Theatre fans are buzzing about the string of big hits in this season’s series.
While the Broadway Series sponsored by PNC has always been a hot ticket, this season, it will be sizzling. It’s no easy task to lure even one of the biggest traveling shows to your city, but PNC Broadway in Louisville President Leslie Broecker has succeeded in delivering a star-studded schedule of highly-acclaimed hits that’s sure to thrill both seasoned theatre-goers and newcomers alike.
The buzz began last February when PNC Broadway announced the 2017-2018 lineup. It’s filled with favorites like “Chicago” and “RENT,” as well as newer hits like “Waitress” and “School of Rock.” The impressive season also features “Finding Neverland,” “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Les Misérables.” The chatter hadn’t died down when an announcement followed that Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton” would be coming to town in the 2018-19 season. The barrage of big shows is payoff for the research and planning by Broecker and her team.
“When we’re booking the season, the first thing we do is wait for the TONY Awards,” Broecker says., “We see who wins. That typically propels a show to greater success and then that will inspire a producer to craft a tour.”
The team looks at the shows that are available and begins matching them up with a mix of new shows and favorite revivals that Beocker calls her “chestnuts.”
This season’s group of edgier newcomers are anchored by “Waitress,” Sara Bareilles’s smash hit musical adaptation of the 2007 film starring Keri Russell that is still currently running on Broadway. “Waitress” tells the story of Jenna, a waitress at a diner in the South who struggles with an unhappy marriage, unexpected pregnancy and fulfilled or unrealized dreams. Another newer hit, “School of Rock,” is based on the 2003 Jack Black film of the same name and follows a musician-turned-substitute teacher who brings out the musical talent of his prep school students. Elsewhere, “Finding Neverland” chronicles how celebrated author J.M. Barrie came to create “Peter Pan” in a family-friendly musical full of both fantasy and heart. These shows are a perfectly-selected balance to the season’s “chestnuts,” including “Chicago,” ”RENT” and “Les Miserable.”
In December, there’s a show that Broecker is particularly looking forward to. “I have to say, the kid in me, who’s been working really hard, is so excited about ‘The Grinch,’” she enthuses. “I think the message of it is awesome, and, for me it’s sort of a double-dip on subscriptions in that you buy season tickets but you also got a holiday event for your family.”
The fact that Louisville will have this beloved production on stage in Whitney Hall at The Kentucky Center during the holidays (November 28 through December 3) is a remarkable feat that Broecker has been working on for years. “There’s only a certain window of time within which you can do these holiday shows and everybody wants ‘Grinch’ in that wonderful cherry time of early December,” she relates. “So, I’ve been working very hard with The Kentucky Center to get a time that we don’t disrupt ‘The Nutcracker’ but also fits into the show’s schedule.” This year, they’ve accomplished that task — creating the opportunity for another memorable family outing during the holiday season.
Of course, Broecker and her team are already looking ahead — especially to the revolutionary musical that’s had some of the most significant impact on Broadway in history: “Hamilton.” When the announcement was made, a stipulation was presented that if you subscribe this year for the Broadway series, you will be first in line for “Hamilton” tickets. Consequently, subscription records have been shattered, and PNC Broadway in Louisville now boasts 13,522 subscribers, topping 2015’s previous record of 11,979. With such a robust base, Broecker is excited to surround “Hamilton” with a mix of different shows that will demonstrate to folks who are new to the Broadway series the true magic and diversity of theatre.
“Everybody knows they’re going to love ‘Hamilton,’” she explains. “But what if they go, for example, to see ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and they’re younger and they didn’t see the Barbra Streisand movie, but then they go in and it blows them away?” So, they’ll have ‘Hamilton’ that will live up to — and, hopefully, exceed its expectations…. but if all the shows you surround it with exceed expectations, then maybe these new subscribers will come back.’”
It’s going to be a season to remember, certainly, and with “Hamilton” already booked, 2018-19 promises to be the same — if not better. Thanks to Louisville’s appreciative, engaged and art-loving community, the industry’s top shows will surely continue to tour to River City and bring the splendor of Broadway to Louisville, making every season a blockbuster.<