We peek behind the curtains as three musicals make their local premieres during the new season of Broadway in Austin.
The Book of Mormon is coming back by popular demand.
Austinites love a good musical, so the new season of Broadway Across America will give theater-goers six reasons to rejoice. Half the shows—The Little Mermaid, Kinky Boots, and Motown: The Musical—coming to the Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus are making their Austin premieres, and the other three, The Book of Mormon, The Sound of Music, and Cabaret, are back by popular demand.
These carefully curated selections are all developed, produced, and marketed by the Theater Division of Key Brand Entertainment, led by CEO Lauren Reid, a Houston native and UT alum. Says Reid, who is based in New York and is a voter for the Tony Awards, “I have to go see every single show that opens in New York; it’s a privilege. It is rather time-consuming. You don’t realize how many shows there are until you have to fit them onto your calendar.” Here, Reid discusses what it takes to bring the Great White Way to 40 cities in the US and Canada.
Who decides which shows play where? We have a pretty good idea, post–Tony Awards, of the shows that we want to bring, whether it’s the Best Musical from that season, or Best Play or Best Revival. What we call the “mega-musicals,” the Wickeds and the Lion Kings, those are our tent-pole productions, and we want to make sure we bring them to every one of our cities as quickly as possible. Then we really look at each city to shape what that season will look like, and we make the selection out of probably 25 titles and choose six to eight of those. We send surveys to our subscribers, and also to the single-ticket buyers, with a slate of shows, and we analyze the responses to those shows. We always do this in consultation with our partners, the folks at Bass Concert Hall—everybody has a voice. We actually have three to four programming calls in the course of a season to talk about interest in titles before the Tony Awards, and another call after the Tony Awards.
Are Austin’s theatergoers more adventurous than those in some other cities? I hate to make generalizations, but I do feel like Austin has a little bit more of an edge. I don’t want to diminish anybody else, but certainly an intellectual edge and a knowledge of some Broadway titles that other cities may not necessarily know just yet. Ultimately, we look at the mix of titles, and we want to make sure we bring the Tony Award winners, the Tony-winning revivals, probably a family show, and then, in Austin in particular, something for an adult audience as well. Austin’s a really great town for live entertainment; it has a growing theater scene. And especially being on a university campus, we have an opportunity and, frankly, a mission to bring in some more cutting-edge theater.
Does what wins the Tony Awards really affect which shows are selected by Broadway Across America? Yes, the Tony Awards—especially Best Musical and Best Revival—are very meaningful. I don’t ever limit it to just those titles, but we want to make sure we’re bringing the best of Broadway to our cities.