More Than Just a Show
Broadway-style productions pair well with dinner at this local theater
See productions with professionally trained actors straight from New York City, Tony Award-winning set designers and crews, and high production values— for half the price of a Broadway show at Fort Myers’ Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. There’s a reason “Broadway” is in the name.
“Our production value is exceptional,” says Melissa Vogt, marketing director at Broadway Palm for more than 20 years.
Now in its 26th season, the dinner theater is proud to bring such well-known shows as Finding
Neverland, Kinky Boots and The Sound of Music to its stage. The main theater features eight productions, four children’s theater shows and five concerts every season. It also has an “OffBroadway Palm” black-box theater that seats 100.
Its popularity is only growing: Vogt estimates the theater saw 177,000 guests in 2018, and the theater maintains a staff of 125 employees, not including the performers.
“We used to be very seasonal around here,” she says. “But our summers have really picked up. We just had one of our biggest summers ever—did the volume we would normally do in the middle of season.” Resident director and choreographer Amy McCleary adds that part of the popularity stems from the variety of shows offered, which helps each performance appeal to new audiences.
Prather Productions owns Broadway Palm, The Dutch Apple Dinner Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Prather Touring Company/APEX Touring. Its longtime theater experience has given the family-run company and owner Will Prather access to high-quality casts and crews.
“Will has done a really good job of choosing shows that different groups of people will enjoy,” McCleary says. She’s worked for Prather Productions and Broadway Palm since she was hired as a performer from New York City in 2003. “From there, I just kind of fell into directing and choreographing and I absolutely love it,” she explains.
She directs for other stages within and outside of Prather Productions— to keep her ideas fresh for Broadway Palm. “It helps to keep me on my toes to see how other theaters operate, and meet new people, collaborate with different people,” she explains. “That way I’m always growing and thriving.”
McCleary notes that dinner theaters are rare, but diners don’t seem to distract her on-stage performers. “When you’re performing, you’re so
Prather Productions’ longtime theater experience has given the family-run company and owner Will Prather access to high-quality casts and crews.
‘in the zone’ that there’s a fourth wall that goes up. You’re not really paying attention to what’s going on in the audience; you’re in your own world there.”
The format of Broadway Palm shows shifts between serving a buffet-style dinner or a sit-down meal, usually starting at 5:30 p.m. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m., which generally allows attendees enough time to finish their meal before the actors come out.
Although both Vogt and McCleary say there’s a stigma that dinner theater is for an older crowd, they’re happy to report they have guests of all ages at the performances. “We’re family-owned, family-run, and that makes part of what we do really nice,” Vogt says. “Especially for Beauty and the Beast— we had little 2-year-olds running around and we love it; we want to bring that culture and variety to all ages.”
McCleary says the theater is a great fit for couples and families of all ages. “When you have a night out, it’s so easy to just go out and have dinner and a show without having to go to a restaurant and drive somewhere else and find parking. It’s all
“When you have a night out, it’s so easy to just go out and have dinner and a show without having to go to a restaurant and drive somewhere else and find parking. It’s all wrapped into one so you really get a full experience.” —Amy McCleary, Broadway Palm resident director and choreographer
wrapped into one so you really get a full experience.
“As a mom myself, I know it’s chaos trying to get two little ones anywhere, so this way you’re in one spot, you sit down, they have a kid-friendly buffet and they get to experience live theater. It’s fun.”
Upcoming performances for Broadway Palm’s 2019-2020 season include Finding Neverland through Nov. 16, Sounds of Christmas from Nov. 21 to Dec. 25, and Grumpy Old Men from Dec. 29 to Feb. 8.
Sounds of Christmas is a musical revue written by McCleary.
Nice dinner attire is recommended for performances at Broadway Palm, although ties and jackets are not required. Tickets can be purchased at broadwaypalm.com.
“We used to be very seasonal around here. But our summers have really picked up. We just had one of our biggest summers ever—did the volume we would normally do in the middle of season.” —Melissa Vogt, Marketing Director of Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
FindingNeverland , which plays through Nov. 16 at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, tells the story of writer J.M. Barrie and how he created the character Peter Pan.
A scene with Captain Hook from the FindingNeverland production
The main stage and dining room at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre