Northeast Indiana residents who love musical theater have found the pickings slim since COVID-19 gave most local and national performers “the hook.”
Broadway will be dark until at least May 2021 and national touring productions are taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding the resumption of roving.
Luckily, the Embassy Theatre knew a guy.
songs from the stage
He’s Lee Lessack, the man who provides the Broadway stars for the Embassy’s fundraisers.
Lessack told theater management that he knew of a way to bring Broadway-style entertainment to Fort Wayne under COVID-19 strictures.
He was referring to a show called On Broadway, which will happen twice at the theater on Nov. 15.
On Broadway is the brainchild of Jonathan Hawkins, a musical theater professional based in Provincetown, Mass.
The show preexisted the pandemic, but it is constructed in such a way that it can be safely presented during a pandemic.
In a phone interview with Whatzup, Hawkins said he devised On Broadway to showcase the newest music from the newest shows.
“I created it two years ago,” he said. “The show is ever evolving. It only has material from shows that are currently on Broadway.”
Of course, there is nothing on Broadway at the moment.
“Broadway has been closed since March,” Hawkins said. “So we have to do things a little differently. This is the same show we did in March.”
The show was in Fort Lauderdale when the pandemic stopped it in its tracks, he said. It hasn’t been anywhere else since. It will visit the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Neb., on Nov. 13 before making its way to Fort Wayne.
On Broadway is a revue featuring four Broadway actors and an accompanying instrumental ensemble.
“It’s really pared down,” The Embassy Theatre’s chief marketing officer Carly Myers said. “They don’t have the stuff or the sets. We don’t have to deal with the droves of people that come along with a show.
“This is a way for us to bring Broadway to Fort Wayne, which we know people are missing,” she said.
“All our subscribers and our members just love the Broadway series. So we were trying to find a way to do something, even if it wasn’t our traditional package of the season.”
The actors participating in this short two-city tour are:
• Alan Green: Sister Act, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
• Jessica Hendy: Aida, Cats
• Jacob Haren: The Book of Mormon
• Liisi LaFontaine: Dreamgirls
Songs from The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Tina, Book of Mormon, West Side Story, Hadestown, Chicago, Company, Moulin Rouge, Wicked, Dear Evan Hanson, and Hamilton will be performed.
Fort Wayne musical theater lovers likely haven’t had a chance to hear some of these songs performed live and that makes this show unique, Hawkins said.
“It’s a really great way for the audience to expose themselves to new shows that they haven’t heard of yet or that they haven’t had a chance to go see,” he said.
Not only is the show fun to watch and participate in, Hawkins said, it also provides work for actors who haven’t had much of it.
“These are tough times for the Broadway community,” he said. “So we’re just thankful to get to work. Because for six months, there was nothing. We are months away from a full Broadway production becoming a reality. So this show is sort of the next best thing … for us and for audiences.”
The future for performing artists of all stripes looks a little bleak from here, but Hawkins said he is focusing on the silver lining.
“Obviously, it has been incredibly devastating few months for the arts community,” he said. “But I think the forced reset will be kind of good in the long run for our community. I think it has required us to take a step back and understand why it is we do what we do.
“It has sort of reignited a passion, I think, for a lot of us,” Hawkins said. “It has forced us to become connected to our art in a different way.”
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