For the first time, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center is investing money in a major show that will feature local talent. The venue's Broadway Series normally consists of national tours making brief stops in Music City, and the local companies that utilize its smaller theaters are essentially renters.
But a production next fall will break that pattern: TPAC is working with Franklin-based theater company Studio Tenn on a full-scale revival of "Evita." The show will open the venue's Broadway Series this September, playing Jackson Hall alongside national tours like "The Book of Mormon."
TPAC CEO Kathleen O'Brien says she tried to bring in the Broadway version in 2014, and it was even listed on that season's touring schedule. But after production issues, several stops on that tour were canceled. According to O'Brien, "it just didn't work out."
But she says fans still wanted to see "Evita," which tells the story of Eva Perón's rise from poverty to political power in prewar Argentina. So when Studio Tenn Artistic Director Matt Logan mentioned the show, O'Brien saw an opportunity for a new type of collaboration.
While Studio Tenn has never worked in a space as large as Jackson Hall, Artistic Director Matt Logan says it was a natural next step.
"The first time that we actually did a show at the Schermerhorn, we did it because it scared us to death, and it ended up being one of the best shows we've ever done and one of the highest attended. So I think challenge is good."
If "Evita" goes as well as the company's Schermerhorn premiere, Logan says it could "break the ice:" maybe his revival will get a tour of its own, and maybe TPAC will give other local companies the same exposure.
In the meantime, Studio Tenn will continue expanding into new venues and looking for new challenges, starting with another rags-to-riches story: "The Loretta Legacy." The new show, inspired by the life and music of Loretta Lynn, will play at the Ryman next spring.