Two of the area’s largest presenting organizations are teaming up next season, and it will mean Fort Worth audiences get to see more new Broadway shows sooner than they have in years past.Performing Arts Fort Worth and Dallas Summer Musicals will co-present four titles during their 2014-2015 seasons: Dirty Dancing, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Pippin and Kinky Boots. All will be on their first national tours when they come to North Texas.Three of the touring shows will play on the Dallas stage for two weeks and then move to Fort Worth for one week; Kinky Boots will have several months in between.The partnership was announced Thursday night at an event at the Centennial Building at Fair Park in Dallas.For Performing Arts Fort Worth, the nonprofit organization that runs Bass Hall, advantages of the arrangement include extra marketing and the potential to capture an audience on the west side of the Metroplex. For Tarrant County patrons, it means fewer drives to Dallas to see early-run tours and wondering if and when they might play closer to home.In recent years, tours of some of the biggest Broadway shows have played in Fort Worth a season or two after a run in Dallas. For instance, Jersey Boys, currently wrapping up its first stop at Bass Hall, has been in Dallas three times already.“A lot of it has to do with how the tours are routing, and our time at Bass Hall is extremely limited [as a multipurpose venue],” said Dione Kennedy, president and CEO of Performing Arts Fort Worth. Bass Hall also is the permanent home of several resident companies — Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth Opera and the The Cliburn — that keep full schedules of performances there each season. Another reason Dallas Summer Musicals has gotten earlier-run shows? Its president and CEO Michael Jenkins has become a major investor in Broadway shows, so he often gets first dibs on the tours he’s backing, such as Kinky Boots and Cinderella. Current Broadway shows Jenkins has a hand in include the recent Best Musical Tony winner A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, plus The Bridges of Madison County and Bullets Over Broadway.Sharing shows wouldn’t have happened a decade ago because of tight rules by booking agents. In the past, if two presenting organization existed within 75 miles of each other, only one would get the title per season. But in more recent years, DSM and PAFW have presented back-to-back runs of popular shows such as The Lion King, The Color Purple and Legally Blonde in separate seasons. In the current season, Ghost, The Musical, seen in January/February, and the upcoming Nice Work If You Can Get It were shared by both cities.“We have worked together in years past, and this time we made a more concerted effort, and it’s worked out beautifully for us,” Kennedy said. “For us, on this side of the Metroplex, we don’t really see Dallas, per se, as the direct competition, which is why working with Dallas Summer Musicals makes sense for us.”Effects of competitionBut both long-established organizations do face competition from the newest touring presenter in the area, SHN Presents, which books the Broadway Series at AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas. Since it opened in 2009, ATTPAC has become the go-to presenting series for younger audiences looking for riskier fare, such as the Tony-winning Spring Awakening and The Book of Mormon. That organization also recently announced its first “off-Broadway” series, programming much bolder smaller tours (including monologuist Mike Daisey and Austin’s nationally famous Rude Mechs) than Performing Arts Fort Worth does in its McDavid Studio series.Before ATTPAC opened, Bass Hall got some of the “ediger” shows Dallas Summer Musicals passed on, including Urinetown, The Full Monty and Avenue Q.While having several different presenting companies in North Texas increases entertainment choices for consumers willing to drive around the Metroplex, it also creates more competition for their ticket dollars.“Honestly, we don’t think about that,” Jenkins said.But local artistic directors say that theatergoers — faced with increased traffic and construction-clogged roads in what has become a sprawling Metroplex in every direction — are not as likely to trek to the other city for a musical or play anymore, either. Even the local professional theaters have started working across county lines. In recent seasons, Dallas Theater Center and Casa Mañana co-produced To Kill a Mockingbird in both cities; Addison’s WaterTower Theatre has imported productions from Stage West and Circle Theatre; Stage West imported a show from Dallas’ Theatre Three; and next season, Stage West and WaterTower will co-produce a full production.Jenkins, only the third leader in Dallas Summer Musicals’ 75 years, says decades ago, DSM — which used to produce its own shows as well as present tours — felt some competition from Fort Worth’s Casa Mañana. But those attitudes have changed, he said.“We don’t consider [the Fort Worth market] competition,” Jenkins said, “because the [metropolitan] market is so large and diverse, and our market is mainly north Dallas.”Next season, Bass Hall has booked a show that will have been at ATTPAC just two months earlier. Eight-time 2012 Tony Award winner (including Best Musical) Once opens Dec. 17 at the Winspear Opera House, and Feb. 18 in Fort Worth. (It is not on Dallas Summer Musicals’ schedule.) Kennedy says the folks at SHN and ATTPAC had to agree on that.The PAFW/DSM alliance will remain intact for the foreseeable future, the organizations say.“We love working with Bass Hall; we want to help them,” Jenkins said.Seasons at a glanceThe Broadway at the Bass season will consist of six shows on the subscription series, all new to the Bass Hall stage, and two add-ons for subscribers. Once is a musical love story in which the actor-musicians play their own instruments onstage. Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a Tony Award-winning Broadway revival. Pippin is a beloved early work by Stephen Schwartz ( Wicked, Godspell). Dirty Dancing, based on the ’80s movie starring Patrick Swayze, has been in London and has plans to land on Broadway after a U.S. tour. Rounding out the PAFW subscription season will be Elf, based on the 2003 Will Ferrell film, making its first Metroplex appearance; plus the tours of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Chicago as Broadway Specials.Additional shows in the DSM season are the area premiere of A Christmas Story, the Musical; a locally produced revival of The King and I; and the Australian magician spectacle The Illusionists. Performing Arts Fort Worth season: • Elf: Nov. 18-23 • Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Jan. 14-18, 2015 (Broadway Special) • Once: Feb. 18-22, 2015 • Chicago: April 3-4, 2015 (Broadway Special) • Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella: June 23-28, 2015 • Dirty Dancing: July 7-12, 2015 • Pippin: July 21-26, 2015 • Kinky Boots: Oct 27-Nov. 1, 2015 Dallas Summer Musicals’ season:• A Christmas Story, The Musical: Dec. 2-14• Kinky Boots: Feb. 24-March 8, 2015• The King and I: March 20-April 5, 2015• The Illusionists: April 7-19, 2015• Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella: June 9-21, 2015• Dirty Dancing: June 23-July 5, 2015• Pippin: July 7-19, 2015
PAFW Subscriptions are $226.60-$594. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday at Bass Hall or at 817-212-4280 or online at www.basshall.com.
DSM season tickets are $140-$775, and go on sale at 9 p.m. Thursday, at The Box Office, 5959 Royal Lane, Suite 542, Dallas. Call 214-346-3300 or visit www.dallassummermusicals.org.
What’s up with Wicked?
There’s one smash hit that has been notably absent from Fort Worth in recent years. Wicked, one of the most popular musicals on Broadway and national tours, has never played at Bass Hall. Dallas Summer Musicals has had it four times (because it sells out, and the Music Hall at Fair Park is the area’s largest venue for such tours, with about 1,000 more seats than either Bass Hall or ATTPAC’s Winspear Opera House.)
DSM CEO Michael Jenkins says it will likely have the musical one more time, in 2016, and then will probably agree to open it up for optioning by other venues, which means Bass Hall will have to wait at least three more years.
“It’s a show we obviously want to have,” Performing Arts Fort Worth’s Dione Kennedy said. “It’s been on my radar ever since I arrived in Fort Worth.”