More Than Just a Show

Broad­way-style pro­duc­tions pair well with din­ner at this lo­cal theater

RSWLiving - - CONTENT - BY NINA BAR­BER O

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

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