Thursday, May 31, 2012

Broadway Buzz: What Does It Mean to be a Tony Voter?

Last week, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s President Susan Stockton had a chance to chat about her role as a voting member of the Tony Awards®. It was a very busy time as she had just returned from a week in New York, attending the Broadway League Conference and squeezing in every possible Tony-nominated performance before she casts her votes. 

But just what does it mean to be a Tony voter?

Fox Cities P.A.C. President Susan Stockton
Q: How do you get to be a Tony voter?
Stockton: The criteria for who can be a Tony voter changes from time to time, but basically it’s divided into two categories: presenters and producers. Obviously, I fall into the category of presenter based on my work here at the Center. Initially, you have to be recommended by a current Tony voter and submit an extensive resume, highlighting your theater background. I first became a Tony voter during the 2004/05 Season, and now each year, I have to annually re-qualify based on the number of eligible Broadway weeks we present at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Q: How many Tony voters are there?
Stockton: The numbers vary somewhat from year to year, but it’s generally between 750-800. This year, I think there are 830 qualified voters.

Q: How does the Tony voting process work?
Stockton: The Tony season actually runs from July through a cut-off date that’s set in April. Early in the year, qualifying Tony voters are sent a signature card to verify their authenticity against their ballot later in the year, and from there you see as many shows as possible. In the interest of keeping travel expenses in check, I try to see 5-8 shows every time I’m in New York. On my most recent trip, I saw 11 shows back to back.

From there, I go home and spend quite a lot of time considering my experience at the show and how it resonated with the audience. I review scripts and scores and other promotional materials that the producers may send. It’s much more than just seeing a show and then casting a vote. I have to consider the outstanding features and merits of each show and qualify those against the other nominees. After a lot of deliberation, I cast my vote in the mail.

One of the amazing things about the Tonys is that votes are due on Friday, June 8, leaving only two days to calculate the winners before the live show on June 10. It’s amazing how quickly the awards come together.

Q. What, to you, makes a show Tony worthy?
Stockton: My votes are focused on the art form rather than an interest in the show’s success. I look for shows that are thoughtfully put together and which clearly show that the creative team invested a lot of energy in its development. I like interesting shows and productions that are relevant and compelling. For me, theater has to resonate with an audience and really engage people to earn my vote.
Q. Do you have any favorites this season? What is your all-time favorite Broadway show?
Stockton: I don’t have favorites, this year or thinking in terms of all-time. I think this year there are a lot of great shows and some really stunning performances. It’s an especially rich play season, and there are quite a few plays, which is terrific. But I think as theatergoers, we attach ourselves to a work at a certain point of time, and it’s powerful because it resonates to our frame of mind.

I remember one play titled Journey’s End a few years ago. It was beautifully staged and well acted, and it took place in the trenches of World War I. It resonated so well because the country was at war, and that made it especially poignant and moving. But I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite today because my frame of mind has shifted since then. It’s always a changing landscape, and I think that’s the challenge of theater – to tap into something that’s eternally relevant.

Q. How does your connection with the Tony Awards apply to your role at the Fox Cities P.A.C.?
Stockton: Being a part of the Tony Awards is important for any organization that wants to present high quality, eligible shows. First, it drives you to make sure you are seeing every show you can every year. Overtime, seeing the current shows adds to your cannon of knowledge and gives you the tools to be conversant in dialogue with producers.

It also helps me gauge a production’s quality because the touring shows, while they are not exact copies of the Broadway productions, have the same elements of design and choreography. You become familiar with the creative teams and the actors and actresses, and it’s good to be familiar with their work when they head out on tour.

All of the knowledge and involvement helps me, as a representative of the Center, as we build our Broadway seasons. It’s highly competitive, and I think it certainly gives the Center an edge to have a staff well-versed in the current theater trends on Broadway and around the country.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Broadway Buzz: And The Award Goes To…

You see them highlighting the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s posters, but just what does it mean that a show’s “award-winning?” Is there only one award? Which awards count for what? Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most high profile awards and what they might mean for your next trip to the theater.

Tony Award
The Tony Awards®
The Tony Awards, named for Antoinette Perry, launched in 1947 and took the national spotlight in 1967 when it was first televised nationwide. Nominees each year are selected from among shows that have opened in an eligible Broadway theater. A nominating committee of 35 theater professionals sees every show before making nominations, and awards are based on input from approximately 750 Tony voters, like the Center’s president Susan Stockton.

The Brits have their own version of Broadway known as the West End and their own awards show named after Sir Laurence Olivier. There’s some give and take across the pond, so you’ll often hear Olivier references for shows with dual citizenship like Billy Elliot the Musical.

The Obie Awards  
Created by The Village Voice, The Obie Awards honor excellence in off-Broadway and off-off Broadway productions. Around since 1955, the Obies play a significant role in promoting the off-Broadway and off-off Broadway theater scene. For many familiar titles, off-Broadway is an important evolutionary step as the show grows and develops.

