It’s not uncommon for a Broadway musical to feature an original score by an award-winning musician, as current popular productions like “Kinky Boots,” “The Lion King,” “Motown: The Musical,” and “Jersey Boys,” all feature books penned by commercially successful recording artists. In addition to catching one of these productions on a stage near you, also be sure to see the talented musicians while out on tour.
Cyndi Lauper has had plenty of reasons to celebrate in 2013. Lauper’s first foray into theater, the musical “Kinky Boots,” debuted on Broadway in April and went on to win six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. For the latter, Lauper was the first woman to win the award solo. The wildly successful original production continues its run at Al Hirschfeld Theatre, but a national tour is expected to launch in Las Vegas next fall.
In addition to her Broadway triumph, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Lauper’s debut album, “She’s So Unusual,” which earned her a GRAMMY Award in 1985 for Best New Artist. The New York native has been touring internationally since June, performing “She’s So Unusual” in full at each concert with an encore that typically includes the “Kinky Boots” track “Sex is in the Heel.” Lauper is set to begin the second North American leg of her She’s So Unusual: 30th Anniversary Tour on Oct. 18. Over 20 cities are included for the trek, which closes Dec. 7 at the Beacon Theatre in her hometown of New York.
“The Lion King” premiered on Broadway in Nov. 1997 and to this day remains the highest-grossing Broadway show of all time as it continues its run at New York’s Minskoff Theatre. The production has of course been praised for its elaborate costuming and choreography, but Elton John’s original songs with Tim Rice have largely driven the musical’s success. Elton and Rice won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Original Song with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” and two of the duo’s other original tracks from the film also were nominated. John and Rice also received a Tony nomination for Best Original Score for the musical.
Currently, Elton John will soon be closing out his Las Vegas residency, The Million Dollar Piano, at Caesars Palace, as only a handful of performances remain before the show closes on Oct. 12. However, beginning Nov. 8, the five-time GRAMMY winner will begin the North American leg of his tour promoting his latest album, “The Diving Board.” Twelve cities will be visited on the tour, including cities like Boston (Nov. 12), St. Louis (Nov. 24), and Detroit (Nov. 29). For the final two nights of the tour (Dec. 3-4), Elton will be headlining at New York’s Madison Square Garden before heading overseas to Europe.
With a book by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., “Motown: the Musical” follows the Detroit-based record label’s rise to the top in the 1960s. A jukebox musical, the production tells its story through more than 50 iconic songs from Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder, among others. Featured tracks include fan favorites like the Jackson 5’s “ABC,” The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman,” and The Contours’ “Do You Love Me.” After premiering in April, the musical earned four nominations at the 2013 Tony Awards. “Motown: the Musical” is currently playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York, and a national tour is scheduled to begin in Chicago in April 2014.
If you can’t wait for the musical to come around, several Motown artists featured in the show are on tours of their own this year. Lionel Richie is currently traveling on his All the Hits All Night Long Tour, scheduled to close Oct. 18 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The remaining members of The Temptations have numerous tour dates lined up through May 2014, including stops in Las Vegas (Oct. 5-6) and Grand Rapids, Mich. (Oct. 20). Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson each also have a handful of performances booked for the fall. Ross will play in New Orleans (Oct. 30) and Bossier City, La. (Nov. 1), while Robinson is scheduled to appear in Newark, N.J. (Oct. 11), Cerritos, Calif. (Oct. 18), and Highland, Calif. (Nov. 7).
Another jukebox musical, “Jersey Boys,” has been on Broadway since 2005 when it won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical follows the dramatic story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as they rose to fame from humble roots in New Jersey. In addition to its Tony Awards, the original cast won a GRAMMY for Best Musical Show Album in 2007. Currently, the production is playing at the August Wilson Theatre in New York, but another production is stationed at the Paris Las Vegas. A national tour is also underway, hitting more than 25 cities through Aug. 2014.
You can catch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee on the road through the end of the year. The next Frankie Valli live performance is scheduled for Oct. 4 in Des Moines, Iowa, but over 10 dates remain on the North American tour for 2013, including a two-night stint at the Borgata Casino Music Box in Atlantic City, N.J. (Nov. 15-16) and a New Year’s Eve performance at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y. Some dates may also include shows with The Four Seasons, which will be noted in the listing for performances in stock.