Policy change could bring more Broadway shows to Grand Rapids

Courtesy Photo / grspotlight.com
A performance of Lin-Manuel Mirandas In The Heights in Grand Rapids

Courtesy Photo / grspotlight.com A performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” in Grand Rapids

Stephanie Deible

The County Convention/Arena Authority approved the new guidelines after extensively studying the old policy and noticing both the need for an update and the opportunity for improvement.

The previous policy did not include scheduling at new facilities like the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place and also highlighted venues, such as the Welsh Auditorium, that no longer exist.

The updated policy also places greater consideration on finding the most efficient ways to produce revenue, which is key when trying to bring in national touring productions.

“Broadway Grand Rapids fought for this proposal for 25 years,” said Mike Lloyd, executive director of Broadway Grand Rapids. “We did so because we think it will have a positive impact on the community first and Broadway second.”

Prior to the recent changes in policy, which were voted on last week, Broadway had more challenges scheduling performances than the city’s three other performing arts companies.

For Broadway Grand Rapids, the change is seen as an opportunity to bring a wider variety of performances into the city.

“The possibility of a good, high-quality touring company coming to Grand Rapids is very much affected by when you can get them to come here and whether it looks like it’s going to be a date that will work for a significant audience,” Lloyd said. “In the past … we did not have dates attractive and lucrative; we got stuck with Thanksgiving, Easter break and Labor Day Weekend.”

The symphony, opera and ballet companies, on the other hand, said the change has the possibility to present some risks.

“It worries us a little bit not because we think any those considerations are misplaced, we don’t, we understand them perfectly,” said Michael Havlicek, executive director of Opera Grand Rapids. “But opera is a very unusual art form and it’s not necessarily an efficient art form… the opera voice can’t perform every night (so) we only do two performances of each opera.”

Despite minimal concern among the opera, symphony and ballet companies, the arts groups are committed to working together to implement the new guidelines and, at same time, preserve some of the values on the previous policy such as employing local artists and serving the community.

“The trust that we have (in) all the parties involved gives us a lot of confidence that all of our groups will be able to have dates in the hall for their programs that work well for them,” said Peter Kjome, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

At the end of the day, the hope is that giving Broadway Grand Rapids equal scheduling opportunities will positively impact the community.

“The winner in this is the ticket buyer … because [they] will get more and better selections happening in DeVos Hall,” Lloyd said.

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