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How We Pick Our Season Schedule

Oct 12, 2020
Oct
12

Picture this: 10 people – some theater people by trade, others simply business people, others marketing people. This group sits around a room calling out show names. One person writes them on “sticky notes,” and places them on the wall, to collate and memorialize the titles. Eventually there are 20 or so titles from which to choose, all fantastic shows in their own way.

Live Musical Performance at Alhambra Theatre

There were more titles shouted, but not all of them make the short list. “We did that show in 2007,” yells our official historian, Becky. “And we did that one in 1986, and people loved it.” “Yeah! Let’s do that one, I loved that show,” barks another regarding a separate title. Invariably, someone yells out “I know if we did High School Musical again, we would sell it out. It was just bad timing.” It’s always the marketing guy, Mark, who wants to prove it was a fluke that his daughter’s favorite show didn’t draw the crowds we draw today. Usually someone agrees, then we all laugh and move on, knowing the show will probably never again make the cut.

Eventually, the group narrows the show list to about a dozen. Most of them are musicals. We try not to repeat a show any more recently than five to seven years, and that’s where the biggest challenge comes in. For example, over the last decade we have tried to include the crowd favorite, Fiddler on the Roof, and yet each time when we’ve called to get the rights, the show has been scheduled either for Broadway or for a national Broadway tour, which immediately pulls the show off the market for the entire country of theaters like the Alhambra.

Our methodology is admittedly part science, part guessing, and part luck. It’s like trying to read the mind of 50,000 people who trust us to select great shows. Our first line of defense is always, “We know our audience will love this show.” Those go on the A-list. The next conversation is usually, “if we can get it, will the audience will love this show, or is it a little too outside the box of our usual fare?" This is typically a show like Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie, which we are featuring in 2021. Those of us the in the room know it’s a great show. We remember the movie, and it was wonderful. But will a straight drama “sell” at The Alhambra. Well, there is really only one way to find out! Our summer family shows are always a fun one to debate. Honestly, the list is far shorter than you’d think. This year’s summer show, Seussical the Musical was actually our second choice, but the first choice is currently on tour, so here we are – and joyfully! We had a blast running Seussical the first time we did it (which was longer ago than we remembered), and we’re eager to run it again this summer.

“It's not as easy as it sounds! A lot of factors go into picking a season.”

There are other factors: the size of the cast, the reality of the the set designs, etc. For example, we’ve never been able to run Peter Pan because we have a low fly gallery, also known as the gallery or catwalk above the stage floor from which counterweight and rope rigging is operated. Often, we try to find a “star” vehicle in which we feature a popular actor. Thankfully for them, with the advent of streaming TV there is so much work out there for them, it is actually hard to find actors of that caliber these days who are looking for work.

A photo of the Little Mermaid show at the Alhambra Theatre

After all of this, we finally have a season selected and then we go immediately into renewal mode for our Season Partners. This year more than ever, the Alhambra is going to need as much support as possible. So, we hope to see you at the Alhambra – and now you know a little bit of our secret!

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