about out-of-town tryouts, which featured veteran producer Dori Berinstein (Legally Blonde, Thoroughly Modern Millie), alongside actors Will Roland (Dear Evan Hansen) and Bret Shuford (The Little Mermaid, Paramour), Berinstein revealed that the venue of the tryout is chosen strategically; some cities are more suited than others when it comes to taking a show out of town.
Berinstein is currently steering two new musicals to Broadway. Half Time is the musical about a group of seniors who audition for the chance to dance at half time for a major basketball team. Featuring a score by the late Marvin Hamlisch, Matthew Sklar and Nell Benjamin, the musical premiered in Chicago last winter under the title Gotta Dance. (During the Chicago run, the team discovered audiences were slightly confused by the title, which suggested the lavish MGM musicals of the 1950s.)
Berinstein said that Chicago Times theatre critic Chris Jones, who initially reviewed the show, became instrumental in providing feedback to the creative team throughout the try-out—a perspective and perk unique to the Midwest host city.
When it does arrive in New York, Half Time will feature an all-new closing number, which Berinstein says has been co-written by a prominent hip-hop artist. She declined to reveal any further details, but the musical will play another out-of-town engagement before arriving in New York.
Her other project, the Broadway-aimed musical The Prom, had its premiere run at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA. “We very intentionally went to Atlanta because we wanted a very diverse audience,” Berinstein says. The musical centers on two teenage lesbians who are denied the chance to go to their own prom because of discrimination from the PTA.
“We wanted to be in an environment where that issue might be challenging for some people. We wanted to test it in front of an audience who weren’t all ‘Yay, go lesbian proms!’” That was a very deliberate choice to test it there.
Berinstein said that out-of-town tryouts are essential to a show’s development. She added that many producers are now taking the long view when it comes to taking a show out of town. “We are thinking much more about the tour now, and we are designing a show that is much smarter now, so we don’t have to start over and have a big recapitalization before we eventually go on tour. It also just creates a leaner and smarter show for Broadway.”