“It’s a destination”

“It’s a destination”

Historic Arcade Theatre

Shining a spotlight on the Florida Rep

Published in Community Lifestyles South Fort Myers February/March 2015 issue

All photos courtesy of Bryelle Dafeldecker

A Fort Myers theatre, once a Vaudeville house in the 1920s, has attracted local and national attention over the course of its 17 seasons.

The Historic Arcade Theatre, at 2267 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, now home to the Florida Repertory Theatre, was built in 1908 and attracted such first time viewers as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

front coverOver the years, as movies became more and more popular, the building transformed into a movie house throughout the 1920s, remaining successful until the 1970s.

Unfortunately in 1989, the theatre plummeted into severe disrepair.

Bryelle Dafeldecker, Florida Repertory Theatre marking manager, said artistic director Robert Cacioppo, and his wife, Carrie Lund, founded the Florida Repertory Theatre in 1998.

“The City of Fort Myers offered him a theatre in Fort Myers because nothing was going on downtown,” Dafeldecker explained.

Robert Cacioppo

Robert Cacioppo

Now the theatre attracts about 80,000 people annually into the downtown district.

“It’s a destination,” Dafeldecker said.

For the past six years, the Wall Street Journal has reviewed the shows at the Florida Repertory Theatre, making it one of the top repertory companies in the nation.

“After that happened, it brought a lot more attention nationally – and locally,” she said. “We have a really loyal base, which is great.”

She said they offer nine full professional productions per season, from the end of October through May.

“We pay all of our actors and designers and fly them in from various locations from all over the country,” she explained.

A Packed House for August: Osage CountyThere are six productions held on the main stage of the 393- seat Arcade Theatre and three in the smaller studio theater, which comfortably seats 115 guests.

“Fascinatin’ Gershwin” is currently performing, and will do so through Sunday, March 15. Previews are held on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and Thursday, Jan. 29.

Dafeldecker said the review will feature all of Gershwin’s music.

“Around the World in 80 Days” will be held through Wednesday, March 4.

Dafeldecker said that performance is a family-friendly comedy that depicts five actors playing an array of different characters traveling the world.

“Dividing the Estate” will be held from Friday, March 20, through Wednesday, April 8, with previews Tuesday, March 17 through Thursday, March 19.

“Split in Three” will conclude the season with showings from Friday, April 24, through Sunday, May 10. Previews will be held from April 21, through April 23.

In addition to the productions, the theatre also has a thriving education department that sees 17,000 students every year. Programs include Children’s Theatre, Camp Florida Rep, Theatre Conservatory, Classes for Youth & Adults and “ACT UP!” for Children on the Autism Spectrum.

The Children’s Theatre includes Lunch Box Performances for $12 if booked in advance. She said acting interns put on children’s theatre pieces.

"Journey to Oz."

“Journey to Oz.”

“Journey to Oz,” an interactive piece about the “Wizard of Oz” will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m., and the “True Story of the Three Little Pigs,” a rock musical for younger kids, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

The Camp Florida Rep, open to kindergarten through 12th grade students, includes a two-week summer camp program and one-week winter and spring break program.

Dafeldecker said the camp which sells out every year, and puts on a full produced musical in two weeks.

The Theatre Conservatory is an audition-only program held February through May, designed for young actors with moderate to advanced level experience who are interested in theatre.

The classes held for youth and adults cover a vast array of areas that will help beginning artists, serious young artists, professionals and adults seeking something to do.

ACT UP provides youngsters ages 11 to 16 with an opportunity to learn basic acting skills through verbal and nonverbal communication, collaboration, creative movements and improvisation, while interacting with others and making new friends.

“We have fall, winter and spring classes and then in the summer we do summer camps,” Dafeldecker said.

For more information on the Florida Repertory Theatre, its many performances and upcoming camps, call 239-332-4488 or visit FloridaRep.org.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Catching a Show at Broadway Palm

Published in Community Lifestyles South Fort Myers November/December issue

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

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.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

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.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

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.

A Christmas Carol Scrooge and Tiny Tim Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

A Christmas Carol Scrooge and Tiny Tim
Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

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.

Crazy For You Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Crazy For You
Photo provided by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

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.