Broadway in Bryant Park Concert Series to Launch July 10

106.7 LITE FM Partners with New York Theatre

For fourteen consecutive years, the radio station 106.7 LITE FM has held an annual lunchtime summer concert series in Manhattan’s Bryant Park featuring the casts of Broadway shows.  The series will begin on Thursday, July 10, 2014, and will continue for six consecutive Thursday until its final event on August 14, 2014.  The Bryant Park stage is located at 6th Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets in midtown Manhattan.  The performances will begin at 12:30pm, arranged to be convenient for lunchtime entertainment, as many full-time workers in the area take their lunch break in the park on the many green tables and chairs set up around the field.  In addition, the shows are broadcast live on the radio, 106.7 LITE FM.

Bryant Park people on grass big stage with 106.7 lite fm Broadway in Bryant Park

Rocky, Wicked, If/Then, Pippin, Chicago, Les Misérables

The first three events are co-hosted by an Off-Broadway show, and all are hosted by a LITE FM personality.  On July 10, the host will be Delilah, and the show will be co-hosted by Off-Broadway’s Buyer and Cellar, running in the West Village at the Barrow Street Theatre.  The four musicals featured on that first show will be Rocky, Wicked, If/Then, and Stomp.  The last of these is an Off-Broadway show, but still a long running musical hit.  Interestingly, this show features both Wicked, which launched Idina Menzel to undeniable fame, and If/Then, in which she currently stars.  On July 17, the 106.7 LITE FM host will be Helen Little, and the show will be co-hosted by the show Perfect Crime.  This show will feature the Broadway shows Pippin, Chicago, and Les Misérables, as well as the Off-Broadway shows Atomic and iLuminate.

Phantom of the Opera, Cinderella, Bullets over Broadway, Rock of Ages, Once, Holler if Ya Hear Me, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

106.7 lite fm new york skylineaFor the third week in the series, on July 24, the 106.7 LITE FM host will be Christine Nagy, and the show will be co-hosted by the Off-Broadway show Sistas the Musical.  The event will feature the Broadway shows Phantom of the Opera, Cinderella, and Bullets over Broadway as well as the Off-Broadway shows Avenue Q (once a Broadway hit, now running at New World Stages), and Piece of my Heart (not to be confused with the recent Broadway show A Night With Janis Joplin, this is a musical about the life of Bert Berns).  On July 31, the event continues led by 106.7 LITE FM host Bob Bronson, and featuring the four Broadway shows Rock of Ages, Once, Holler if Ya Hear Me (the new Tupac Shakur musical), and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which just won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Jersey Boys, After Midnight, Matilda, Mamma Mia!, Motown the Musical, On the Town

The penultimate event in the series will take place on August 7, hosted by Rich Kaminski.  The event will feature two Broadway shows – Jersey Boys and After Midnight – as well as the Off-Broadway shows Heathers and 50 Shades! The Musical.  Finally, on August 14, the series will come to a close hosted by Delilah, and featuring four Broadway shows: Matilda, Mamma Mia!, Motown the Musical, and On the Town, which will soon be running at the newly named Lyric Theatre (the former Foxwoods Theatre, where Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark was most recently running).  In general, this series is a marketing event aiming to lure more radio listeners to become theatregoers, while also offering a treat to New Yorkers in the bliss of summertime.

The Foxwoods Theatre Changes Its Name Again, Back To The Lyric Theatre

Having survived three previous corporate re-brandings since the modernized version of this historic playhouse first re-opened in 1998, the theatre most recently known as Foxwoods is transitioning to its original turn-of-the-century name, the Lyric.

Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway

The Lyric Theatre first opened in 1903 on the hot-to-trot thoroughfare of 42nd Street, and while it enjoyed some initial fanfare with such productions as Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Solider, which ran a then unheard of 296 performances, the theatre really soared during the roaring twenties, with razzle-dazzle comedies that were scored by such musical greats as the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter and which starred the likes of Fred Astaire and the Marx Brothers.

Sadly, like many businesses of the 1930’s, the Lyric Theatre could not weather the Great Depression and its final show sputtered to a close in 1934. Out of financial necessity, it was converted into a movie house that remained inconsistently operational until 1990 when the City and State of New York essentially repossessed it.

In 1992, the Lyric was placed under the protective auspices of the non-for-profit New 42nd Street Organization, who took over the lease of this landmark location, along with several other classic neighborhood beauties like the Victory Theatre and the Selwyn, in a dignified effort to preserve and honor the neighborhood’s historical integrity and significance.

