The Austin Chronicle

Long Center/Texas Performing Arts

Two for the road(show)

By Robert Faires, March 5, 2010, Arts

In the run-up to the opening of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, one big question was: How will the new facility compete for all those big touring Broadway musicals that the University of Texas Performing Arts Center – now Texas Performing Arts – has had a lock on since 1981? Alas, when the Long Center had to cancel the booking of its very first touring musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, over sluggish sales, then watch as the newly renovated Bass Concert Hall roared back to life with hot-ticket runs of Legally Blonde: The Musical, Monty Python's Spamalot, Rent, Avenue Q, and Wicked – with ticket sales for that last show catapulting Bass to No. 7 on Pollstar's list of top 100 Worldwide Theatre Venues between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2009 – the answer seemed to be: not very well.

But that was then; this is now. On Feb. 15, Texas Performing Arts and the Long Center announced that they are becoming partners in the local presentation of musicals from national tour producer Broadway Across America. Of the five subscription productions on the BAA-Austin 2010-2011 season, four will show at Bass and one at the Long Center, and the handful of nonsubscription special engagements will be split between the two venues. (In the current season, the subscription shows included the been-and-gone Spring Awakening and The Color Purple, the now-playing Fiddler on the Roof, and the still-to-come In the Heights and A Chorus Line. Special engagements are Riverdance, Phantom of the Opera, and The Wizard of Oz.)

The arrangement sounds like a dream come true for Long Center Executive Director Cliff Redd, who has long spoken of his desire to see more theatre in Dell Hall. It also sounds like Kathy Panoff, who's still in her first year as executive director of Texas Performing Arts, is continuing to make good on her reputation as a university administrator who believes in forging partnerships with the larger community. (Panoff has also thrown Texas Performing Arts support behind the Fusebox Festival.)

So what Broadway musicals will we get to see in this new alliance? Both venues are still holding their upcoming season cards close to their vests, but here are a handful of titles that are currently on the road and in the BAA mix that have not yet played Austin: Billy Elliot the Musical, Mary Poppins, Young Frankenstein, Xanadu, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, Shrek the Musical, and recent hit revivals South Pacific, Hair, West Side Story, and Dreamgirls. Given the number of shows that have already played Bass, it's easy to picture almost any of them there. Interesting to imagine one of them in Dell Hall ....

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