The Palace Theatre buzzed with chatter and music as guests waited for the PlayhouseSquare 2014-2015 KeyBank Broadway Season Launch Party to begin.
The event on Tuesday, March 25 marked the announcement of PlayhouseSquare’s upcoming year of programming.
At the start of the event, KeyBank Vice President of Community Relations Karen White announced to the audience that the upcoming season will be KeyBank’s tenth year sponsoring the series.
“You are in for an incredible treat,” she said. White quipped about the unfortunate reputation of Cleveland sports in comparison. “You could say PlayhouseSquare is the only team delivering,” she said.
After White, PlayhouseSquare’s President and CEO Art Falco came on stage.
Falco described the chandelier PlayhouseSquare plans to reveal on May 2. The “Dazzle the District” event will unveil the outdoor chandelier, which, according to Falco, will obtain the Guinness World Record for largest outdoor chandelier.
He called the upcoming Broadway series “a sensational season” before handing over the stage to what he dubbed “the Gina Show.”
Senior Vice President of Theater Operations Gina Vernaci took the stage for the main event. Why call it a launch party? “We call it a party because it’s so much bigger than an announcement,” said Vernaci.
Vernaci encouraged social media use to share the news of the lineup. Behind her, the screen showed a picture of President Barack Obama making a comical face while using a cell phone.
“What a season this has been,” Vernaci said referring to the 2013-2014 season. “The KeyBank Broadway Series has taken us on quite the musical journey.”
Then, the moment of truth finally arrived.
“Motown” was the first show to be announced. The cast of the show appeared onstage for a performance. They sang songs such as “Get Ready,” “Dancing in the Street” and “My Girl” among others.
Vernaci came back on stage and talked about the musical acts that Barry Gordy, the originator of Motown, brought notoriety. These included the Jackson 5, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. She also brought up Leo’s Casino, the Cleveland venue where many of these acts once performed. “Motown” will open the season and run from Oct. 3 – 19, 2014.
Vernaci then announced the second show of the season, Disney’s “Newsies.” She talked about the history behind the show, including an actual protest of newsboys that was overshadowed by events centering on a railway in Cleveland. The show will be performed from Nov. 4 – 16, 2014.
During the holiday season, PlayhouseSquare will host Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” Vernaci pointed out that the title song remains the “best-selling single of all time, worldwide.” She also joked that she wouldn’t ruin the ending for anyone who happens to be the only person in the world who hasn’t seen it. The show will run from Dec. 2 – 14, 2014.
Stephen Schwartz’s “Pippin,” a musical that possesses a unique accolade, will also be performed at PlayhouseSquare. The character called “Leading Player” is the only role for which two people of opposite gender, Patina Miller and Ben Vereen, have both won a Tony award. A 2013 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University will play “Leading Player” in the version that will come to Cleveland. This musical will play at PlayhouseSquare from Feb. 3 – 15, 2015.
Before it even goes to Broadway, “Dirty Dancing” will come to Cleveland as well. Vernaci talked about the once-controversial dance moves that the show features, such as the mambo.
“It was considered the twerking of the time,” Vermaci said. The show will be performed from March 3 – 22, 2015.
From April 7 – 19, “Kinky Boots” will make its way to PlayhouseSquare. Director of Programming David Greene walked out on stage in bright red, knee-high boots.
“Make sure you get those back in Falco’s closet before he knows they’re missing,” Vernaci said. Cyndi Lauper’s Tony award-winning score accompanies the musical Vernaci called “heartwarming” and “loads of fun.”
The last show of the season will be Roger’s and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
“The physical production is magical in and of itself,” said Vernaci. She explained the costume designer’s vision of Ella’s dress as symbolic of her “unfolding love” with the prince. The show will be in Cleveland from July 21 – Aug. 2, 2015.
The theater portion of the event wrapped up with the cast of “Motown” appearing once more on stage to perform, “Do You Love Me?”
While many people at the event were season ticketholders, that was not the case for every attendee.
Chardon resident Brenda Zapotosky won her tickets to the event on Facebook.
She said, “I entered to win tickets to the launch party and I won.” Commenting on the live performances by the cast of Motown, she said, “That was a fun surprise.”
Greene, when asked about the upcoming series, said, “It’s a fantastic season.” He stated that PlayhouseSquare currently has over 29,000 season ticket holders, and that number is expected to rise.
During the event, Vernaci revealed that PlayhouseSquare is home to more season ticket holders than anywhere else in the U.S.
Greene said PlayhouseSquare sees the “very best of touring Broadway every year,” citing the successful show “Once” as an example.
“We knew it would be an audience favorite,” he said.
Vernaci said that during the event, before she even announced the titles, “people were already cheering.” She continued, “The excitement just continues to build.”
For more information about the KeyBank Broadway series, visit playhousesquare.org.