In Raleigh and Durham's competition for fans of Broadway musicals, Raleigh has surrendered.
Except for a token show or two, Raleigh's Broadway Series South is ceding most high-profile touring Broadway shows to the Durham Performing Arts Center, which has quickly become a force in live theater.
At its peak, Broadway Series South shows added as much as $1 million to Raleigh's city-owned Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. But venue director Roger Krupa says that figure has declined significantly since Durham began siphoning off shows.
So instead of "Jersey Boys" and other flashy Broadway fare, Raleigh is looking into Cirque de Soleil along with more music, comedy and offerings from the N.C. Symphony and Carolina Ballet. Bookings might also spill over from Memorial Auditorium to the new 5,000-capacity downtown amphitheater, which is scheduled to open in May.
In Charlotte, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center's Broadway Lights series brings touring shows (including "Jersey Boys" and "Wicked") to town.
Along with the change in programming, there will likely be a name change for Broadway Series South, the city's production company.
The stakes are high, because both Raleigh and Durham have publicly owned buildings competing for audiences - and both required public funding last year. The Progress Energy Center complex costs the city $8 million a year to operate and had an $890,000 loss in 2009.
Covering the $2.4 million a year the city of Durham must pay for principal and interest on DPAC's construction costs required $1.285 million in hotel/motel occupancy tax money last year.
The 2,712-seat Durham Performing Arts Center opened in late 2008 and had an immediate impact, reporting 25 sold-out theater shows and concerts during its first six months. DPAC reports 9,000 season ticket-holders, up from 6,000 in its first season. Broadway Series South's number of season subscribers dropped to 3,000 last year, down from 5,000.
One reason DPAC has emerged as the Triangle's primary Broadway presenter is that it's co-managed by the Nederlander Organization, the leading theatrical presenter. It also holds 435 more seats than the 2,277-seat Memorial Auditorium. That gives DPAC the inside track on booking hot shows such as "Wicked," which opens there in April.
DPAC has also been active as a venue for music and comedy, selling out shows by Steely Dan, Lewis Black and Leonard Cohen, among others.
Broadway-style musicals won't disappear from Memorial Auditorium. The nonprofit N.C. Theatre (which hires its actors rather than using touring casts) will still put on at least four revival shows a year.