The Tony Awards highlighted one of the most exciting Broadway seasons in years and those Tony Award-winning shows will make their way to the area in the form of national touring productions. Patience is required as it takes years to bring Broadway’s best shows to North Texas.
Mike Richman, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at AT&T Performing Arts Center, explains exactly how early the Center begins following shows, “We see everything as early as we can, even attending workshops and readings of shows that are still in the developmental stage.”
Keeping track of what shows are developing in New York and London is only the beginning of the process. The AT&T Performing Arts Center partners with SHN, a San Francisco-based theatrical entertainment company and the Center’s Broadway consultant, to determine the programming, marketing, and ticket pricing of the Center’s Broadway Series.
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“We have a group that gathers weekly to review our Broadway tour options. A show’s schedule tends to start to become clear about 24 months in advance. We work closely with the shows’ producers and booking agents to find available dates in the Winspear Opera House that match up with the tour’s schedule. It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle,” said Richman.
Logistics are complicated. Producers prefer shorter distances between engagements and as little fuel expense as possible. Holidays and special events are also taken into consideration. Richman says adjustments can be made to the schedule to accommodate a show’s tour, even if it means opening on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday.
Producers greatly value Dallas and the city is often an anchor market for many tours. Dallas’ importance in the Broadway touring industry became evident in 2012 when the AT&T Performing Arts Center was the third stop on a 20 city U.S. tour of War Horse, Great Britain’s National Theatre’s innovative production about a horse’s fate during World War I.
“We declared our interest very early in its life, before it even came to Broadway,” Richman recalls, “And the results showed at the box office: War Horse is the most successful play ever to tour through Dallas. So the evidence is there that Dallas audiences will come out for important shows in a big way.”
The producers of War Horse were enthused by the success and the Dallas tour experience informed engagements at subsequent cities.
North Texas audiences are fortunate to have multiple venues to see Broadway tours. In addition to the AT&T Performing Arts Center, tours regularly grace the stages of the Dallas Summer Musicals and Bass Hall. Richman explains that starting a second Broadway series in Dallas was a milestone for the city. “When we launched our series at the Center, Dallas was the largest city in the U.S. without at least two Broadway series. In fact, in Houston, two competing Broadway companies share the same venue (The Hobby Center) and even sometimes share touring shows,” he said.
The current excitement about Broadway shows is exceptional, but not unexpected. Because touring venues work at least 24 months in advance, Richman has been anticipating audience’s reactions to the current crop of shows, especially Hamilton: An American Musical. The excitement has exceeded Richman’s expectations and he notes the Center has benefited. “The Broadway season we just announced is performing well ahead of last season and we are selling hundreds of new subscriptions each week. I think that’s due to a combination of factors: the amazing lineup we put together and the overall excitement about Broadway and what’s coming down the road,” he said.
Speaking of down the road, when will Hamilton: An American Musical make its way to Dallas? Several cities included in the show’s upcoming tour have already been announced, but Richman is coy, “For now all I can say is ‘Wait For It’…”
Patience is a virtue, indeed.
Kimberly Richard is a North Texan with a passion for the arts. She’s worked with Theatre Three, Inc. and interned for the English National Opera and Royal Shakespeare Company. She graduated from Austin College and currently lives in Garland with her very pampered cocker spaniel, Tessa.