Big picture: Which Broadway shows would you like to see come to the Capital Region?

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Times Union Studio shot of Entertainment Editor Michael Janairo for his upcoming Unwind “Big Picture” Arts Column, shot on Wednesday, June 16, 2010, in Albany, NY. (Luanne M. Ferris/Times Union)

On Tuesday night, “Shrek: The Musical” opens at Proctors.

It’s the third production in the venue’s five-musical Broadway season. (“La Cage Aux Folles” started the season, followed by “The Addams Family”; later will be “Jersey Boys” and “Memphis”). Now that the season is around the halfway point, I thought I’d try my powers of prognostication about what may be in store for Proctors’ 2012-13 Broadway season.

Although nothing has been announced at Proctors, some current Broadway shows have already announced 2012-13 tours, even the biggest one of them all — “The Book of Mormon” — which last year won nine Tony awards, including best musical. The show, which satirizes organized religion and Broadway shows, comes from the same brains behind the TV show “South Park,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez, who co-wrote “Avenue Q.” So the questions are: will Proctors be able to snag this hot ticket, and will the venue be able to sell enough tickets to fill its 2,646 seats for a run of a week or longer?

Of course, the matter of selling tickets is the big question for every show at every venue, but the kinds of shows Proctors brings in says something about the audience. Are Capital Region theatergoers eager and open enough for a musical about naive Mormon missionaries in Uganda, a production that Stone has called an “atheist’s love letter to religion”?

My guess is yes, the region can handle a show with a message that religion can serve a purpose, as long as its stories are considered metaphors and not literal truth. A region with a bigger fundamentalist religious population? Perhaps not so much.

Other heavy hitters starting tours later this year include the madcap Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes” (winner of three 2011 Tony awards, including best musical revival) and the drama “War Horse,” which delves into the horrors of World War I by focusing on the story of a horse (winner of five 2011 Tony awards, including best play).
Could Proctors get all three of these shows? Or is that too much for theater fans to hope for? Proctors’ current Broadway offerings include three productions on their first U.S. tours: “La Cage aux Folles,” “The Addams Family” and “Memphis.” So maybe that bodes well for “Book of Mormon” and “Anything Goes,” but “War Horse” may be another story entirely.

The first strike against it is that it isn’t a musical. It is a highly praised play. It is even based on the same source material, a novel of the same name, as Steven Speilberg’s recent film. But it is still a play, and the last play that was part of the Proctors Broadway series was way back in November 2009.

That play, “The 39 Steps,” was about as far from drama as you can get. The madcap farce, based on the spy novel and Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, derives much of its humor from having four actors play all the parts with limited props and scenery, and plenty of quick changes. That gave the play a scrappy and intimate feel, which seemed to be at odds with the enormous and opulent Mainstage at Proctors, which can fit huge productions as “The Lion King” and “Shrek”. On Broadway, “The 39 Steps” played at three theaters, and the largest of them (the Cort Theater with 1,082 seats) is less than half the size of Proctors.

“War Horse,” of course, isn’t “The 39 Steps.” It has a rich design and intricate-looking puppets. So maybe it can work on the Mainstage at Proctors, even if that space is better suited for the big showstoppers that are the hallmark of Broadway musicals.

Speaking of musicals, some of the ones that are touring the U.S. that haven’t played Proctors are “American Idiot,” “Billy Elliot,” “Fela!,” “Les Miserables” (the 25th anniversary edition), “Mary Poppins” and “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Out of the nine shows I’ve mentioned so far, though, only five can fit in a Proctors season. And without having to think about selling more than 2,600 tickets for each show in an eight-show-a-week run, here’s what I’d pick: “War Horse,” “Anything Goes,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Fela!” and “American Idiot.”

Each season, Proctors also has one show for multiple weeks, and my guess is that “Book of Mormon” could fill that spot.

What touring shows would you like to see come to Proctors or the Capital Region in general? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

In a few months, we’ll see what Proctors has decided.

For more Big Picture columns, click here.



  1. I don’t know if they’re all touring but I’d love to see….Book Of Mormon, Next To Normal, The Wedding Singer, The Little Mermaid, The Next Five Years, Tarzan, The Phantom Of The Opera….just to name a few 🙂 haha I’m sure the lineup will be awesome either way!


  2. I sell group tickets and I think the shows that I would most like to sell are Billy Elliot, War Horse, Million Dollar Quartet and Mary Poppins. Proctors has been doing an outstanding job at bringing some really great Broadway shows. I find that people tend to like to see shows they know something about and of course the Disney shows seem to always sell. I give my show goers the choice as they are able to sign up for the shows they would like to see when they are announced and if I get enough interest I put a group together. Can’t wait to find out what is coming next season!!!


  3. I like your choices Michael although your scheduling philosophy “without having to think of filling 2,600 seats” might prevent a second such season. I would substitue “Billy Elliot” for “American Idiot” which I’ve already seen and I would subscribe and feel good that I skipped these shows on recent NYC trips.


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