Major Regional Tryouts Offer a Glimpse of Broadway's Future

News   Major Regional Tryouts Offer a Glimpse of Broadway's Future
Theatre fans have a rare chance to preview Broadway's possible future this week when a clutch of new musicals by some of the creators of Spring Awakening, The Book of Mormon, The Bridges of Madison County, Dogfight and Next to Normal are playing simultaneous out-of-town tryouts that could lead to full Broadway productions in coming seasons.

Beaches. The new musical based on the 1985 novel by Iris Rainer Dart which inspired the beloved 1988 film, is playing a pre-Broadway engagement at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook, IL. Novelist Dart collaborated with Thom Thomas on the book, and is writing lyrics for the musical that has music by David Austin. Beaches opened July 2 and will run through Aug. 16. Wicked star Shoshana Bean portrays rising star Cee Cee Bloom, with Bridges of Madison County actress Whitney Bashor as her lifelong friend, Bertie White.

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The musical premiered at Virginia's Signature Theatre in early 2014 with different stars. Director Eric Schaeffer (Follies, Million Dollar Quartet, who helmed the premiere, also stages the Drury Lane production. While a Broadway theatre and dates of production have not been announced, the creating team is billing the Chicago-area run as the show's "pre-Broadway" engagement.

Dear Evan Hansen. The world-premiere of this fresh, original musical officially opened July 30 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The thirty-something – and Tony-nominated – songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dogfight, A Christmas Story) are collaborating with book writer Steven Levenson ("Masters of Sex") on the show inspired by an event in Pasek's high school, when following a tragedy, teens tried to claim a late student as a dear friend. The smooth-voiced Ben Platt, known for his starring role in the film "Pitch Perfect," plays the shy and awkward outsider Evan Hansen who constructs a lie in order to obtain the family and life he's always wanted. Pasek describes him as "a character that looks at other people's lives on a Facebook or a Twitter feed and wonders why he isn't a part of that world." Social media is essentially another character in Evan Hansen, which also features actors Rachel Bay Jones, Laura Dreyfuss and Jennifer Laura Thompson.

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Michael Grief, who directed the emotional juggernaut Next to Normal, is leading the Arena Stage production that features choreography by Danny Mefford (Fun Home). While the songwriters maintain that they're keeping their focus on sharpening Dear Evan Hansen for Arena Stage, Broadway producer Stacey Mindich is attached to the project.

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Up Here. Another completely original musical to keep your eyes on is Up Here, which officially opens Aug. 9 (previews began July 28) at the La Jolla Playhouse. All eyes are on the newest work from Academy Award-winning, husband-and-wife "Frozen" songwriting duo of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Separately, he's the EGOT-winning writer of Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, while she's the writer of the Drama Desk-winning musical In Transit. Together, the golden duo have also earned a host of Emmys. The story of Up Here centers on an introverted 30-something computer repairman Dan who falls for an outgoing t-shirt designer named Linsday. The only snag is that the voices in Dan's head keep rearing their emotional heads. Betsy Wolfe and Matt Bittner co-star. Lopez told the New York Times that the musical is really "a love triangle between a guy, a girl and his brain." LA Jolla says that Up Here promises to go where no musical has gone before, bringing to life the circus of judgmental, neurotic, ever-changing characters that rule an ordinary man's mind."

Helming the ambitious project is Tony-nominated director Alex Timbers, whose inventive stagings of Peter and the Starcatcher and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, captivated audiences in recent seasons. Also on board is choreographer Joshua Bergasse, who won an Emmy for "Smash" and earned a Tony nomination for On the Town.

Waitress. The new musical based on the 2007 film of the same title premieres Aug. 2 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. There's a great deal of momentum behind the production that features a score from soulful singer-songwriter and "Brave" hit-maker Sara Bareilles, who is making her debut as a theatrical songwriter. Based on the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly, the new musical has a book by Jessie Nelson ("I Am Sam" and the stage musical adaptation of Corinna Corinna for Audra McDonald). Jessie Mueller, who earned a Tony Award for inhabiting Carole King in Beautiful, stars as a small-town waitress, pie-maker and suddenly expecting mother, seeking all the right ingredients for a lifetime of happiness.

Take first-look at the musical in rehearsals here.

It's an open secret that Waitress has its eye on a Broadway transfer sometime this season. Under the leadership of artistic director Diane Paulus, who also directes Waitress, A.R.T. has served as the birthplace of several recent Broadway productions including thrilling revivals of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess and Pippin (both of which won the Tony) as well as the re-invented new musical Finding Neverland.

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Also trying out this summer:

Noir by Spring Awakening's Duncan Sheik and Kyle Jarrow. Runs July 31-Aug. 2 at Vassar's Powerhouse Theatre in Poughkeepsie, NY.

My Paris with music by Charles Aznavour and lyrics by Bridges of Madison County composer Jason Robert Brown, runs through Aug. 16 at Goodspeed Musicals' Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.

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