Thursday, April 08, 2010

2010-2011 Keybank Broadway Series


Explaining that, “there is no substitute for the real thing,” Gina Vernaci, the Vice President of Theatricals, sat in the Idea Center in front of a group of sponsors, season ticket holders and reviewers, to announce 2010-2011 KeyBank Broadway Series. She stressed that the goal of the upcoming season is to showcase elements and emotional experiences of live performance.

A video illustrated how close Cleveland had come to losing what is now called The Playhouse Square Center, the second-largest theater complex in the United States. As was illustrated in the video, in 1972 the wrecking balls were lined up ready to knock down the complex, and create a large parking lot.

How did the complex come to be and what saved it so that, at present, 19,000 subscribers form the base that supports the Broadway series and numerous other offerings at PHSquare? A foundation that makes Cleveland a very, very desirable site for the best of touring shows.

Following World War I the Ohio and State theatres opened. The Hanna followed in late March, 1921. The Allen opened that same year and the Palace became a reality in November, 1922. For forty years, good times reigned, but the demise of vaudeville and the rise of television led to the decline of the theaters. Between May, 1968, and July, 1969, all the theaters closed except the Hanna. Plans to raze the Ohio and the State Theatres in 1972 caused a public outcry, and in 1973 the newly-formed Playhouse Square Foundation obtained long-term leases for the Palace, Ohio, and State Theatres, while Cuyahoga County commissioners purchased the Loews Building, which housed the Hanna. And, miracle of miracles, in 1973, the musical revue JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS opened in the State Theatre's lobby. Expected to run three weeks, the show played for two years, giving time to raise the money to restore the theatres and have them added, in 1978, to the National Register of Historical Buildings, thus preserving them forever.

So, what is Gina pulling out of her theatrical hat for the coming year to fill the beautiful complex? A performance without words, a show which stars a dancing teenage boy, stagings of several classics, a reworking of an American classic which now features both English and Spanish spoken words and lyrics, and a popular children’s film which became a Broadway hit musical with real people replacing the cartoon characters.

BLUE MAN GROUP, October 5-17, 2010; Palace
Blue Man Group is best known for their combining comedy, music, and technology to produce a totally unique form of entertainment. The New York Times describes the show as “One of the most delightful performance pieces ever staged.”

BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL, November 19 – December 12, 2010; State
With music by Elton John, this winner of ten 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, is a celebration of one young boy’s journey to make his dreams come true. Based on the smash-hit film, the show is set in a small English mining town. The story follows Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, discovering a surprising passion that inspires his family and community. I saw this show in London and loved it!

SOUTH PACIFIC, February 1-13, 2011; Palace
With new staging, SOUTH PACIFIC swept the 2008 Tony Awards, winning seven honors. It features a cast of 34 and a full orchestra of 26 members – the largest orchestra of any touring Broadway production. The score includes “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.” This reinvention of one of America’s most beloved musicals should make for “Some Enchanted Evening.”

SHREK THE MUSICAL , March 1-13, 2011; Palace
Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film SHREK, the musical is part romance, part twisted fairy tale and all irreverent fun. It’s an evening of entertainment and enchantment for adults as well as kids.

LES MISÉRABLES, April 5-17, 2011; Palace
Cameron Mackintosh presents the 25th anniversary of this classic show with new staging and re-imagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. Les Miz is the longest running musical in London theatre history. This is one of my favorite musicals.

WEST SIDE STORY, May 3-15, 2011; Palace
From the first note to its final breath, WEST SIDE STORY remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. The Bernstein and Sondheim score is one of Broadway's finest and features such classics as "Something's Coming," "Tonight," "America ," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere." I saw the show’s Broadway premiere in 1957 and it quickly went on my list of the top five greatest musicals.

NEXT TO NORMAL, June 7-19, 2011; Palace
NEXT TO NORMAL is an emotional powerhouse of a musical with a thrilling contemporary score about a family trying to take care of themselves and each other. Winner of three 2009 Tony Awards, the show is the most talked about new show on Broadway.

Subscriptions to the KeyBank Broadway Series at PlayhouseSquare are now available by calling 216-830-7221 or online at The seven-show KeyBank Broadway Series subscription package ranges from $85 to $520 per seat. Additionally, Donor Circle seating is available. For information visit or call 216-348-5268.