This past Monday, over a three-course meal at Fort Lauderdale’s YOLO, the team at Maltz Jupiter Theatre, the region’s most award-winning theater company of late, feted members of the media, including your humble servant here at Boca Raton, to a luncheon to announce its 2014-2015 season, which begins in October.
But prior to the big news, artistic director Andrew Kato presented an hour-long slide presentation that addressed everything anyone would possibly want to know about the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, from attendance numbers to its ancillary programming to the thought that goes into putting together a balanced season. So before launching into the season, here are 10 things I learned about the Maltz, some of which may surprise you.
- Subscriptions have skyrocketed since Kato took over as artistic director, jumping from 2,300 in 2004 to a record-breaking 7,611 for the 2013-2014 season.
- The Maltz has often been labeled a “musical theater company,” even though two of its productions each season are straight plays. Kato has been working to dispel this misconception.
- Programming unadventurous shows solely because audiences may enjoy them can be a hazard; a case in point is its 2010 musical revue “Tintypes,” the only Maltz production in the past four years to be voted down for Carbonell award consideration. “[Audiences] hated it just like the rest of us,” Kato said.
- Carbonell awards do not move ticket sales, but they provide excellent feedback for the company and are indispensable marketing tools.
- The average audience capacity at a Maltz show has been 93 percent this past season; most theaters hover around 70 percent.
- The Maltz’s audience ranges from Boca and Delray up to St. Lucie County, and occasionally Broward. One of its more difficult demographics to attract is the local Jupiter resident.
- No matter how much you imagine it costs to mount one of the Maltz’s lavish productions, chances are the real numbers are higher. This past December’s “Annie” set the theater back more than half a million dollars. The actors’ salaries topped that list, at more than $100,000, but the second-highest cost, shockingly, is the licensing fee to produce “Annie,” which hit nearly $70,000.
- Throughout the year, the Maltz runs a conservatory for student actors, some of whom travel from Miami to learn the craft. This is not a revenue-builder; sometimes the company runs the conservatory at a $20,000 loss, but educating the next generation of theater professionals is an integral part of its mission.
- For years, the Maltz had been accused of ignoring local talent when it casted its productions, often flying in actors from New York and elsewhere. The theater responded by posting its open auditions months in advance on its website, which has since attracted Miami actors, many of whom have been cast.
- The Maltz is contemplating the possibility of expanding its facilities to offer a second theater space, with even more seasonal programming, by 2018.
And now, on with next season!
The Foreigner (Oct. 26 to Nov. 9)
As has become the custom, the Maltz opens with a vintage play, this time Larry Shue’s award-winning 1984 farce about a shy Englishman who pretends to be a non-English-speaking foreigner during a trip to a fishing lodge in rural Georgia. A doting widow, a British explosives expert, a virulent racist, and the requisite distraught heiress round out the colorful cast of characters.
Fiddler on the Roof (Dec. 2 to 21)
This one needs no introduction. We’ve seen Broadway’s 16th-longest-running show a hundred times, but if the Maltz’s recent track record of “The Music Man” and “Annie” is any indication, its artistic team will find a new way to present a beloved warhose.
The Wiz (Jan. 13 to Feb. 1, 2015)
Arguably the most head-turning show in the Maltz’s upcoming season, “The Wiz” recasts “The Wizard of Oz” in the context of African-American culture, and when it premiered in 1974, its all-black cast helped break new barriers on the Great White Way. “The score feels like it was just burned yesterday,” says Kato, who, in a rare move, will direct this production himself.
Glengarry Glen Ross (Feb. 8 to 22, 2015)
This is the production in which Kato will be pushing his audience the most—David Mamet’s confined, foul-mouthed, pessimistic vision of Hell on Earth as it relates to four Chicago real estate agents peddling toxic properties to duped buyers. This is the season’s most distant cry from musical escapism, and it’s my anticipated most show of the year.
Les Miserables (March 10 to April 5, 2015)
More than 65 million people in 42 countries have taken in Schonberg and Boublil’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel. It’s another one of those shows that requires no explanation, and when done right, there are few examples of musical theater that are as moving. At the very least, it should help banish Russell Crowe’s singing voice from your head.