Walton Arts Center announces upcoming Broadway season, the venue’s first indoor, large-scale productions in a year

Hamilton / Photo by Joan Marcus

As vaccination rates climb and touring theater companies are once again plotting trips across the country for arts-starved patrons, Walton Arts Center officials last night said something they haven’t been able to say for more than a year: Broadway shows – including the smash hit “Hamilton” – are coming to Fayetteville.

Officials at the venue announced six Broadway series shows that will come to the downtown arts center, with the first scheduled for late October. The announcement follows a year-long, industry-wide moratorium on such shows. And the new slate of shows reflects that reality – many of the titles visiting Fayetteville for the 2021-22 Broadway season at the WAC were scheduled to arrive last year before productions stopped touring while caseloads climbed.

It’s been a tough 13 months.

2021-22 Walton Arts Center Broadway Series

Oct. 26-31 – “Come from Away”
Nov. 30-Dec. 5 – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
Dec. 14-19 – “Mean Girls”
Jan. 4-9 – “An Officer and a Gentlemen”
March 22-April 3 – “Hamilton”
May 10-15 – “Fiddler on the Roof”

Tickets: Season subscriptions are on sale now and start at $356; single passes go on sale this summer.
Info: 479-571-2785 or waltonartscenter.org

On March 12, 2020, the center announced the touring production of the Broadway musical “Anastasia” would go on as scheduled but with additional precautions.

On March 13, 2020, the center announced all shows would be paused at least through April 5, 2020.

On March 17, 2020, the center announced a new batch of Broadway shows slated to come to the venue for the 2020-21 season.

On June 17, 2020, a return to in-person performances with smaller, physically distanced audiences was announced. Several such shows have taken place, including happy hour events featuring local musicians performing in the venue’s atrium.

On July 7, venue officials announced there would be no large-scale shows in 2020, effectively canceling or postponing all Broadway series shows. A recovery fund was simultaneously announced with the idea of helping the venue make up revenue shortfalls, and officials said at the time a return to larger live performances like those in the Broadway series would have to wait until sometime in 2021.

It’s now 2021 – and the Walton Arts Center has rolled out their plans for a return. On Wednesday (April 7) night, a videoconference for WAC season subscribers and members of the media unveiled the names of the first large-scale shows in a year and the timeline for them. Broadway shows with a live audience will begin in late October at a capacity equal to pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a year,” said Peter Lane, the venue’s president and CEO in his video message. “But as vaccines are administered and we take precautions for a little while longer, we feel confident we’ll be able to mingle in this venue again in the fall.”

Mean Girls / Courtesy photo

The upcoming season’s performances include four of the six shows scheduled for the canceled 2020-21 Broadway season: “Come from Away,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Mean Girls” and “An Officer and a Gentleman.” That’s in contrast to “Freestyle Love Supreme” and “My Fair Lady,” which will not be making an appearance in Fayetteville this cycle. Rounding out the six-show 2021-22 season are “Hamilton” which was announced last year but was always intended to be part of the 2021-22 season, and the classic “Fiddler on the Roof,” now scheduled for May 2022.

“Come from Away” is framed around a series of real events that followed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. When U.S. airspace was shut down, planes were diverted into Canada. Thousands of passengers were stranded in a town called Gander, and the residents there took care of the arrivals. Upon its 2017 Broadway debut, “Come from Away” was nominated for seven Tony Awards.

Next in the lineup is “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” based on the classic Roald Dahl book and the movie it inspired. It too debuted on Broadway in 2017.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Courtesy photo

The musical “Mean Girls” was penned by comedy writer Tina Fey and was a 2004 movie prior to the theatrical adaption. It came to Broadway in 2018 and was still running when the coronavirus outbreak shuttered all of the theaters in New York City – an ongoing reality. New York City mayor Bill De Blasio recently said Broadway shows there should resume in September.

“An Officer and a Gentleman” also draws inspiration from a movie. The touring production of what was once a 1982 movie contains dozens of pop hits from the era and will actually take the stage in Fayetteville prior to its Broadway debut.

Then comes the theatrical sensation “Hamilton.” From noted playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda is the hip hop biography that explores the birth of our nation and centers on the incredible and tragic story of one its founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. It set a record by being nominated for 16 Tony Awards, eventually winning 11. The show comes to Fayetteville for a rare two-week run. The other shows run for eight performances; “Hamilton” will be on the Walton Arts Center stage for 16 performances. Season subscribers will make up the majority of the first-week audience with single-session ticket buyers getting their chance in the second half of the run.

Fiddler on the Roof / Photo by Joan Marcus

Closing the 2021-22 season is the only ‘new’ addition to the lineup. But “Fiddler on the Roof” is one of theater’s most enduring and beloved shows. It first came to Broadway in 1964 and was later adapted into the highly regarded 1971 film. It follows a Jewish family’s attempts to honor their traditions in a rapidly modernizing world.

As is the tradition at the Walton Arts Center, the high-profile Broadway series is typically announced this time of year. Other shows such as comedy performances, musical acts and smaller-scale theatrical performances will be announced in the coming months, Walton Arts Center officials confirmed yesterday.

Tickets are currently available only as season subscription packages. Single tickets to “Hamilton” will go on sale this fall. Single tickets to the rest of Broadway and regular season shows will be available this summer.