Des Moines will be spending Independence Day with Alexander Hamilton. Independence Day 2018, that is. Wochit
Des Moines will be spending Independence Day with Alexander Hamilton. Independence Day 2018, that is.
Nearly a year since Des Moines Performing Arts announced the cultural phenomenon “Hamilton: An American Musical” would be gracing the Civic Center stage during the 2017-18 Willis Broadway Series, fans have squirmed in anticipation for the dates that history would have its eyes on Iowa’s capital city. And finally, fans know: The musical’s debut run will take place June 27-July 15, 2018, at the Civic Center.
“How cool is that?” said Jeff Chelesvig, president of Des Moines Performing Arts, on the prospect of hosting “Hamilton” on the Fourth of July. Des Moines is one of the first cities in the world to experience a production of the show, which city officials call a huge economic win. The show marks the second, only to the open-ended Chicago production, confirmed run of dates in the Midwest for “Hamilton."
The announcement comes as part of Des Moines Performing Arts unveiling the 2017-18 season in its entirety, including Broadway shows, a concert series, dance series, comedy series and family series. Organizers say the only way to guarantee a ticket to see “Hamilton” is by purchasing 2017-18 Willis Broadway Series season tickets, which went on sale Monday at noon. Season ticket packages for Broadway series start at $215. Single-show tickets will be sale at a to-be-determined future date.
Six shows will be part of the marquee Broadway series in 2017-18:
- “Something Rotten!”
- “The Color Purple”
- “On Your Feet!”
- “The Humans”
In addition to the six shows, four add-on shows, which are not part of the season ticket package, will take place as part of the Willis Broadway Series: “Stomp,” “Chicago,” “Les Misérables” and Leslie Odom Jr. performing with the Des Moines Symphony. Chelesvig, who curates the Broadway series, said he believes if a show works in New York City, it can work in Des Moines. With most shows geared toward adults, Chelesvig aims to bring in the highest quality of “date night” entertainment for Iowans.
Des Moines Performing Arts did not want to throw away a shot at impressing new theatergoers with the “Hamilton”-heavy season; Chelesvig said he “absolutely” made a conscious effort to put together what he believes is the best lineup possible.
“I don’t know if everyone is going to like every show that we do, but I don’t think they’re going to argue with the quality of it,” Chelesvig said. “What I love is when I talk to a season ticket holder who will say, ‘We left the show and we didn’t stop talking about it until late in the night.’ To me, that’s really what it’s all about.”
The six touring Broadway shows have accumulated a total of 18 Tony Awards, including the 2016 Best Play (“The Humans”), 2016 Best Musical (“Hamilton”) and 2016 award for Best Musical Revival (“The Color Purple”). For the first time in the organization’s nearly two-decade history of presenting a Broadway series, Des Moines Performing Arts plans to deliver a six-show season. The decision came out of Chelesvig wanting to see a play (what eventually became “The Humans”) added to the lineup.
Out of the cities announced to host “Hamilton” for a 2017-18 season, Des Moines is the only one to also be hosting 2016 Tony Award-winning shows “The Humans” and “The Color Purple.”
“Having three current Tony Award-winners in the lineup ... we may be one of the only (organizations) in the Midwest to have that,” Chelesvig said.
City officials know landing one of the world’s hottest shows provides the opportunity to bring new visitors to downtown. A study conducted by the Broadway League estimates the Willis Broadway Series generates $30 million in local economic impact annually. A total 307,073 attended Des Moines Performing Arts shows during the 2015-16 season. Greg Edwards, president of the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there’s no question a show like “Hamilton” brings in new visitors to Des Moines, which, in turn, brings in new revenue for the city’s businesses.
“A visitor brings in fresh dollars to the community,” Edwards said. “Dollars that wouldn’t normally be here.”
Fans have waited nearly a year since learning "Hamilton" would be coming to Des Moines and seem willing to wait until summer 2018 to see the performance at the Civic Center. Heather Dew-Wheelock, of Waterloo, hopes to attend the show with Megab, her 13-year-old daughter. Dew-Wheelock, who works as a third-shift nurse, isn't sure that she'll get season tickets, but is excited at the prospect of paying less to see "Hamilton" than she would if traveling to New York or Chicago for the show.
She said her daughter is attached to the play because the music is different and it gives listeners a piece of American history.
"Usually, you know, 13-year-old girls are talkin' about the cute boys or a certain boy band ... but no, her and her friends sit and talk and watch videos and singing to the CD of 'Hamilton,'" Dew-Wheelock said.
Since announcing the impending “Hamilton” performance, Des Moines Performing Arts has been experiencing what national media calls the “Hamilton effect,” a record-breaking boost in season ticket sales caused by “Hamilton” fanatics wanting to ensure a seat in the room where it happens.
The Lin-Manuel Miranda-written 11-time Tony Award-winning show, chronicling the life and untimely death of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton through hip-hop, debuted on Broadway in 2015 and grosses an estimated $600,000 weekly in New York City. The musical is based on the best-selling biography "Alexander Hamilton" by Rob Chernow.
At three weeks, “Hamilton” won’t be the longest-running show in Civic Center history — a six-week run of “Lion King” in 2006 holds that title — but the number of shows triples the standard weeklong engagement seen in Des Moines. Chelesvig called this the industry “norm” for a show of this demand coming to Des Moines.
