Catching a Show at Broadway Palm
Published in Community Lifestyles South Fort Myers November/December issue
A dinner theatre nestled at the foot of the Cape Coral bridge, 1380 Colonial Blvd., is celebrating its 22nd season with some past favorite Broadway-style musicals this season.
Broadway Palm Theatre Director of Marketing Melissa Vogt said the theatre has been a part of the community since October 1993. Before opening, the theatre had an extensive renovation, due to the 36,000-square-foot building once housing a Publix supermarket.
It was started by the Prather family, who first opened the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster, Pa., 28 years ago. Prather Entertainment Group also opened the Palms Theatre in Mesa, Az., which is now in its 14th season, as well as a national touring company.
Vogt said because they are a regional company that is also in the national touring business, the actors they are able to hire are top notch.
“The quality of the actors we are able to hire is incredible,” she said.
The theatre hires professional, national actors for the performances and houses them close by, with four units that offer apartment- and townhouse-style living.
A typical week at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre has nine to 10 shows Tuesday through Sunday evening, with two or three matinees sprinkled in, comfortably seating 450 people.
“There is no other dinner theatre in the area,” she said. “That right there sets it apart.”
Vogt said because they do not bring in the big national tours, it gives the theatre a more intimate feel. Ninety-five percent of their customers partake in the dinner and show, she explained. The buffet-style dinner always offers five main dishes, five side dishes, a meat-carving station, full salad bar, ice cream bar and large dessert buffet. A new menu is offered at each show.
A more intimate setting, the Off Broadway Palm Theatre within the establishment is a 100-seat black box theatre for smaller musicals and comedies. Café Cabaret, which opened in 1994, provides overflow dining for Off Broadway and the main stage, as well as parties and events for up to 125 people.
Broadway Palm Art Gallery is also located within the theatre, showcasing Southwest Florida artists. The exhibit changes with every main stage show. There is also a Broadway Palm Gift Shop, featuring whimsical and show items like jewelry, collectibles and theatre memorabilia.
A full-service cocktail bar, Busty’s Bar, named after Sebastian “Busty” Lanza, is open before and during the intermission of evening shows. Fine wines and specialty drinks are served in souvenir glasses.
Since the Broadway Palm Theatre opened in 1993, its attendance has reached more than 3.1 million. Generally, the attendance during the shows run at a 70 to 75 percent capacity during the off-season months. From November through April, the attendance peaks around 90 percent, creating a full theatre.
In honor of its 22nd season, Broadway Palm filled its schedule with the Best of Broadway. Vogt said they took their highest attended shows and most requested shows and put them all into one season.
“This is a season full of repeats,” she said, adding that a couple of the shows they have not featured at the theatre in 15 years.
The highest attended show since 1993 is “Show Boat,” which occurred in 2001 with 61 performances and 26,278 attendees.
“That was our No. 1 attended show,” Vogt said.
The theatre has to obtain the rights for the show before the performance can be held.
“Sometimes it is either not available in the area or it’s going on a national tour,” Vogt said of the performance.
Broadway Palm Theatre also works in collaboration with the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, in terms of the shows.
“Sometimes we can share shows and casts,” she said.
When filling the schedule of performances, the theatre takes the customers’ suggestions into consideration. Vogt said the company does three or four polls every year with eight to 10 shows to get an idea of what the customers want to see.
“We take it very seriously,” she said of the feedback.
This year’s main stage shows include “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” which just wrapped up; “A Christmas Carol,” Nov. 20 through Dec. 27; “Crazy For You,” Dec. 30 through Feb. 14; “West Side Story,” Feb. 19 through April 5; “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,” April 9 through May 23; “Church Basement Ladies,” May 28 through July 4 and “Footloose,” July 9 through Aug. 15. Tickets range from $37 to $60.
The Off Broadway Palm Theatre, now in its 19th season, features “The Great American Trailer Christmas Musical” through Dec. 27; “First Date,” Jan. 15 through March 7; “The Odd Couple,” March 12 through May 2 and “Out of Order,” June 18 through Aug. 1. Tickets range from $31 to $51.
Broadway Palm Children’s Theatre’s season includes “The Nutcracker” Nov. 28 and 30, and Dec. 2, 3, 5, 9, 12, 13, 18 and 24; “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in May and “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” in July and August. Tickets are $18 and the buffet includes favorites like pizza, chicken nuggets, pasta and French fries.
The concert series, now in its 10th year, features Dwight Icenhower’s Tribute to the King; Martin Preston as Liberace; The Beach Boys Tribute; Sinatra Forever; Abba Fab: The Premier ABBA Experience and The Piano Man.
Concert season kicks off in January with a dinner at 5:30 p.m. and the concert starting at 7:30 p.m. Matinees include lunch at 11:45 a.m. and the concert at 1:15 p.m. Tickets are $60 for evening shows and $37 for matinees.
For more information or to RSVP to a show, call 239 278-4422 or visit BroadwayPalm.com.