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Taking the show on the road

Kelsey Grammer in “La Cage aux Follies,” by Joan Marcus

Every year, Broadway’s biggest hits pack up to take the show on the road, setting out on tours that will take them to cities all across the country. From Tempe, Arizona, to Appleton, Wisconsin, and Providence, Rhode Island, groups can catch some of their favorite shows while they’re on a tour of their own.

Broadway Across America, the nation’s largest touring theater organization, has more than 30 shows out right now, playing on stages in more than 40 cities. Among the shows are blockbusters fresh from New York stages, as well as some time-tested favorites that have become new classics.

Here’s a look at some of the newest shows touring the country in 2011 and 2012, as well as a few from previous seasons.

First-time tours
A number of productions are setting out on tour this fall for the first time, building on fame garnered during their Broadway runs. Among them is “Memphis,” a breakout hit that won four Tony Awards in 2010, including the award for best musical.

Set in the underground dance clubs of Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1950s, the show follows a black soul singer and a white disc jockey as they try to revolutionize radio music. Some of the songs in the musical were written by members of the rock band Bon Jovi.

Another big winner on Broadway last year, “La Cage aux Folles,” will begin touring this year as well. When it debuted in 1983, the show was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won six of them; the most recent version won three Tony Awards, including for best musical revival. The plot follows a gay couple — a French nightclub owner and a singer — as they navigate family issues and follow their passions to success. The national tour begins in Des Moines, Iowa, in October.

A national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet” will start this October at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. This jukebox musical began its run in Chicago in 2008 and then made the jump to Broadway for the 2010-2011 season. It dramatizes the real-life events of December 4, 1956, when Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis met and held an impromptu jam session in a Memphis recording studio.

Musical numbers include such rock ’n’ roll classics as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Theatergoers and pop-culture fans will be instantly familiar with the characters of “The Addams Family,” which begins its U.S. tour in New Orleans this September after more than 500 performances on Broadway. Although the ghoulish characters came to fame in a 1960s television show, the musical version is based on the single-panel newspaper comics that first appeared in the 1930s.

The show features an all-new plot, as well as 21 original songs, including a reprisal of the famous television theme music.

More recent pop culture takes center stage in “American Idiot,” which begins touring in Toronto near the end of December. Based on the album of the same name by pop-punk band Green Day, the show follows a handful of young people as they struggle to come of age in modern America, choosing between life in the suburbs and the excitement of the big city.

The national tour will be the only chance for audiences to see this show, as it has ended its Broadway run.