June 29, 2008
Two short anecdotes tell you a lot about Eileen LaCario, a “force of nature,” as one producer calls her, and one of two vice presidents of Broadway in Chicago.
The long run of “Wicked,” slated to end in January, is the crown jewel of Broadway in Chicago’s achievements, rewriting commercial theater history here. LaCario employs a system she calls integrated marketing, and for “Wicked,” she drew concentric marketing circles, the innermost one around the Loop, the next around the suburbs, expanding into a larger Midwestern area. City folks flocked in the beginning; now the production attracts busloads from other states.
“I always told Lou you don’t pick your long run, it will pick you,” she says. “When ‘Wicked’ went on sale, I said to him, ‘This is it.’ [‘Wicked’ producer] David Stone didn’t want a long run here at first. Disney and everyone advised against it. But we begged and begged and begged.”
“Jersey Boys” is now in place at the Bank of America Theatre for another long venture. And, LaCario says, Broadway in Chicago now attracts tourists all by itself in addition to serving ones who come for other reasons. One aspect involves pooling resources for all the theaters and/or shows under the Broadway in Chicago umbrella. The telephone sales staff (whose personnel include two Candlelight alumna) sell all Broadway in Chicago shows, not just one, and can nudge patrons when “Wicked” is sold out to try something else—an advantage most New York shows lack.
That coordination and care don’t go unnoticed.
“Eileen’s the only person outside New York we trust with a show,” Stone says. “She takes care of it the same way we would ourselves.”
LaCario lobbies for Broadway tryouts and says that “The Producers” and even the less-celebrated “All Shook Up” proved Chicagoans’ passion for new work: Black patent leather shoes really do reflect up.
There have been grumbles that downtown theater success hurts smaller off-Loop endeavors, but LaCario disagrees. “I think we’ve brought more jobs for Chicago actors, and a lot of the people who work for us are involved in not-for-profit theater themselves,” she says. In conjunction with the League of Chicago Theatres, where she’s on the board of directors, Broadway in Chicago sponsors an annual $5,000 emerging theater award, bestowed so far on the House Theatre of Chicago and the Silk Road Theatre Project.
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