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A Return to PPAC: The comeback tour

The last time I stepped foot in the Providence Performing Arts Center, it was to see the splendid tour of Hello Dolly! that played to less than full houses because of concerns rippling through the news that there was a strange new virus making people sick. I remember dismissing that in my review of the show, and chastising audiences for letting a little fear keep them away.

As they say on Twitter, that part of the review has probably not aged well.

On Tuesday morning, I was back at PPAC for the first local season announcement that might bring about an actual season. That bit of cleverness is how I’m going to balance out the sentimental feeling that swept over me when I walked through the double doors and into the lobby where chairs were set up — but spaced apart — and posters for the upcoming shows lined the staircase leading up to the second level.

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The outside of the building is looking as good as ever with a brand new facade, a restoration project that was completed while the stage lay dormant. The press in attendance included the great Don Fowler, who I greeted the way you’d greet a relative you only get to see at Christmas. It has been a year, after all, and it turns out, I’d even grown to miss the critics.

The announcement was being livestreamed by the social media sponsor WPRI 12, and it opened with PPAC’s board chairman, Joseph W. Walsh, Esq., who made brief remarks before introducing the president of the Performing Arts Center, J.L. “Lynn” Singleton, who unveiled the roster of upcoming tours that will be visiting Providence, including the return of Hamilton (November 30 – December 12, 2021) and the acclaimed production of Oklahoma! (March 22 – 27, 2022) that recently played Broadway’s Circle in the Square.

I was also excited to hear that Lincoln Center’s revival of My Fair Lady would be coming to town in May 2022, following the hit musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, which will play the venue in April 2022. Other productions in the Taco/White Family Foundation Broadway Series include The Prom (March 8 – 13, 2022) and Pretty Woman, which will be kicking off the season October 9 – 16 of this year.

The Encore Series includes the 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour of Rent (January 14- 16, 2022), the musical version of An Officer and a Gentleman (February 18 – 20, 2022), and Blue Man Group (May 20 – 22, 2022).

Completing the season will be three “Broadway Specials,” including the Broadway smash Dear Evan Hansen (April 5 – 10, 2022), Jesus Christ Superstar (January 25 – 30, 2022), and Cirque Dreams Holidaze (December 17 – 18, 2021), which means there’s a full calendar starting in just six months ready to go.

While there are many things about theater I’ve grown to miss over the past year, there were also things I’d forgotten until the promise of a return began to present itself. It’s easy to take institutions like the Performing Arts Center for granted, but until I was sitting in the grand lobby, I had forgotten that PPAC was where I saw my first major musical on a field trip with my school. It’s where I had my first exposure to musical canon warhorses like Rent and Fiddler on the Roof. Once I started seeing shows as they premiered in New York, I began skipping the tours that would come through, sure that they wouldn’t measure up to their Broadway counterparts, but over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more productions there, and I’ve been reminded that a place like PPAC is an asset for people who don’t have the opportunity to see theater outside the state, and that much of what comes through features talent as remarkable as any you’d find in New York, and occasionally surpasses it.

On the way out of the theater, I ran into another friend who writes for a different publication, and I remarked that this was my first time covering the season announcement. That’s probably why you’re reading something a little more personal than a list of shows and dates, but you wouldn’t expect anything else from me by now, right?

As I was driving away, I took in the sign and felt a wave of gratitude that soon it’s going to be all lit up again, with crowds underneath it, hurrying inside before the overture begins. 

Not wanting to miss a note.

For more information on PPAC’s upcoming season, go to PPACRI.org

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