A crowd of nearly 60, including politicians such as Bill Magnarelli and longtime music followers like Bluegrass Ramble mainstay Bill Knowlton, gathered Feb. 8 at the Landmark Theatre for a press conference that announced a big-ticket item for the 2017-2018 Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series schedule. To kick off the season, the 1928 Vaudeville-era venue at 362 S. Salina St. will welcome Disney Theatricals’ production of The Lion King to the Syracuse concrete jungle.
“We’re very excited,” said Albert Nocciolino, president and CEO of NAC Entertainment/Famous Artists. “There is more that can take place here,” he added, regarding the future of the programming his company plans to bring to downtown.
Famous Artists previously brought in The Lion King in 2011 at the Mulroy Civic Center’s Crouse-Hinds Concert Theater. This upcoming production, however, has been physically reconfigured to accommodate different locations, including the historic Landmark. The Lion King will run three weeks, from Friday, Oct. 27, to Sunday, Nov. 12.
“The economic impact of hosting The Lion King for this extended period will be far-reaching,” Nocciolino noted. Since this is an updated show, the cast and crew of more than 100 people will spend five weeks in Syracuse to rehearse and become accustomed to the technical and performance changes. They will also be staying at area local hotels and eating at area restaurants, Nocciolino said.
Nocciolino acknowledged that touring shows like The Lion King are made possible with $4 million granted in theater tax credits from New York state. Last September’s run of Jersey Boys, for instance, raked in almost $2 million for local businesses and the economy.
Making this happen was a team effort, said Ben Walsh, business development director for Mackenzie Hughes, LLP. Walsh, who is on the Landmark board of directors, recently announced his decision to run for mayor of Syracuse.
“This is why we did what we did,” Walsh added, referring to the Landmark’s $16 million expansion of its facility in 2010 and 2011 in order to book larger touring productions such as The Lion King. “We invested and this is the return for investment.”
Meanwhile, the current Famous Artists season will present three more shows at the Landmark: the Oz musical Wicked (Wednesday, March 15, through Sunday, March 26), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Tuesday, April 18, through Sunday, April 23) and Motown: The Musical (Tuesday, May 16, through Sunday, May 21). For ticket information, visit broadwayinsyracuse.com.
Cash Carries Syracuse Stage Season
Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash is a surprise addition to the Syracuse Stage season. The musical review based on the country-western superstar’s life and career will be performed June 7 through 25 at the theater, 820 E. Genesee St.
There’s no bigger fan of this show than Syracuse Stage artistic director Robert Hupp. He had seen the Richard Maltby Jr. stage creation multiple times during its revival when he ran the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, prior to his recruitment at Syracuse Stage.
Managing director Jill Anderson also walks the line in praise of the late Cash: “There’s a depth to his artistry, from his country roots to the man he became,” Anderson noted in a press release. “He’s a lion in our culture with appeal that extends beyond the music alone.”
Ring of Fire is no stranger to summertime theatergoers, having been mounted in 2010 at Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse and in 2014 at Cortland Repertory Theatre. Still, there’s a dedicated constituency for country-flavored theater productions around these parts, as the numerous revivals of Always … Patsy Cline attests. And Syracuse Stage has experienced solid box office with previous summer shows, including a 1991 mounting of Pump Boys and Dinettes, a star-studded revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night with Sam Waterston and John Slattery in 2000, and three summers of Menopause: The Musical from 2006 to 2008,
For information on Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, call 443-3275 or visit syracusestage.org.