Denver Broadway: "Mean Girls" pushed, "Hamilton" on track — The Know

Ticket-holders for the Denver touring dates of Broadway’s “My Fair Lady,” “1776,” “Mean Girls” and “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” will have to wait a few more months for their shows to arrive, Denver Center for the Performing Arts said this week.

All shows had been postponed, then rescheduled, after they were first announced as part of the 2020-2021 Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) Broadway season in March 2020. The postponements originally pushed back “My Fair Lady” to an Aug. 11-22, 2021, run followed by “1776” (Sept. 14-26), “Mean Girls” (Oct. 12-24) and “Ain’t Too Proud” (Nov. 16-28).

As of today, those dates are empty again on DCPA’s calendar. While there are no new dates to announce, the COVID-related hold should only last “another few months,” said John Ekeberg, executive director of Broadway at the DCPA.

The good news is that mega-hits such as “The Lion King” and “Hamilton” — which were also rescheduled last year — are still on for their upcoming Denver runs.

“We anticipate that Broadway shows will resume with ‘The Lion King’ in December,” Ekeberg said. “Nothing has changed with those plans, and ‘Hamilton’ is indeed coming in February of 2022 through the end of March.”

Following “The Lion King,” DCPA expects to welcome back other high-profile Broadway touring shows next year such as “Come from Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Hadestown,” “Jersey Boys,” “Moulin Rouge!,” “Pretty Woman,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Tootsie,” as well as the Riverdance 25th Anniversary Tour.

But this week’s postponements are a painful reminder of the uncertainty in the national touring market, said Ekeberg, who described the feeling as “Groundhog Day, again.” In a January interview with The Denver Post, DCPA president and CEO Janice Sinden had said she hoped “My Fair Lady” would be the nonprofit theater organization’s “first show in the comeback” starting in early August.

Unfortunately, the complicated, expensive machinery of touring Broadway productions requires near-certainty to start up, Ekeberg said. Right now, it’s just not there.

“The scale is such that not only does it need to be the Buell (Theatre) and all the theaters at the Denver Performing Arts Complex open at full capacity, it needs to be all the theaters on the (touring route),” he said. “The decisions to start these productions have to happen months ahead of their first engagement date, which is then tied to the second, third, fourth date and so on.”

The last few weeks have offered hope for a return to some programming at the DCPA, which has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic — having laid off more than half of its staff last year, and canceled every planned production on its calendar.

Last week, DCPA announced its partnership with the “Van Gogh Alive” installation at the Stanley Marketplace, with tickets on sale April 20 for a July 9-Sept. 6 run. While it confused some Denver Post subscribers who days earlier had read about another touring, digitally driven exhibit of the artist’s work (“Immersive Van Gogh,” coming Sept. 30), it represented a COVID-proof engagement that the DCPA could finally look forward to.

Meanwhile, construction workers are putting the last finishes on $36 million renovation of the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, where DCPA stages most of its Theatre Company productions — and which will likely be hosting safe, indoor productions near end of the year, officials said. Limited-capacity fundraisers such as June 12’s “Saturday Night Alive” gala can already take place indoors with 175 people.

DCPA also plans to announce another season of its “Mixed Taste” tag-team lecture series for summer 2021, although no dates have been confirmed.

“There’s no question we’ll get back to indoor, live theater at grand scale,” Ekeberg said. “It’s disappointing to see these delays, but it’s important that we get this right, and I won’t feel good about it if we don’t. Still, whenever we put out an announcement like this our stomachs ache. I hope people continue to be understanding and stick with us, as they have been so far.”

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