Fast-forward to 1998, when Livent Inc. (a Canadian production company) partially demolished the grounds of the old Apollo and Lyric Theatres, and spent the better part of two years re-inventing the joint space, restoring the front and rear façades of the Lyric to their opulent glory.  Additional work was made to incorporate some of the most impressive interior architectural elements, namely the proscenium arch from the Apollo theatre and the dome from the Lyric, into their new design vision: a technologically-advanced performing arts center with roomy, comfortable, crowd-sustaining modern amenities.

ford theatre for the performing arts on Broadway

Once renovated and unveiled, the theatre became one of the first mascots of big business sponsorship, re-branding itself as the Ford Center for the Arts, named after none other than the Ford Motor Company.  Ironically enough, the theatre’s inaugural show, Ragtime, which had initially piqued and secured the vested interest of Ford, did not do well.  The theatre, however, did experience one considerable success with its rousing rendition of 42nd Street, which won the 2001 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival.

In 2005, Livent Inc. found itself embroiled in financial and legal troubles and Clear Channel Entertainment joined collaborative forces with Hilton Hotels, to whom it sold the naming rights, and who un-coincidentally re-named the space the Hilton Theatre.  Under Hilton’s five-year masthead, the theatre played host to a series of rather unremarkable productions including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hot Feet, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Young Frankenstein.

In the summer of 2010, after a year of dormancy, the theatre was resurrected yet again, this time by the union of Live Nation Entertainment and Foxwoods Casino, who, not all too surprisingly, re-named it the Foxwoods Theatre.  Foxwoods placed all its bets on Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, The show, however, proved one of the most-talked about theatrical fiascos in Broadway history, inspiring an unwelcome media blitzkrieg of negative press.  This budget-buster of a show (with weekly operating expenditures reported between $1.2 and $1.4 million) was plagued from the get-go with a myriad  of technical difficulties and frightening mishaps, injuries and subsequent lawsuits, from which it never really recovered.

Even a marvel superhero like Spiderman with his minions of millions and rock star roster of brand name backers, producers, directors and choreographers including the seemingly unstoppable, unflappable and impervious Julie Taymor and Bono, could not help Spidey live up to his spectacular promise and prowess, which only goes to show that big money and big names do not guarantee a hit.

In the end, this over-the-top production was an epic loss and co-sponsor Foxwoods Casino has since folded its cards, cashed out and left the building, leaving the revolving door open to the Ambassador Theatre Group, a UK-based firm that bought out the lease last May and announced, just last week, that along with a restorative summer spruce-up, the theatre would reclaim its baptismal name, the ‘Lyric.”

Set to premiere at the old-is-new again Lyric Theatre is the beloved classic “On the Town,” a charming rollick of a musical which showcases three sailors searching for love while on NYC shore leave.  “On the Town” is quite a departure in choice from the long-rumored Australian blockbuster, “King-Kong,” which had been the expected shoo-in for the enormous 1,900 seat performance space.  But King Kong producers, who recently admitted needing more time to get it right, are probably sheepish, and understandably so, about following too closely on the heels of the Spiderman debacle and running the risk of comparison.  And it may just be that the theatre, too, wants to put all the unpleasantness behind it and begin anew with a pretty name and a safe and beloved classic.

In the case of the Ford turned Hilton turned Foxwoods, constant re-branding did not afford this gem of a theatre any real favors.  Corporate sponsorship may have become the norm for sports teams and their stadiums, but what works for baseball doesn’t necessarily work for Broadway. The Mets can play in Shea or they can play in Citi Field, it doesn’t much matter.  They come with a built-in fan base who knows that no matter the emblem on the home stadium, the product they are getting is a good old game of baseball.

So has corporate sponsorship worked anywhere on the Great White Way?  Well, the American Airlines Theatre, main homestead of the beloved Roundabout Theatre Company, is still flying high on the radar.  But the crucial difference between the Selwyn turned American Airlines Theatre and the ever-morphing Lyric, lies in the partnership.  Since 1965, the Roundabout Theatre Company has painstakingly created a consistent brand of high caliber theatre.  The RTC is trusted amongst theatregoers as a quality evening out.  As a result, they have remained loyal to the company, no matter the name emblazoned on the venue in which it presents its works, and in fact so much so, that the American Airlines Theatre is often called the Roundabout Theatre Company by its many devotees.  That is a pretty impressive feat, and as close to a home team as we’ve got here on Broadway.