Broadway revivals of long-beloved musicals are hitting the road this fall, set to introduce audiences across the country to productions that have won praise for their virtuosity, authenticity, and fresh insights into themes and subject matter that resonate as much today as they did decades ago.
Bartlett Sher’s revelatory staging of Fiddler on the Roof, which premiered on Broadway in 2015, launches a tour October 17 in Syracuse, New York. The director — whose ravishing productions of South Pacific, The King and I, and My Fair Lady have confirmed the enduring majesty and relevance of Golden Age classics — approached this adaptation of Sholem Aleichem’s stories in a similar spirit, honoring historical and cultural details while also inviting parallels to contemporary concerns.
When his Fiddler opened, Sher notes, “the Syrian refugee crisis was sweeping around the world. The difference between a refugee and an immigrant is that a refugee doesn’t have a choice; the Jews are driven out of Anatevka” in the show, and the director sought “to acknowledge that you couldn’t only place this in nostalgic terms, in cozy memories of 1905. The refugee question is still vibrant.”
So, adds Sher, is “the struggle between tradition and modernity,” reflected in Tevye the dairy man’s struggles with his daughters. While different productions of Fiddler have “toured through the United States quite extensively,” Sher points out, this one features vibrant new choreography by Israel’s Hofesh Shechter, who drew on both Jerome Robbins’s iconic original work and the range of folk dance traditions Shechter encountered in his native country. Other aspects of the physical production remain essentially intact, despite a few minor adjustments. “All the things that people remember will be the same,” Sher says.
Jerry Zaks’s exuberant, Tony Award–winning revival of Hello, Dolly! begins its trek September 30 in Cleveland, with Betty Buckley stepping into the role that earned new rounds of kudos for both Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters. Rising trouper Nic Rouleau, whose credits include starring on Broadway and on tour in The Book of Mormon, is another principal performer, playing Cornelius Hackl — a part that made Gavin Creel, like Midler, a Tony winner last year.
Rouleau is hardly unprepared for the challenge, having been a fan of Dolly! “for a long time, especially of the music. It is hands-down my favorite score by the genius Jerry Herman.” In fact, the young performer saw Zaks’s staging on Broadway six times. “It’s hard to pick just one moment as a standout because the whole is just so luxurious and lovely. The costumes, the scenery, the lighting, the orchestrations, the choreography: Everything comes together in this perfect package.”
The touring cast is “teeming with excitement about bringing this production on the road,” Rouleau adds. “The energy in the rehearsal room is palpable. … And to have the incomparable Ms. Betty Buckley starring in the title role — this is certainly going to be one for the history books.”
When Laurence Connor’s searing production of a younger and darker audience favorite, Miss Saigon, starts performances September 21 in Providence, Rhode Island, it will mark the latest stop on a journey that Connor — a veteran of Broadway and the West End, where this revival originated — took on years ago, which involved re-examining aspects of the text. Set in the later years of the Vietnam War, the 1991 musical focuses on a young Vietnamese woman forced into degrading work in a local bar, and her doomed romance with an American GI.
“It’s pretty much the production we brought to Broadway — along with the helicopter,” says Connor, referring to one of the more conspicuous set pieces in his 2017 revival, the first on Broadway. “The first time we created it was to tour, so a lot of the elements were created with that in mind.”
That said, “you always have to look at the show as a new piece,” says Connor. “I’d directed it in certain countries before the West End [in London] and felt there were things that were a little dated, not really giving us the world we inhabit. … One of the things we were explicit about when we brought it to the West End and Broadway was telling the audience we were talking about prostitutes, and the reality of their world.”
Bringing Miss Saigon to different parts of the United States is especially poignant for Connor: “Here it’s like traveling through different worlds. The reactions are universal and amazing, but the territories can be so different; it’s like going through Europe, except you all have the same language. And with Miss Saigon, this is your story, with your GIs. It’s your history that gives it life.”