I was very grumpy a few months ago when the new Broadway in Fresno season was announced. And why not? After teasing Fresno this past season with a full-fledged Broadway-caliber show in the form of “Wicked,” the 2011-12 season was a decided letdown.
Granted, the season has improved with the addition of “Rock of Ages,” which replaces “Grease.” But it certainly doesn’t include “The Lion King,” “Jersey Boys,” or the big-daddy touring show of them all, “The Phantom of the Opera” — one of which many Broadway fans I’ve talked to were hoping for. In my Sunday Spotlight column on the subject, I write:
The blunt truth is this: “Wicked” didn’t vault Fresno into the exalted ranks of cities that get first crack at hot Broadway shows. While the success of the unprecedented 16-show run, which was a near sell-out, probably did a lot to boost the city’s chances for nabbing a blockbuster show such as “Phantom” or “Lion King” in the future, the simple fact remains that there aren’t many shows with the name recognition and pop-culture appeal to anchor a multi-week run.
Broadway in Fresno is currently in the midst of its subscription campaign. I’ve talked to at least 10 people who say they aren’t renewing their season subscriptions.
A correction: In my Sunday column, I write that Blue Man Group — which Broadway in Fresno is marketing as its “big deal” appearance — will be here for its first appearance. What I should have written is that this will be Blue Man Group’s first Saroyan Theatre appearance with the series. The show has shifted from the arena-touring circuit to more intimate theater venues. Blue Man Group played at the Save Mart Center in both 2006 and 2008.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from those Save Mart performances, too. Blue Man Group’s 2006 appearance drew 4,410 ticket buyers. In 2008, that number had dipped to 2,995 — one of the lowest attended events that year at the Save Mart. Broadway in Fresno is hoping to fill three nights of Blue Man Group at 2,300 seats a night. Granted, the venue is smaller and more conducive to the scale of the show, but it will still be a hard sell for a show that’s already been here twice.