“The guiding light for me is we want to bring the best of Broadway here,” Chelesvig said.
As part of its own “Hamilton effect,” Des Moines Performing Arts has gained 3,847 new season ticket holders for the 2016-17 season, bringing the total number to nearly 13,000, a 242 percent increase in new season holders from the 2015-16 season. When combining the Broadway series (12,901) with dance (572), comedy (924), family (1,009) and concert (155), Des Moines Performing Arts crosses the 15,000-person season ticket holder benchmark. Season tickets to the dance, comedy, concert and family series go on sale April 10.
Chelesvig and his staff haven’t had deep discussions on the possibility of season ticket packages selling out. The average eight-show run at the Civic Center brings in about 21,000 people.
“What a problem to have,” Chelesvig said. “We hope to come kind-of close to that.”
Here’s a brief look at the full list of shows.
Willis Broadway Series
"Something Rotten!" (Oct. 10-15, 2017): The 10-time Tony Award-nominated musical takes theatergoers to the 1590s, where the story’s protagonists are working on the “future of theater” by creating the world’s first musical.
"The Color Purple" (Oct. 31-Nov. 5, 2017): The Pulitzer Prize-winning story heads to Des Moines after winning the 2016 Tony Award for “Best Musical Revival.” Directed by John Doyle, this version of the heralded American story mixes jazz, ragtime, blues and gospel into the score.
"Waitress" (Dec. 5-10, 2017): Based on the 2007 film of the same name, “Waitress” tells the story of a woman working to summon the strength to build her own life. Music and lyrics for the production were written by six-time Grammy Award-nominated artist Sara Bareilles.
"On Your Feet!" (Feb. 20-25, 2018): The musical life story of acclaimed husband-and-wife duo Emilio and Gloria Estefan takes theatergoers behind the scenes of the couple’s real-life story. The production is directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots).
"The Humans" (April 3-8): The sole play in the 2017-18 Willis Broadway Series comes to Des Moines after earning the 2016 Tony Award for “Best Play.” Taking place over one family’s Thanksgiving dinner, the play “keenly observes” the modern age of anxiety through humor and empathy.
"Hamilton" (June 27-July 15, 2018): Written by Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-winning entertainer Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton through hip-hop, rap and jazz.
Willis Broadway Series add-on shows
"Stomp" (Jan 26-28, 2018): The internationally-known percussion sensation returns to Des Moines for three nights of explosive entertainment.
"Chicago" (March 9-11, 2018): One of Broadway’s most acclaimed shows, “Chicago” returns to Des Moines holding the title of longest-running American musical in Broadway history.
"Les Misérables" (April 17-22, 2018): The passionate, celebrated show that takes theatergoers into 19th century France for the classic tale featuring fan-favorite numbers such as “On My Own” and “Stars.”
Leslie Odom Jr. with the Des Moines Symphony (May 12, 2018): Known for his Tony Award-winning performance as Aaron Burr, Odom returns to Des Moines for a one-night only show.
All Willis Broadway Series shows are set to take place at the Civic Center.
Prairie Meadows Temple Comedy Series
"Dixie’s Tupperware Party" (Nov. 28, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018): Described by the “Today” show as “not your grandmother’s tupperware party,” this performance matches free Tupperware giveaways with heartfelt, funny tales.
"One Funny Mother" (Jan. 30-Feb. 4): As the title suggests, this comedy performance features a solo show from Dena Blizzard, where she will share stories of the trials and tribulations surrounding motherhood.
"Defending the Caveman" (Feb. 13-March 4): The longest running solo play in Broadway history, this show takes a deep dive into the way men and women relate.
"The Second City: Look Both Ways Before Talking" (April 10-29, 2018): Known as a launchpad for some of comedy’s biggest names, Chicago’s Second City brings “cutting-edge satirical revues” to Des Moines.
All shows take place at the Temple Theatre for Performing Arts.
Prairie Meadows Live At The Temple Concert Series
Honky-tonk quintet Velvet Caravan kicks off the Temple Concert Series (Oct. 12, 2017), followed by The Australian Ruth Moody Band (Nov. 3, 2017), Brazilian vocal group Ordinarius (Jan. 16, 2018), cartoon-inspired jazz group The Queen’s Cartoonists (Feb. 11, 2018), Iowa native and songwriter Danika Portz (March 8, 2018) and South Carolina Gullah music group Ranky Tanky (May 17, 2018). All shows take place at the Temple Theater.
The three-part Dance Series kicks off with a contemporary show from the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Jan. 24, 2018), followed by American Southwest-influenced show Momix: Opus Cactus (March 3, 2018) and closing with the Ballet Hispanico (May 5, 2018). All shows take place at the Des Moines Civic Center.
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Family Series
The family performances kick off with the Halloween collaboration with the Des Moines Symphony, “Phantoms of the Orchestra,” (Oct. 29, 2018, Civic Center), followed by the puppet show "Mr. Popper’s Penguins" (Jan. 13, 2018, Civic Center), the circus-style offering of "Airplay" (Feb. 17, 2018, Civic Center), the book-turned-production “Shh! We Have A Plan” (March 24, 2018, Temple Theater), shadow play “Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic” (April 14, 2018, Civic Center) and closing with a life-size “Tetris” (May 12, 2018, Temple Theater) dance.
More information on all Des Moines Performing Arts shows can be found at desmoinesperformingarts.org.