On tour: Broadway shares the wealth

If the curtain call at Sunday's Tony Awards leaves you craving the bright lights of Broadway, you may be closer to all that jazz than you think. Playbill's Robert Viagas talks to USA TODAY about some of the USA's top touring houses to catch a Broadway show that will leave you chanting "Bravo!"

The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle

"This 1926-vintage playhouse was renovated in 1980, and the hip audience supports not only major national tours, but shows in development, like Hairspray, which debuted here," Viagas says. Jekyll & Hyde and The Wedding Singer also tested the waters on this stage before making their debuts on Broadway. • Coming up:Shrek: The Musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. • Contact:888-584-4849, 5thavenue.org

The Shubert Performing Arts Center, New Haven, Conn.

This Northeast gem is "the classic 'out-of-town' theater, which Rodgers & Hammerstein considered their lucky tryout house," Viagas says. "It's where you can still feel the ghostly presence of the two writers pacing the passage behind the back row of the orchestra." • Coming up:AMidsummer Night's Dream, A Christmas Carol, Mamma Mia!, Footloose. • Contact:800-228-6622, shubert.com

The Colonial Theatre, Boston

Because there's no business like show business, productions often preview at touring houses before making the jump to the bright lights of the big city. "The beautiful old Colonial Theatre has been the centerpiece of theater in Beantown since 1900," Viagas says. "Many classics, old and new, first saw the limelight here, going back to Ben-Hur nearly a century ago." • Coming up:The High Kings, Brigadoon, Nice Work If You Can Get It. • Contact:866-523-7469, broadwayacrossamerica.com/boston

The Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles

"Though it is comparatively young, having opened in 1967, the Ahmanson, part of the Los Angeles Musical Center, mixes national tours with major new musicals in development," Viagas says. "After the success of recent shows, the Ahmanson has become a coveted spot to try out a new show." • Now playing: A Chorus Line. • Coming up:The Drowsy Chaperone, 9 to 5: The Musical and Spring Awakening. • Contact:213-628-2772, centertheatregroup.org

Oriental Theatre/Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Chicago

"Another 1926-vintage theater, though originally opened as a cinema, the Oriental is known for its wildly imaginative and stylish décor," Viagas says. "In its early years, it boasted ushers dressed in turbans." Twelve-year-old Frances Gumm — who later became known as Judy Garland — had her stage debut here in 1934. • Now playing: Wicked. • Contact:312-977-1700, broadwayinchicago.com

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