The thematic connection may be largely coincidental, but there's no denying the serendipity of opening the Hippodrome Performing Arts Center with the Baltimore-Washington premiere of The Producers, which will inaugurate the renovated theater with a five-week run beginning in February 2004.
"The story of The Producers is so much what we want the story of the Hippodrome to be," explained Marks Chowning, the Hippodrome's newly appointed executive director. The
musical tells the tale of a conniving pair of producers who try to mount a deliberate flop, only to have it turn out to be a monster hit.
"Here we are with a project, the Hippodrome, that everybody said would never get done," Chowning said, "and here's a show that's about something that's not going to succeed, that turns out to be a tremendous success. So, that's what we feel the Hippodrome is going to be."
Chowning made this comparison in announcing the seven-show 2003-2004 season, which will be officially unveiled at a press conference today at
. Marking the transition from the
to the Hippodrome, the season will start off with four shows at the Mechanic and continue with three more at the refurbished $62.7 million, 2,250-seat Hippodrome.
The Mechanic offerings begin with Broadway's latest megahit, Hairspray, which will launch its national tour here in September, and also include A Night with Dame Edna, The Exonerated and a return engagement of The Graduate. At the Hippodrome, the second half of the season will include three large-scale musicals - The Producers, a return engagement of Les Miserables and Mamma Mia!
The seven-show lineup is the largest subscription series since 1999-2000. The series will also be distinguished by a return to two-week runs, with two shows booked even longer -The Producers for five weeks, and Mamma Mia! for three.
Projected paid attendance for the first calendar year at the Hippodrome is 450,000 for more than 200 performances. In addition, "there will probably be another 60 or 70 performances of other shows - dance, concerts, black theater, holiday programming. There's room in the calendar for other community events," Chowning said. "We want the community to feel that they belong to the building and the building belongs to them."
The Camden Yards setting for today's announcement typifies the kind of synergy Chowning and the Hippodrome Foundation (the new name for the non-profit Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts) hopes to foster, in this case, with
. "We're going to ... co-market to each other's subscribers, give their patrons advance notice of priority ticket sales, and hopefully have the same opportunity for our subscribers," he said.
"I think this is going to be really different for Baltimore and will give Baltimore the opportunity to market itself in a way that was pretty rare before," said Eric P. Grubman, chairman of the foundation. Grubman believes shows like The Producers, which is playing Baltimore before any other city in the region, will help make the theater a magnet for visitors from throughout the mid-Atlantic.
He also feels the Hippodrome will enrich and benefit Baltimore's existing array of theaters. "We have a rich brew. What we don't have is the king of the heap, and now the Hippodrome will not only have it in the size of the theater, but will have that vibrant richness that a historic restoration has. It is a crown in a great suite of services that already exists," he said. "It adds to the community theater we have on up through Center Stage."
Here's a more detailed look at the season: