CEDAR RAPIDS – Broadway went dark in Cedar Rapids when the raging river surged through the Paramount Theatre in June 2008.
Beginning Dec. 4, Broadway’s enduring touring power will begin in the renovated Paramount during a six-month series featuring seven hit shows.
The shows, listed below, have been bringing audiences to their feet in Chicago and Washington, D.C., spinning from New York all across the United States.
- Cirque Dreams Holidaze
- The Midtown Men
- “Monty Python’s Spamalot,”
- “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,”
- Blue Man Group
- “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles”
- “Rock of Ages”
Season ticket renewals are in the mail now for past series subscription holders. They’ll go on sale to new series buyers June 11. Individual show tickets will go on sale down the road.
“We recognize the inconvenience caused by the flooding, when we had to cancel the 2008-09 season. We have really been waiting for the new day to come when the renovated Paramount would be reopened,” Steve Traxler, president of Jam Theatricals, says by phone from a recent trip to New York.
“It’s hard to express how excited we are about working with Orchestra Iowa and VenuWorks in bringing entertainment back to Cedar Rapids. It’s just an amazing feeling to be a part of that,” he says. “The rebirth of this historic theater will have a great impact on the community.”
He says Jam Theatricals, based in Chicago, has been presenting Broadway touring shows in Cedar Rapids for about 10 or 15 years, and serves about 30 markets around the country, in cities very similar to Cedar Rapids.
When it comes to shaping a series, it’s all about the buzz — from the industry, the agents, and most importantly, the audiences.
“We try to poll our customers,” he says. “It’s more about working in conjunction with what customers talk about seeing and what the box office says people seem to want.”
“These are all shows people want to see and have had to leave the market to see,” says Tammy Koolbeck of Cedar Rapids, vice president of VenuWorks, which manages and markets 50 entertainment outlets across the country. The company, based in Ames, has managed the U.S. Cellular Center and the Paramount Theatre since 1999 and the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena since October 2001.
Under a deal struck by the city in January, Orchestra Iowa will team up with VenuWorks to plan, market and sell tickets for all Paramount shows, in a partnership known as Paramount Presents.
“Communications director Christy Frost serves as the on-the-ground marketing counsel for outside promoters,” says Executive Director Robert Massey of Cedar Rapids. “Supporting the series on marketing and ticketing is a monumental task.”
He calls the arrangement “a win-win” for the City of Cedar Rapids, which owns the historic 1928 Paramount Theatre, as well as for the building managers and promoters like Jam.
“The real winner is the community,” Massey says. “They get to see great productions at this theater. …
“We’ve got an incredible season. The team at Jam — they were the promoter of the (Broadway) series in the past and one of the first calls we made once we started lining up dates,” Massey says. “They were interested and anxious to get back to Cedar Rapids. They have a real A-list of titles to bring to the community.”
“You can stay home now and see great New York Broadway shows as you were doing before,” Koolbeck says. “With Hancher going down at the same time as the Paramount, you really have had to drive to Chicago, Des Moines or the Twin Cities” to see such productions. “Now it’s downtown, in what’s going to be a gorgeous theater. It’s going to be spectacular when it reopens.”
Like Massey and Traxler, Koolbeck also is looking forward to the enhanced experiences for performers, as well as audiences, through the theater’s $34.5 million renovation. The dressing rooms will be larger, as will the space onstage and behind the scenes.
“I remember when we did ‘The King and I’ over a Thanksgiving weekend, we had to set up a quick-change room in the alley for Anna to change into her hoops,” Koolbeck says. “We couldn’t get her up and down the steps and there was no room in the wings. The reopened theater will have space for all of that.”
Traxler, who has been to the Paramount many times over the years, got his most recent close-up in the past couple weeks.
“It’s just gorgeous,” he says. “To see the team that’s been working diligently to rebuild and restore and enhance the amenities — it’s going to be an incredible place to experience Broadway and other entertainment. (The upgrades) are all great things that will help cement Cedar Rapids as being a touring stop for Broadway shows going forward. …
“If shows leave happy about playing a beautifully restored, technically modern venue, it helps spread the word among agents and producers in New York. It helps us continue to get top-flight entertainment in Cedar Rapids.”
- By Diana Nollen
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