Bright Star, If/Then, Next to Normal, these are just a few of the many shows that played in D.C. before eventually finding its home on Broadway. The art of the out-of-town tryout is a tricky one.

For some shows it works wonders, for others it can lead to a premature closing date.

Out-of-town tryouts are a time for shows to work out the kinks in another city, before leaping onto Broadway and meeting the critics of New York City face to face. Washington D.C., is a popular destination for out-of-town tryouts.

“Washington’s theatre community is among the largest and most successful in the nation,” according to Theatre Washington, an organization supporting the D.C. theater community and the organization behind the Helen Hayes Awards, the D.C. version of the Tony Awards. “More than 90 professional theatres and companies enliven the capital area, anchoring neighborhoods, fueling the region’s economy, and producing work of the finest quality.”

Bright Star, the musical penned by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, is one of the most recent musicals to play in D.C. before heading to Broadway.

“Taking economics out of it, from a purely developmental perspective, I believe that the best way to open a new musical on Broadway is to start somewhere else,” said Joey Parnes, the producer of Bright Star, in an interview with Variety.

Unfortunately, Bright Star did not last very long on Broadway. It opened on March 24 and closed June 26 after only 109 performances. Many factors go into the decision to close a show. Whether the out-of-town tryout helped the show is up to interpretation.

Come From Away is a new musical about the true story of a small community in Newfoundland, Canada, opening their doors and hearts to airplane passengers stranded because of 9/11. The musical just finished its run at Ford’s Theatre in D.C. The show has had sold-out runs in both Seattle and San Diego and is planning on heading to Broadway.  

During the closing performance on Oct. 16, the intense energy emitted from the cast resonated throughout the entire theater. It was a stunning show with music that had every audience member standing on their feet.
The next stop for Come From Away? Gander. The location of where the true story took place. After Gander, the show will head to Toronto and then hopefully off to Broadway. The current run has been met with rave reviews. Only time will tell as to how it fairs on Broadway. If you ask me, I would not be surprised if I saw Come From Away at the Tony Awards.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Broadway Tour’s Flickr account.

Ilana Bernstein is a junior journalism and theatre double major and can be reached at ilanab@terpmail.umd.edu. 

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