Dark for nearly a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center has announced firm dates for its seven-show 2021-22 Broadway series, beginning this November.
The schedule includes two previously announced shows that had to be postponed when the performing arts center shut last March, Come From Away (now booked for Nov. 16-21) and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (Jan. 5-9, 2022). Also slated to be presented are two popular shows new to the Kravis, Dear Evan Hansen (Dec. 15-19) and Anastasia (March 9-13, 2022); a pair of perennial favorites recently revived on Broadway, Cats (Feb. 8-13, 2022) and My Fair Lady (April 19-24, 2022); and an Australian import that has yet to play Broadway, An Officer and a Gentleman (May 3-8, 2022).
“We’re very clear that we’re going to start in November. We really are,” says Lee Bell, the Kravis’s senior director of programming. “When we started talking to agents, they were pushing us to start as early as October. Some of our colleagues are starting in September.”
Bell typically books the Kravis on Broadway series seasons ahead, but last year’s disruption played havoc with his plans for the fall. “We’ve got some good shows for this year, but it’s completely changed from what I had in mind for ʼ21-’22.” Originally slated for the coming season was another visit by the megahit Hamilton, as well as 2019 Tony Award winner Hadestown and the jukebox musical biography of Motown supergroup The Temptations, called Ain’t Too Proud.
Now those shows are likely to arrive at the Kravis a year later.
The disruption of Bell’s plan for the upcoming season is the chief effect that the pandemic has had on the Broadway series. “It was a different season, not what we have now,” Bell concedes. “But still, this season that we finally have now, turned out to be the best of the past two seasons.”
If anything, COVID has led Bell in search of lighter shows to book. “We want a balance of themes and tones, but we are limited by what’s out touring. But yes, lightness was something we wanted to emphasize now,” he says. “We have ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ ‘Come From Away’ and ‘My Fair Lady,’ they’re all pretty positive in their messages. ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’” about a high schooler’s lie that goes viral, “has some angst to it, but we love that show.”
The season was built around the two previously cancelled shows — Come From Away, about airline passengers stranded in a tiny Canadian town after the 9/11 attacks, and Summer, a disco-heavy celebration of the life and career of Donna Summer.
Then, Bell explains, “we wanted a family-friendly show, and we found that in ‘Anastasia,’” a musical fable about a young girl who may be a long-lost Russian princess. “We like to have a revival or two, we have that in ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Cats,’ and ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ is a new show,” based on the 1982 Richard Gere-Debra Winger film. “The criteria is what is hot on Broadway, like ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ then a family-oriented show like ‘Anastasia’ and ‘My Fair Lady,’ then more popular things like ‘Cats’ and ‘Summer.’”
Oy, Cats again? Why, Lee?
“It definitely has audience appeal and there was a revival on Broadway in 2016-17. This is the tour that grew out of that,” he says. “And yeah, audiences can’t get enough of ‘Cats.’” He hopes the stage revival of the frisky felines vying for ascension to the Heaviside Layer will blot out memories of the much-maligned 2019 movie version of the show. “That movie put a damper on a lot of ticket sales,” he notes.
If Bell is going out on a limb with any show, it is An Officer and a Gentleman, the only musical in the Broadway series he had not yet seen. “They’re just putting it together now. But we had discussions with the producers and the director. They had a great presentation for us and got a lot of us to come onboard for that show.” In addition to the film’s hit song, “Up Where We Belong,” the show’s score will be augmented by pop tunes from that period. “It’s more of a millennial-type musical,” suggests Bell. “They’ll recognize all the songs in it.”
Kravis patrons will notice the effects of the pandemic when they return in the fall. “We have a lot of different sanitizing going on constantly and we’re requiring people to wear masks,” says Bell. “But no, we anticipate that there will not be socially distancing for the audience in Dreyfoos Hall.” The math would simply not work out to afford these shows otherwise. “These shows require full capacity.”
Still to be determined is whether theatergoers will be ready to return to the Kravis by November. “Our renewals don’t go out until the 25th (of February),” but we keep getting emails asking when we are announcing our season, so the interest is there,” reports Bell. “So I think we’ll be fine. We’re hopeful.”
Subscriptions to the seven-show series start at $268 and go up to $658. The Kravis box office – 561-832-7469 – will reopen in March, but new subscriptions will not be available to the general public until June.