Buzz has been building for months around the most sought-after shows in Shea's Performing Arts Center's 2018-19 season: The genre-expanding hit "Hamilton" and audience favorite "Dear Evan Hansen."
But tonight, Buffalo's flagship theater announced the rest of its Broadway season, and it's likely to make Broadway fans swoon. Especially those with kids.
In addition to those previously announced shows, Shea's official Broadway season will feature "Aladdin," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Miss Saigon."
Special engagements planned for 2019 include the return of the reliably popular shows "Cats," "Rent" and "The Book of Mormon."
For the third year running, the September slot will feature the launch of a new touring production, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Like "On Your Feet" and "Finding Neverland," the show will hold a month of technical rehearsals at Shea's as part of a New York State tax credit program aimed at boosting the economies of upstate New York cities.
"The New York State theater tax credit has been a huge success," said longtime Shea's Broadway season co-producer Albert Nocciolino. "All the producers are now aware that upstate New York is a great place to tech and it's a time of year when most of the theaters are not busy. It's become a priority in the booking process."
Nocciolino said the season features more weeks than any in the history of Shea's Broadway series, owing to the three-week run of "Hamilton" and a two-week run for "Aladdin." He also noted that Shea's will be the first upstate theater to present "Hamilton" before it travels to points east.
"I'm reluctant to use superlatives, because I come from a place where it's impossible for every show to be better than the last one and every season to be better than the season before," Nocciolino said. "Having said that, I can't imagine a season more exciting, more balanced, more reflective of the success of Broadway than the season we put together for Shea's."
As Shea's President and CEO Michael Murphy works to broaden the theater's reach in the community and chart a new future for Shea's 710 Theatre, the organization also used Tuesday's event to announce the seasons for the Shea's 710 and Smith theaters.
Shea's 710, the former studio arena, will host a five-way collaboration of "The Three Musketeers," a Road Less Traveled Theatre production of "Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley," MusicalFare Theatre productions of "Million Dollar Quartet" and "Fun Home." The last show in the season will be "Almost, Maine."
The Smith Theatre will host productions from O'Connell & Company and Second Generation Theatre during the 2018-19 season. The Smith lineup features O'Connell productions of "Gentlemen Prefer Divas" Sept. 14 and 15, "The Betsy Carmichael Christmas Special" from Dec. 14 to 23, "The Kathy & Mo Show" from Jan. 18 to 27, 2019 and a remount of "An Act of God" from April 5 to 7, 2019.
Second Generation Theatre, which took this season off while searching for a new home, returns with "Big Fish" from Oct. 11 to 28, "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches" from March 7 to 24, 2019 and concludes with the musical "Nine" from June 13 to 30, 2019.
Here's a breakdown of the season:
"Aladdin," Aug. 7 to 19
The Shea's season will get an unusually early start with this family friendly 2011 adaptation of Disney's 1992 animated film "Aladdin." The show features music by Disney dynamo Alan Menken, with lyrics by Tim Rice, Howard Ashman and Chad Beguelin. It features popular songs like "Arabian Nights," "Friend Like Me," "Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World," as well as several new songs written by Menken and Beguelin.
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," Sept. 22 to 29
Originally staged in London's West End in 2013, the show, based on Roald Dahl's famous novel, received a major overhaul before its Broadway debut. It features new music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman, along with songs from the popular 1971 musical adaptation.
"Fiddler on the Roof," Oct. 30 to Nov. 4
Among evergreen musicals, few are more reliably relevant than "Fiddler on the Roof," Jerry Block, Sheldon Hamick and Joseph Stein's musical masterpiece about the Jewish experience in the early 20th century. This tour follows a much-praised 2015 Broadway revival directed by Bartlett Sher. Former New York Times Theater Critic Charles Isherwood wrote that Sher's production, which serves as the basis for this tour, came "at a time when its story of the gradual disintegration of a family, and a community, strikes home with unusual force." That remains true today.
"Hamilton," Nov. 20 to Dec. 9
It's tough to overstate the innate energy and appeal of this hip-hop-heavy musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who adapted Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton into one of the most stunning pieces of musical theater written in the 21st century. It follows Hamilton from his humble beginnings in the Caribbean through his unlikely rise to power, serving as both an energetic portrait of an important American figure and a paean to the power of the written word.
"Miss Saigon," Feb. 26 to March 3, 2019
An old story becomes new again in this touring version of the popular 2014 revival of this 1989 show by Claude-Michael Schonberg, Alain Boubil and Richard Maltby Jr., which in turn hearkens back to Puccini's 1903 opera "Madame Butterfly." Set during the Vietnam war, it is about an ill-fated love affair between an American G.I. and a Vietnamese prostitute.
"Dear Evan Hansen," May 14 to 19, 2019
A show that is sure to resonate with high school students and their parents, this exploration of teen angst features music and lyrics by the buzzworthy songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul ("La La Land," "The Greatest Showman"). Its title character is an anxiety-riddled young man who tries to find meaning in his life by devising an elaborate network of lies about his life and relationships. It won 2017 Tony Awards for best musical, book, score, performance by a leading actor, performance by a featured actress and orchestrations.
"Cats," Feb. 5 to 10. Andrew Lloyd Webber's love-it-or-hate-it 1981 musical was described by Roy Cohn in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America": "It's about cats. Singing cats. You'll love it."
"Rent," March 26 to 31, 2019. No musical captures the spirit of the mid-'90s more than Jonathan Larson's touching look at life in New York City during the later days of the AIDS crisis.
"The Book of Mormon," April 30 to May 5, 2019. "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone expanded the possibilities for vulgarity on Broadway with their satirical look at the culture and reach of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.