Today’s audiences are looking for big shows – the bigger, the better – and local cultural establishments are responding.
“Our big bombastic shows are often our most celebrated shows,” says Nate Hermanson, marketing director of The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis. In the next two years, this nonprofit theater will be presenting “Matilda,” “Elf the Musical” and “Legally Blonde,” among its many offerings.
Alan Anderson, marketing director for Broadway Rose Theatre in Tigard, says Broadway continues to find success developing musicals based on well-known movies, such as “Waitress,” “Tootsie,” “Mean Girls,” “Beetlejuice,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” and soon “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which will have its world premiere at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.
Jukebox musicals also continue to entertain audiences on Broadway, including “Jersey Boys, “Rock of Ages,” “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” and “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations.”
Broadway Rose has followed this trend by including a movie-based musical in its past seasons — “The Addams Family,” “Footloose” and “Once.” Two years ago, the theater did “Mamma Mia!”
This year, it will include “Crazy for You” and “The Wedding Singer” to its line up.
Portland’s stages bring in powerful speakers and performers. On Jan. 21, former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power speaks on “The Education of an Idealist – What Can One Person Do?” at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Other speakers in the WorldOregon’s 2020 International Speaker Series include Gen. H.R. McMaster, Nadia Murad and Nicholas D. Kristof.
Oregon Symphony will offer classics like Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, while expanding what it can do with movie showings like “Ghostbusters” and guest artist Itzhak Perlman.
If you want a more intimate theater experience, the Winningstad Theater brings “Mamma Mia!” to the stage Jan. 30 to Feb. 16. Over at the Newmark Theater, musical events range from “The Fab Four” to the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, BYU’s award-winning a capella group Vocal Point, and Bela Fleck. If you want to see dance, get tickets for Oregon Ballet’s “Beautiful Decay” or “The Americans 2.0.”
Some of Keller Auditorium’s biggest shows in 2020 appear to be Shin Lim on Jan. 16, Shen Yun on April 8, and Dancing with the Stars on April 7.
Don’t want to go into the city? Broadway Rose keeps a full slate of theatrical performances on stage all year long.
“Many audiences are looking to escape,” Anderson says. “They want to enjoy a fun, light-hearted production and forget about the stress and strife of life.”
He notices audiences often look for entertainment that is familiar.
“They want to know walking into the theater they are going to have a good time,” he says. “Money is hard-earned and people may not want to gamble on entertainment, so they are more comfortable buying a ticket to a production based on a book or movie — a story they are familiar with.”
He’s noticed more local theater companies are offering musicals or plays with music, “From Bag&Baggage Productions with their recent ‘Clockwork Orange’ and Milagro’s new holiday production, ‘A Xmas Cuento Remix.’”
The nonprofit Elsinore Theatre in Salem “is more than a place to see live music events and movies,” says executive director Tom Fohn. In 2019, The Elsinore started producing its own musicals in addition to the wide variety of entertainment brought to the local stage. “Disenchanted” runs Feb. 27-19 and “The Drowsy Chaperone” runs May 1-3.
“We present professional musicals that are produced and directed by our own staff,” he says. “Many of the cast and production team are from the Salem area. We’re providing professional performers and students a chance to enhance their resumes and further their careers in the arts.”
The Elsinore also brings music and comedy to its stage, including Pablo Cruise, rock band Kansas and Salem Symphonic Winds. Enlightened Theatrics, operating out of The Grand Theatre in Salem, features “First Date,” Feb. 21-March 15, and “Election Day,” April 17-May 3.
Some venues, like The Shedd Institute in Eugene, pride themselves on an eclectic approach to their offerings, “ranging from scronky jazz to world music, bluegrass, American roots, blues, classic rock, alt/indie folk,” and more, says executive director James Ralph. “By design we serve a huge cross-section of interest groups in Lane County, and Oregon.” In fact, he says nearly a quarter of his audience travels from outside Lane County to attend his shows.
“We do over 120 performances a year, not counting events held by other nonprofit, community and educational groups who rent our concert hall and other parts of our facility,” Ralph says. “We are excited and proud of everything we do at The Shedd. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t do it.”
At the Majestic, Hermanson says new events are “certainly catching people’s eyes, as we look to excite and help new community groups to utilize the stage and tools we have. We’re excited about bringing fresh ideas.”
Community theaters like Cottage Theatre in Cottage Grove have spent many years correlating what audiences want with the stories its volunteer directors want to tell.
Executive director Susan Goes says two of its 2020 shows are among the biggest sellers nationwide: “Mamma Mia!” and “Elf the Musical.” Others include “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “Seeking Red.”
“Our plans are probably driven more by what’s going on with our organization and community, and less about trends,” Goes says. “In our case, we’ve planned a season that has shows we really think will do really well.”
At the Hult Center for Performing Arts in Eugene, scheduled performances take in some of the country’s biggest names. Whether you’re looking for comedy — Jerry Seinfeld on Jan. 15 — or want a large-scale musical like “An American Paris” or “Les Miserables,” this year delivers.
It’s clear that local theaters and other entertainment venues have their audiences in mind in 2020. It’s a great time to support local and national artists, while finding entertainment that perfectly suits your own tastes.