🎭 Thoughts on a Theatre Season – Pantages 2019-2020 Season / Ahmanson Prognostications

No, I haven’t forgotten my Hello Dolly writeup. It should be up in the next day or three — but it is a great show and you should go see it. But first … this morning the Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2019-2020 season, and I thought I should share some thoughts. Here’s the graphic and some thoughts:

  • The Nederlander Organization is expanding to programming two theatres this year: the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Dolby Theatre (FB) at Hollywood and Highland. It will be interesting to see how our seats translate to the Dolby; I’ve never been in that facility. They also seem to be returning to the “Broadway in Hollywood” moniker. People forget the history, but the original Pantages programming going back to the days of Joseph and the … back in 1982 merged with what was left of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera (which used to program musicals at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion — in fact, it was one of the original tenants) to create an organization called “Broadway LA“. That name (and the website) was dropped around ten years in favor of only the Pantages name, but it appears to be resurrected in a slightly different form. Here’s the press release.
  • The shows announced are as follows:
  • The split between the theatres is interesting. What this seems to be permitting — at least this year — is a long sit-down engagement for Hamilton starting in March while they can still satisfy the subscription base they have built with new shows at the Dolby. This may work — I’m sure the Dolby will have significantly better acoustics than the Pantages; I don’t know about sight lines from the side. But once the juggernauts are gone, what will happen then? The major long sit-down shows will be things like WickedHamiltonDear Evan Hansen, and such. What others will sustain a long run in this city?
  • This season, I’ve heard the music from all of the shows. Most of the shows in the season I’m excited to see: in particular, The Band’s VisitSpongebob, and Anastasia. I’ve heard Frozen has some good effects, but at least based on the cast album, the first act is a bit slow. It will be interesting to see on stage. I like the music to Mean Girls, but it comes across as a Heathers-ish show. I’ve heard really good things about the My Fair Lady revival, and supposedly they’ve addressed the tonal problems in the original, but I’m curious to see how. The music in Escape to Margaritaville is good, but it’s a jukebox musical with little substance (much like Buffett’s music). The least interesting of the bunch is Summer — another jukebox, but with disco. Yes, disco, the music of my college years.
  • This year, I’ll likely get the add on: Hamilton is one musical I won’t mind seeing a second time.

So what does this leave for the  Ahmanson Theatre (FB)? We know their first show in the 2019-2020 season will be Once on this Island, as that has been announced. What will join it? Perhaps the Bat Out of Hell tour will finally make it back on the road (supposedly it will in 2019), but I’m not holding my breath. Piecing together the announcements that I’ve seen, plus how the Ahmanson is programmed, here’s my best guess. Note that the Ahmanson differs from the Pantages in that is isn’t exclusively tours: they do produce new musicals, they present plays, and they do dance shows like the upcoming Cinderella. They don’t do many repeat or second-tier revivals, so tours like HairJC SuperstarCluePercy Jackson, and such are extremely unlikely to go to the Music Center. Here’s what I think will join Once on this Island:

I haven’t heard rumors of Angels in America going on tour, but I could see the Ahmanson adapting that and bringing it in as a one-off. They may also bring in some dance show; I think Harry Potter would suffice for the play. There could be a new musical in the mix; they tend to do that.

There are some other shows that I could see coming in, but they are too new to be highly likely: Pretty Woman, The Prom, or Be More Chill.

Look for my Hello Dolly review by the end of the week. This weekend: Theatrical whiplash, in the form of 1776 and Anna Karenina, both on the same day.