We’ve known for a year that “Hamilton” would be coming to town. Now we know the dates: April 13 through May 9, 2021.
The Tony Award-winning smash hit from writer-actor Lin-Manuel Miranda that tells the story of the founding of America through the lens of Alexander Hamilton is one of five shows coming to Spokane as part the STCU Best of Broadway series from West Coast Entertainment.
The 2020-21 season, announced Monday, will kick off with “Anastasia,” which runs Dec. 22-27, followed by “Cats,” Jan. 12-17. “Cats,” with music by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, was the first show in the inaugural Best of Broadway season in 1987.
Also sure to draw local interest is “Come From Away,” which runsFeb. 16-21. Coeur d’Alene’s Laura Little is a producer of the show, which centers on the small Canadian town of Gander that served as temporary home to 7,000 travelers stranded after the 9/11 terrorist attacks shut down air traffic. The Broadway production was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning one for Christopher Ashley’s direction.
Then you’ll have four weeks of “Hamilton” before the season ends with “Fiddler on the Roof,” which runs May 18-23.
There also are, as always, special engagements to anticipate: Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which runs Nov. 14-15, and “Jersey Boys,” which was originally part of the 2019-20 season but was rescheduled to Feb. 3-6.
Justin Kobluk, president of West Coast Entertainment, said more shows will be added to the season as dates are confirmed.
“The last thing we want to do is try to stay in one lane,” Kobluk said. “Art and music is so much different than that, and Broadway’s the same way. We want to hit the classic titles. We want to hit new things that have never been in Spokane before. We want to hit older things that people write to us all the time saying, ‘Can’t this show come back?’ And so it has to be a mix of all that. Luckily, what’s out there really lends itself to that.”
He knows there will be fanfare over classic titles like “Cats” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” and, of course, “Hamilton,” but he’s hoping audiences will connect with newer works like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “Come From Away.”
“When a crisis takes place, we all hope that the kinder, gentler side of society rears its head,” Little said in an email. “We saw that happen after 9/11, and we are seeing that now. ‘Come From Away’ takes one of those stories that transpired after 9/11 and delivers it in an intelligent and witty way.
“After a crisis, we all need to heal. ‘Come From Away’ is a healing piece. It is a uniting piece that highlights the heroes and fills us with hope and a sense of pride. The Inland Northwest will someday look back at this current situation and be proud of the way they stepped up and helped each other out along the way, just as the people of Gander in 2001.”
As could be expected, the continuing coronavirus pandemic affected the upcoming season. Instead of starting in September, Kobluk and the rest of the team decided to push the opening until December, as there was “too big of a question mark” on whether the theater could open by September.
“Fiddler on the Roof,” which was scheduled to open the season in September, was rerouted and rescheduled for 2021. A show that was planned for the 2020-21 season decided to cancel its tour completely, so West Coast Entertainment booked “Anastasia,” which was going to be part of the 2021-22 season, into the opening slot.
As of now, the August run of “Mean Girls” is still on, although Kobluk realizes things are changing week to week, and the theater might not be able to open before then.
When the First Interstate Center for the Arts is allowed to reopen, things won’t look too different for patrons, as Kobluk said the theater world doesn’t lend itself to things like seating patrons two seats apart.
“When you have a ‘Hamilton’ that costs millions to bring to Spokane, it needs a theater that’s 2,500 seats times four weeks of shows just to be able to pencil (it in),” he said. “If you take a third or half of those seats out, it doesn’t pencil anymore. Plus when you have a family of four or a date night of two, you’re going to want to sit next to who you’re sitting with.”
But seats will be sanitized before and after they’re used, and the West Coast Entertainment team is working with the city to make sure all appropriate measures are implemented.
Until then, Kobluk hopes patrons are looking forward to the day when everything returns to normal and live theater is once again a regular part of life.
“We’re working really hard obviously on not just this season but next year and beyond,” he said. “I’ve got stuff on the books for 2024 in Spokane. We’re going to maintain what we’ve been doing for 30 years, and that’s bringing great, great entertainment to Spokane.”
The season also will include the return of the “National Geographic Live!” series, now in its seventh season. This year, the series features “Force of Nature” from photographer and filmmaker Keith Ladzinski (March 11), “Improbable Ascent” from paraclimber Maureen Beck (May 13, 2021) and “How to Clone a Mammoth” from evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro (June 9, 2021).
All performances will be at the First Interstate Center for the Arts, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. Season tickets are now available through broadwayspokane.com and (800) 843-4667. Prices for packages are $263 to $438 for five shows. Current season ticket holders who renew before July 31 are able to keep their seats from the 2019-20 season. The “National Geographic Live” package includes three events for $81. Payment plans are available.
Single ticket on-sale dates will be announced this summer.
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