DSM's Booking of Hamilton Raised the Question: Can Dallas Support Two Performing Arts Organizations?

Dallas Summer Musicals secured Hamilton for its 2018-19 season.
Dallas Summer Musicals secured Hamilton for its 2018-19 season. Joan Marcus
Dallas Summer Musicals, for many years as the sole provider of Broadway entertainment in the city, has been presenting live theater in Fair Park since 1941.  Then in 2009, the AT&T Performing Arts Center — another organization vying for the same productions and the same audience — opened. Its inaugural season included Spring Awakening and Avenue Q, not exactly family friendly shows like the ones longtime DSM president Michael Jenkins preferred. It seemed liked the Arts District would be the place to see buzz-worthy Broadway productions.

In the spring 2016, however, DSM ousted Jenkins and signed a deal to partner with booking company Broadway Across America. In January 2017, DSM announced its 2018-19 season, including Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Hamilton, which heads to the Music Hall at Fair Park in 2019.

"We couldn’t be more thrilled with the strong response to both our 2017-18 and 2018-19 season lineups, which have helped grow our total number of subscriptions and audience members," says Paulette Hopkins, DSM's vice president of marketing and patron services.

Hopkins says the process of planning a performance season can take up to three years.

"Many factors are at play when Dallas Summer Musicals and our partner, Broadway Across America, determine which shows will come to Dallas Summer Musicals in any given season," she says. "One of the first things we do with our partners is listen to our patrons. We send annual surveys asking them what shows they are most interested in seeing."

In recent years, the most popular shows in Dallas have included fan favorites such as Wicked, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.

Other factors include which shows are touring the country, how their schedules fit into the Dallas season and the availability of the Music Hall. Hopkins says DSM's partnership with Broadway Across America has enhanced its "ability to secure the best that Broadway has to offer."

As DSM celebrated its status as the company bringing Hamilton to Dallas, the AT&T Performing Arts Center received some negative attention. In August, The Dallas Morning News reported that the city auditor had "various concerns related to financial viability" of the arts center. Last month, the News reported that ATTPAC patrons have been "outraged at a $500-$1,000 price increase in the form of a mandatory donation."

"We don’t view this as competition," Hopkins says. "More performing arts in a city lead to more options for North Texas audiences to enjoy. And the success of any performing arts organization benefits all the other performing arts organizations."

For now, Dallas Summer Musicals has the hottest ticket in town. Season subscribers had the first shot at purchasing tickets to see Hamilton, but Hopkins says single tickets will go on sale to the public "at a later date yet to be announced." It also has booked Dear Evan Hansen, the 2017 Tony winner about a high school senior with anxiety issues, for the 2019-20 season.
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