Coming to Dayton: ‘School of Rock,’ ‘King and I,’ ‘Waitress,’ ‘Neverland’

“The Book of Morman” returns to Dayton. CONTRIBUTED

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“The Book of Morman” returns to Dayton. CONTRIBUTED

If you love Broadway musicals, you’ll envy Mechele Pritchard. As director of contracts and licensing for the Victoria Theatre Association, the Wright State University grad is one of a six-member team that travels to New York each year to determine which productions are best suited for Dayton audiences and the Schuster Center and Victoria Theatre stages. The choices Pritchard and her teammates have made for the 2018-2019 season have just been announced.

The VTA's upcoming Premier Health Broadway Series kicks off Oct. 2-7 with "School of Rock." Based on the hit film, the musical features 14 new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber as well as all of the original songs from the movie. Musical theater's first-ever kids rock band will play their instruments live on stage. Next up is "Finding Neverland" which follows the life of playwright J.M. Barrie, author of "Peter Pan" (Jan. 15-20).

One of Rodgers & Hammerstein's most glorious musicals, "The King and I,"comes to the Schuster Feb. 12-17. Set in 1860s Bangkok, it's the story of the unconventional relationship between the King of Siam and the British schoolteacher who comes to instruct his wives and children. The familiar songs range from "Getting to Know You" and "I Whistle a Happy Tune" to "Shall We Dance" and "Hello Young Lovers." Emilio and Gloria Estefan are the focus of "On Your Feet!," the inspiring story of the talented Cuban couple who came to America, faced adversity and managed to break barriers and reach the top of the pop music world (March 5-10).

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A new production of the celebrated musical "Les Miserables" will be at the Schuster Center April 2-7. Among the songs we'll all be humming are "I Dreamed a Dream," "On my Own," "Bring Him Home" and "One Day More." Yummy pies are the final treat of the Broadway series: "Waitress" is the story of a small-town waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of escaping her abusive marriage and finding a happier life. The musical is based on the popular film (June 25-30).

Broadway classics and family fare on tap

Three Broadway classics will make up the VTA/s Projects Unlimited Star Attractions for the new season. They are "The Wizard of Oz" (Oct. 23-25); "Chicago" (Oct. 23-25); and "The Book of Mormon" (May 21-26).

Thanks to the Morris Furniture Company Family Series, the kids can look forward to live entertainment as well. That schedule includes "The Ugly Duckling" (Nov. 10); "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reinder: The Musical" (Nov. 16-17); "The Phantom Tollbooth" (Feb. 2); "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (Feb/ 23); "Diary of a Worm, A Spider & A Fly" (March 23) and "Magic School Bus Live: Lost in the Solar System" (April 27).

Also announced is the line-up for the popular National Geographic Live series. The speakers will include former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stone on Feb. 3-4; big-wall climber Mark Synnott on March 10-11 and Arctic photographer Florian Schulz on April 14-15. The series takes place at the Victoria Theatre.

Booking the shows

Appearing for the first time in Dayton are: “School of Rock,” “Finding Neverland,” “On Your Feet,” “Waitress” and “Rudulph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Returning favorites include: “Book of Mormon,” “Chicago,” “Les Miserables” and “The King and I” and “Wizard of Oz.”

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Prichard, who grew up in the Seattle area, became interested in theater when she was cast as Piglet in “The House at Pooh Corner” at the age of 10. She studied arts administration at Wright State and has been with the Victoria for 20 years. While still in college, she worked at Ticket Center Stage and later came to the VTA as production coordinator and house manager. Her current job requires her to touch every event — whether it’s as simple as putting it on the calendar or marking up the contracts to make sure every detail is addressed.

Prichard, who is already considering shows for 2020, says it’s a treat to visit New York during The Broadway League Conference each May and enjoy Broadway hits as a patron. Her team divides up the potential matches for Dayton to see if the shows are a good fit. “We look at how it will do on our stage and whether our audience will like it,” she says. “We’ve got a very diverse group of people in Dayton and we have a huge arts scene for city of our size. I look at the production values: is it big, beautiful and sparkly? Is the music something people are going to enjoy listening to? Are the plot points broad enough to capture the most people?”

The VTA team is also limited by what the agents are offering and where our city fits in their routing. “These agents work with hundreds of markets and the show has a route so that it isn’t jumping from one end of the country to another,” Pritchard explains. “We also have mileage limits which means a show can’t play back-to-back within a certain number of miles. If it plays in Cincinnati, Dayton wouldn’t want it within the same time frame. We would rather space it out a year which is why Cincinnati gets the larger shows first because they’re a bigger market.”

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A phenomenal hit like “Hamilton” may play in Cincinnati for two or three years before Dayton gets it. When mega-hits like “Wicked” or “Lion King” continue to rack up $1 million a week in every market, it’s likely they’ll be on the road for years and Dayton may be asked to hold dates years in advance.

The budgeting process is a collaborative effort. “Ticketing and Marketing determine the ticket prices — taking into consideration the current economic climate,” Pritchard says. ” Then the Technical Director and I comb through the tech riders — lighting, stage, wardrobe — to determine what each show will cost.”

The good news, as seasoned theatergoers have learned, is that the touring companies of today are often on par with the Broadway productions. “The tours coming through have really kept up their game,” Pritchard says. “They have to change the sets a little bit because they are going into multiple theaters, but for the most part the shows are pretty close to the original on Broadway. Having the Schuster Center means that we can get the most spectacular musicals.”

She cites the recent “Sound of Music” tour as an example. “I was backstage when the Von Trapp kids went into the conductor’s dressing room to warm up. It sounded every bit as wonderful as what you would have heard on Broadway. It was amazing!”


HOW TO ORDER TICKETS

Season Tickets for the 2018-2019 Premier Health Broadway Series are on sale now at the Ticket Center Stage Box Office, located in the Wintergarden of the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center or by calling (937) 228-3630 or toll-free 888-228-3630.

Renewal packets for all current Premier Health Broadway Series Season Ticket Holders were mailed Feb. 28. The deadline for current Season Ticket Holders to request changes is March 13. The deadline to renew 2018-2019 Broadway Season Ticket packages is March 16. Season Ticket sales for the Morris Furniture Company Family Series and National Geographic Live Series begin later in the spring.

Individual ticket sales will begin at a later date.

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