Hamilton, and Now Evan
In between “Hamilton” performances, the Saenger will host another hot Broadway ticket starring a much lesser known, but powerful character.
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.
For those who weren’t able to grab a seat during the three weeks of sold-out performances of “Hamilton” this past spring—or who saw it and can’t get enough—you’ll have another chance when the show returns to the Saenger Theatre for the 2020-2021 season.
In the meantime, a newer Broadway darling is on its way.
After opening on Broadway in Dec. 2016, “Dear Evan Hansen” took home six of the nine awards for which it was nominated at the 71st Tony Awards in 2017. They were big wins too — Best Musical, Best Score, and both Best Actor and Best Featured Actress in a Musical. In 2018, the show also grabbed the title of Best Musical Theater Album at the Grammys. (Incidentally, Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda took home his third Grammy that night for Best Song Written for Visual Media for “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney feature film “Moana.”)
Praised by The Washington Post as “One of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history,” and “a cultural phenomenon” by the Los Angeles Times, “Dear Evan Hansen,” like “Hamilton,” deals with some heavy drama, only this kind centers around teenagers and parenting in the 21st century. Evan Hansen is a teen battling social anxiety who just wants to fit in when he becomes involved in the aftermath of the suicide of one of his classmates. The challenges of single parenting, communicating with a teenager, and parenting and growing up in the age of social media are all themes of the play, which has understandably struck a chord with a wide population of viewers.
“Dear Evan Hansen” makes its market debut as part of the Hancock Whitney Broadway in New Orleans 2019-2020 season Nov. 5-10. It will be the second show in the season, following one of two season options, the return of “Wicked” Oct. 2-20. The other will be “Jersey Boys.” Rounding out the returning hits this year are “Miss Saigon” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
As someone with a young child, I’m particularly excited for three of the four other shows making their debut in New Orleans this season: “A Christmas Story, the Musical,” Dec. 17-22; “Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Feb. 11-16, 2020; and “Anastasia,” April 14-19, 2020. As my daughter has, fortunately, yet to hit the “Mean Girls” stage, I think I’ll be taking a girlfriend to that one when it’s here March 17-22.
After scoring both “Hamilton” for a second time and now “Dear Evan Hansen” so soon after the launch of the national tour last year, it seems the powers that be at Broadway are pleased with the New Orleans market. I recently reached out to Sam Voisin, who became general manager of both the Saenger and Mahalia Jackson Theaters this past January. A native of South Louisiana, Voisin has deep family roots in Greater New Orleans. His 25 years of experience in the arts and entertainment arena include serving as the director of sales at the CAJUNDOME and as a regional vice president for SMG, where he oversaw 17 entertainment venues totaling $1 billion in assets and $30 million in revenue in the Gulf South region, including the New Orleans area.
First, I wanted to know how the Saenger chooses which productions to pursue each season.
“I would say the most important factor would be our surveys, which is where we find out which titles resonate with the public,” says Voisin. “Other factors are timing and when the venue is available, as well as how well the show performed in New York.”
Voisin says interest in Broadway at the Saenger has “grown exponentially over the years,” which means good seats will just get harder and harder to get. Renewing subscribers for this season, however, will receive priority seating to “Hamilton” for the 2020-2021 season.
“On average, in the 2017-2018 season, subscribers saved 21% off day-of-show pricing,” says Voisin.
Voisin shared one last note that may be of particular interest to businesses.
“The Saenger Theatre has a premium club seat program available, which is great for businesses or individuals who like to entertain,” he says. “It includes tickets to every show at the Saenger Theatre, access to our Grand Suite Lounge and valet parking.” To inquire about club seats, call (504) 287-0372 or email MaryAudiffred@theambassadors.com.