Touring Broadway musicals to come through area

Touring companies of Broadway musicals sometimes can zip from one theater to another the very next night. Others after performing at one theater have to zig and zag for weeks or maybe months before returning to another nearby stage.

Northeastern Pennsylvania offers two venues, Scranton’s Cultural Center and Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center while North Central Pennsylvania has Williamsport’s Community Arts Center and Eisenhower Auditorium on Penn State’s University Park campus.

Scheduling dates for musical attractions for January through May show some zipping but lots of zigging and zagging.

“The Addams Family” – The dark delirious world of Gomez, Mortica, Uncle Fester, Pugsley, Wednesday and Lurch will lurch onto the spacious stage of Eisenhower Auditorium tonight. And even before the audience completely exits the theater, the crew will be breaking down the set, loading props, costumes and lighting cables into 18 wheelers and heading for Scranton. A fast turnover is necessary as “The Addams Family” opens the next night for three performances (Friday through Sunday) at the Masonic Temple.

Why will this show (and others) be booked for three performances in Scranton after only a single performance in State College? “It’s all about the population,” Community Arts Center Executive Director Rob Steele said. “Scranton has many times a larger area to draw from. That’s the key. We [the CAC] have occasionally booked a show for two nights with some success.”

“Hair” – Again, the touring company, after “Let(ting) The Sunshine In” at State College April 12 zips to Scranton for two performances April 14 and 15.

“Dreamgirls” – The splashy musical about a not so fictitious 1960s girl singing group’s trial and tribulations plays locally at the CAC on May 9. The Tony Award-winner zips on to Scranton where it will sit down for three performances (May 10 through 12).

“Scheduling a big musical is expensive and risky,” Steele said. “Sometimes well into the announced season, a show or two will be added. If the company has extra days between playing dates, a venue like the CAC may be contacted and a performance scheduled. The theater benefits with an extra big musical and the tour benefits with additional income. They’re called ‘gas shows.’ Plugging in a show on the way to the next venue helps pay for the gas for the buses and trucks. That’s how the Arts Center was able to present ‘Chicago.’ “

“Rock of Ages” – Occasionally, a tour travels from one theater to another for a show the following night. Wilkes-Barre’s Kirby Center will host “Rock of Ages” on Friday with the tour heading to the Hershey theater for two shows at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday.

“In a perfect world, a tour would line playing dates moving from one theater to another, but for many reasons, that can’t always happen,” Steele said.

So the zipping from one theatre to another may be the exception rather than the rule as zigging and zagging becomes more the norm.