The Drama Desk Awards  
The Drama Desk Awards take into account Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway shows playing in New York City. Founded in 1949, the Drama Desk Awards are unique in that the voters are comprised of media professionals, hence the name.

The Pulitzer Prize
Wait a second… Isn’t the Pulitzer Prize awarded for writers? The Pulitzer Prize honors excellence in journalism and art, including an award for drama. Shows like Clybourne Park, Next to Normal and even South Pacific have been honored by Pulitzer. Interestingly, if submissions in any particular year do not meet a degree of excellence expected by Colombia University’s Pulitzer Board, the honor is simply not bestowed on a lesser work.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Winners of Watch & Win with Billy Elliot!

The credits are rolling on the Watch & Win with Billy Elliot sweepstakes, and it's time to announce the winners! One lucky winner has been selected at random to receive a four-pack of tickets to the opening night performance of Billy Elliot the Musical on June 19! Four other winners will receive a Billy Elliot prize pack.


 Jennifer Breining
Shari Blohm
Sylvia Dittman
Audrey Sherrill
Kimberly Stevens

Winners, be sure to check your email for details on how to claim your prize! 

 For the latest news and information from the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Best Seats + Best Prices = Season Tickets

If you are thinking about becoming a Kimberly-Clark Broadway Across America – Fox Cities Season Ticket Holder, there’s no time like the present. It’s the easiest way to secure the best seats at the best prices to next year’s hottest shows in one simple purchase. Plus, you’ll enjoy great Broadway Season Ticket Holder benefits!   

Become a Broadway Season Ticket Holder and seats you’ll love can be yours for every Broadway Series show.

Season Tickets Holders take advantage of special package pricing and save up to 30% compared to buying each show separately.*

Can’t make your scheduled show? You can easily exchange your tickets for another performance of the same title.

Season Ticket Holders can order additional ticket now months before the general public, and you are among the first to know about new events.

Have you lost your tickets? Season Ticket Holders can request reprinted tickets free of charge.

remium Broadway Season Ticket Holders have access to coveted Orchestra Level and Dress Circle seating locations and enjoy the very best benefits including:

• An exclusive invitation to a Blue Man Group preshow party
• Special savings on show merchandise
• Premium parking pass
• Special offers from preferred restaurants
• New York concierge Ticketing Service to assist with purchasing tickets for shows on Broadway
• Complimentary Ticket Exchanges by Phone
• Complimentary Ticket Replacement by Phone

The Fox CitiesP.A.C. is offering two great incentives if you become a Season Ticket Holder by May 31. First, take advantage of an optional payment plan and pay 50% now and 50% on June 29. Then, as you head to a show, enjoy complimentary preshow and intermission drinks with a guest pass to the exclusive Partners Lounge!

*Based on performance date, time, seating location and final single ticket prices.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Show & Tell: Rain – A Tribute to the Beatles

The opening strains of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on Friday, May 18, 2012 immediately transported me back to my junior year in college, when the Beatles were just arriving on the scene in the United States. I was serving as one of the two resident assistants on a floor full of freshmen female students. My room was at the opposite end of the hall from the other RA. From a distance, I could hear that song being played over and over and over and over. Carol would sometimes come down to my room to get away from “the song.”

The remarkable tribute group RAIN, composed of Mac Ruffing (Paul), Tom Teeley (George), Chris McBurney (Ringo), and Jim Irizarry (John) are fantastic musicians in their own right; but when they are “channeling” the Fab Four, they are something else. The string of familiar Beatles songs, which I could pretty much sing along with, included: "This Boy," "I Saw Her Standing There," "A Hard Day’s Night," "Yesterday," "Daytripper," "Eleanor Rigby," "Strawberry Fields," "When I’m 64" and "Let It Be." The audience was very participatory with much clapping and singing along, and the energy in the room was absolutely electric. From my vantage point, I could see the main floor audience, often standing and swaying back and forth to the music.

The group made special mention of the “20 and under” fans that were present, and urged them to pass their love of Beatles music along to others in that age group. Many of the rest of us in the audience were there when the Beatles came across the pond, and took the U.S. by storm in the mid-1960s.

After absolutely deafening applause, the group came back out and sang "Hey Jude," then finished up with a heartfelt rendition of "Give Peace a Chance." Special note must be given to Mark Lewis, founder and creative genius behind the group. It’s a night I won’t soon forget, and I find myself humming Beatles favorites as I am writing this.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Show & Tell: RAIN - A Tribute to the Beatles Brings Mop Top Mania to Appleton

Put your dancing shoes on and take a trip down memory lane with RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles when Beatle mania makes a stop at the Fox Cities P.A.C. in Appleton this weekend.

The multimedia Beatles experience is complete with large screens transporting the audience back to “the good old days” with the images and sounds of the phenomenon that was the Beatles during a volatile and pivotal time for the world and our country.

