...the out-of-town Broadway tryout is back from the dead, and the resurrection started in Chicago.
The revival began in 2001, when Mel Brooks' "The Producers" tried out here, doing boffo business and laying the groundwork for the show's subsequent triumph in New York.
Since then, the Windy City has been on a roll as a Broadway launching pad, nurturing "Movin' Out," the Billy Joel-Twyla Tharp musical that worked out its kinks in Chicago on the way to becoming a smash on the Great White Way, and "Sweet Smell of Success," which was well-received here but failed to find an audience in New York.
With a metro area of about 9 million, it has the requisite population base. It has a sophisticated theater audience with a track record of interest in new work. It has an ample supply of technical crew and stagehands who, due to union concessions, come considerably cheaper than their counterparts in New York.
Perhaps most important, it has the necessary infrastructure, in the form of several large and (with the help of about $50 million in city funds) beautifully restored theaters - which, incidentally, are owned by Clear Channel Entertainment and the Nederlander Organization, both regular investors in Broadway musicals, including most of the Chicago tryout shows so far. The beauty of the arrangement is that Broadway in Chicago has the ability to host substantial pre-Broadway runs at one or more theaters while continuing to offer subscription series and/or alternative fare at its other houses