Broadway shutdown leaves Dallas Summer Musicals in limbo through mid-2021
Broadway recently announced that the Great White Way theaters in New York would close through May 2021. With the impact extending to touring as well, the pandemic’s long arm has devastated companies like Dallas Summer Musicals, which announced on Wednesday how bad the fallout will be.
The delays threaten to cripple DSM’s 2020-21 season. Four shows – Oklahoma !, Tootsie, Mean Girls, and Come From Away – have been postponed until further notice. The Tony Award winning play To Kill a Mockingbird from 2018, which is slated to open in March last year in Dallas, has been “canceled and postponed for a later date,” according to DSM.
What is more optimistic is that DSM has planned Hadestown for May 18-30 next year, but as its President Kenneth T. Novice said this week, that date is tentative at best.
Kenneth T. Novice, President of Dallas Summer Musicals, at Fair Park Music Hall. (Jeff Lorch)
Novice said the Broadway producers who deliver the shows want full capacity, or he said this show will be postponed too.
Others appearing on the tentative schedule for 2021 are Jesus Christ Superstar (July 6-18), Wicked (August 4-September 5), and Jersey Boys (October 19-31). Most of the shows in season 20-21 have been reshuffled before, so the dates announced on Wednesday are just the latest revisions.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Novice with a sigh. “We’re here to do Broadway, and the Dallas people seem to really love these shows. It is frustrating for us not to be able to fulfill our core task. “
When it comes to Hadestown, can you be sure to do a show in May?
“That’s a very good question,” Novice said, noting that he was in frequent contact with the Broadway League and DSM producer Broadway Across America. “We spent a lot of time on this to reopen Texas.” The truthful answer to that is, I just don’t know. It’s all so dependent on the coronavirus. And we don’t know where this is going. “
Novice hopes Hadestown can take to the stage in May, “but we also hoped we could do shows again from January.”
Partial capacity is out of the question, he said, because Broadway producers “have to sell a lot of tickets to recoup their costs. If they can’t play at full capacity, this is an economic non-starter.”
Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada appear in the Broadway musical “Hadestown,” which may open in Dallas in May 2021. (Matthew Murphy / Dallas Summer Musicals)
DSM has laid off its part-time employees – around 200 ushers, cashiers and others – “because we obviously don’t do shows.
DSM received approximately $ 750,000 from the federal payroll protection program, which Novice said has eliminated some of the pain. He has stayed in close contact with proposed federal measures like the Save Our Stages Act and the RESTART Act, “but all of these things are stuck because there was no agreement on a relief or stimulus bill. We hope something happens, but we just don’t know. People rely on this work for a living, and if we can’t put on shows it takes its toll. “
DSM has roughly 45 full-time employees, a number, he said, he has had to take on leave by half. He hopes to bring them back as soon as full programming resumes.
“We all run in the smallest space in the theater business anyway,” he said. “We would bring people back because we really need them. These budgets in American theater do not contain fat. “
The annual budget of DSM is very different from year to year. When the Broadway supershow Hamilton played at the Music Hall in the spring of 2019, the budget rose to around $ 45 million. In a “normal” year, he said, it’s about $ 25 million. For the fiscal year ended October 31, it was $ 23 million.
He admitted that the pandemic created a budget deficit that is currently around $ 1.2 million for the fiscal year ended October 31.
Novice praised his team for quickly moving from live programming to streaming and DSM tariffs such as Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway, a livestream concert series with Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Vanessa Williams that debuts with LuPone , brought to DSM October 24th.
DSM is excited to continue the High School Musical Theater Awards in 2020, albeit in a virtual format. “And it was really good,” he said.
“For me, the greatest value in virtual programming,” said Novice, “is that it engages our audience. That whets the appetite for Broadway, and when we get back they’ll be excited and ready to come back. “
After the pandemic, DSM also launched a program called Black Art Matters, which Novice says is shining light on local black artists in Dallas through interviews and performances.
“Neither of these things is a big money maker,” he said. “This will never replace the money that comes from putting on a show, but it keeps the audience interested and allows us to continue our educational programs.”
As tempting as the digital alternatives are: “People yearn for live experience,” said Novice – and long to come back to it. “I want to continue our virtual programming. It’s a great new thing we’ve done, but I see it more as a marketing tool. “
Speaking of subscribers, Novice said, “There is still a lot of demand for Broadway shows. Even with the changes we announced, we had very little impact. Very few people have asked for a refund. Most have said, ‘Keep the money. I’ll see if you can. ‘They really want to see the shows and that alone kept us going. “