The living documentary of RAIN gives audience members the opportunity to experience iconic times in American history no matter what their age. Although this reviewer had yet to be born, this thirty-year-old feels as if she had a seat in the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Beatles American debut and as if she stormed the field during the concert at Shea Stadium.

RAIN inspires its audience members to truly experience the Beatles. There were young and old fans alike on their feet singing and dancing. There were girls crying and screaming, although most of them were no longer girls but women who had been transported back to a time they had thought they lost.

RAIN band members Steve Landes, Joey Curatolo, Joe Bithorn, Ralph Castelli and Mark Beyer have been living, breathing and preforming everything Beatles their entire lives - and it shows. They execute not only every note, but every head bob, sway and toe tap so seamlessly that at times it is almost eerie.

Playing a complete songbook of Beatles favorites, RAIN is an all-around crowd pleaser. Mega fans and younger Beatles novices alike are guaranteed to leave the theater with a few favorites stuck in their heads.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Watch & Win Tickets to Billy Elliot the Musical

This month, you can Watch & Win tickets to Billy Elliot the Musical at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

It’s easy! “Like” the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on Facebook and keep an eye out for contest videos. Look for the Watch & Win keyword, and enter for a chance to win!

Friday, May 11 - "Being Billy"
Tuesday, May 15 - "Flying"
Thursday,  May 17 - "From Screen to Stage"
Monday, May 21 - "Family & Community"
Wednesday, May 23 - "On the Road with Billy"

One lucky winner will receive four tickets to Billy Elliot the Musical
on Tuesday, June 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Four additional winners will receive a Billy Elliot prize pack!
Winners will be announced on Friday, May 25.

JUNE 19-24, 2012
Billy Elliot the Musical is a joyous celebration of one young boy's journey to make his dreams come true based on the smash-hit independent film of the same name with music by the legendary Elton John. Set in a small town, the story follows Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, discovering a surprising passion that inspired his family and his whole community. On Broadway, the show won ten 2009 Tony® Awards including Best Musical and won praise from fans and critics alike, including Ben Brantley of The New York Times who called Billy Elliot, "the most inspiring show I've seen in years."

Billy Elliot the Musical contains profane language and some scenes of confrontation between police officers and minors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Broadway Buzz:'s Audience Choice Awards

This week, a few key members of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s staff will be in New York for a Broadway League conference. On Sunday, May 13,  they were lucky enough to attend’s Audience Choice Awards. It’s the 13th annual event in which the winners are chosen by people just like you – people who love Broadway and want to celebrate the shows that inspire them.

To view a full list of winners, visit, but here are a few snapshots from the event!

Inside the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center

Audience Choice Awards host Darren Criss (“Glee,” How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying)
Presenters included Nick Adams (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert)
and Judith Light (Other Desert Cities, Lombardi)

Fox Cities P.A.C. President Susan Stockton and Executive Vice President Maria Van Laanen
attend the Audience Choice Awards

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mom Deserves a Night Out

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 13, and if you’re still looking for a perfect gift, you’ll find it at the Fox Cities P.A.C.  It’s a gift of time spent with you!

Take your mom on a date to the Fox Cities P.A.C., and spend some quality time enjoying a performance and each other’s company. She deserves a fun night (or day) on the town, and tickets are a great excuse to get together and create some special memories. And if scheduling is tricky, you can always pick up a gift certificate that you can use for any upcoming Center event.

Upcoming Events Mom Might Enjoy…

Whose Live Anyway             
Thursday, May 17     
Join Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff B. Davis, cast members of the hit TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyway," for a night of unforgettable improv comedy that will leave you laughing days later. Ninety minutes of hilarious comedy and song with some of your favorite Whose Line games plus some new ones. Bring your suggestions for the show and you might be asked to join the cast onstage to perform!

Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19
Direct from Broadway and described by the Associated Press as “the next best thing to seeing The Beatles,” RAIN performs the full range of The Beatles' discography live onstage, including the most complex and challenging songs that The Beatles themselves recorded in the studio but never performed for an audience. Together longer than The Beatles, RAIN has mastered every song, gesture and nuance of the legendary foursome, delivering a totally live, note-for-note performance in a multi-media concert that’s as infectious as it is transporting. From the early hits to later classics including “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Hard Day’s Night,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Let It Be,” “Come Together,” “Hey Jude” and more, this adoring tribute will take you back to a time when all you needed was love and a little help from your friends!
Billy Elliot the Musical
June 19-24
Billy Elliot the Musical is a joyous celebration of one young boy’s journey to make his dreams come true based on the smash-hit independent film of the same name with music by the legendary Elton John. Set in a small town, the story follows Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, discovering a surprising passion that inspires his family and his whole community. On Broadway, the show won ten 2009 Tony® Awards including Best Musical and won praise from fans and critics alike, including Ben Brantley of The New York Times who called Billy Elliot, "the most inspiring show I've seen in years."

*Content Disclaimer: Billy Elliot the Musical contains profane language and some scenes of confrontation between police officers and minors.