The Hippodrome’s 2020/2021 Broadway Season: A Quick Chat With President Ron Legler

Are you ready for Broadway in your own backyard? Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre just announced their 2020/2021 season and they’re bringing shows hot off Broadway right to the heart of Charm City! The season features six shows making their Baltimore debut:

  • Tootsie                                                  (10/13/20 – 10/18/20)
  • Pretty Woman                                   (12/8/20 – 12/13/20)
  • Mean Girls                                          (01/19/21 – 01/24/21)
  • The Prom                                            (03/02/21 – 03/07/21)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird                    (03/30/21 – 04/04/21)
  • Ain’t Too Proud                                 (05/04/21 – 05/09/21)

The season also heralds the triumphant return of Hamilton (06/08/21 – 07/03/21) and holds the honor of launching the new national tour of Hairspray (11/10/20 – 11/15/20), the quintessential Baltimore musical!

TheatreBloom founder Amanda Gunther took a quick minute to chat with Hippodrome Theatre President Ron Legler about the upcoming season and all the amazing things in store for theatergoers of Baltimore this coming season.

Thank you, Ron, for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us about this new season. Just looking it over, it looks amazing! What do you think is the most exciting part of this season?

President of The Hippodrome Theatre Ron Legler
Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom President of The Hippodrome Theatre Ron Legler

Ron Legler: It’s all exciting. I think the best part of it is that six of the eight shows have never been to Baltimore before. If you looked at last year’s Broadway season? We’re getting it this year in our own backyard, which I think is always very exciting. There’s not a lot of years that go by where the show fades away before we finally get the show. We’re right in the heart of what happened on Broadway this current season. A lot of the shows are still on Broadway. Pretty Woman, Mean Girls, The Prom, all of those are hot off this Broadway season. I’m super excited about that!

Hairspray has been to Baltimore before, but it’s always exciting news to get it back, after all it is the quintessential Baltimore musical, right?

Ron: When they told us that we getting the national launch of the Hairspray, how could I not be excited? My immediate thought was, “Duh, where else would you do it?” This is Baltimore! So how exciting to be able to launch that national tour! It’s happening right after the election and I think everyone is going to need a little Hairspray in their life. Having the creative team and John Waters in the building and then all of the excitement around getting a national tour launch is just so much fun. I think Baltimore needs all of that fun energy.

Have they started talking about what’s going to be new or revamped for this launch of Hairspray or can you not share that with us yet?

Good Morning Baltimore! Hairspray on Tour. Photo: Phil Martin & Jeremy Daniel
Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom Good Morning Baltimore! Hairspray on Tour. Photo: Phil Martin & Jeremy Daniel

Ron: They haven’t talked about that with us yet, but I’m hoping that we can do some behind the scenes stuff with them. And as the tour gets going, I’m hoping that we can start seeing some of that stuff; Baltimore will get that sneak-peek. They’re not building it here in Baltimore, but they are doing their first performances here in Baltimore. Like I said, all of the creative teams will be here so there will be a lot of energy and it’s going to be incredible. We get to have Hairspray in Baltimore. I feel like we could open it here and just run it here forever. Everyone who lives anywhere near here would come because it’s the quintessential Baltimore musical!

What else are you super excited about, aside from getting the national launch of Hairspray?

Ron: I have to tell you, To Kill A Mockingbird? Oh my gosh. What Aaron Sorkin did with this play; it clings to you for weeks. It’s going to push an envelope here with Baltimore, especially here with people in Baltimore City. You run through so many emotions with this play it’s like a freight train. It just stays with you; it’s so powerful. It’s awesome to be able to bring a Broadway play to our city. We have so many wonderful organizations— like Everyman Theatre and Baltimore Center Stage— who bring plays, but this is just one of the biggest things I’ve seen in a long time. It’s so powerful and I am so proud that we were able to get the national tour of it. We’ve got it coming to Baltimore in the first year of its tour.

That’s two out of eight shows to be really thrilled about. What else should season subscribers and Charm City theatergoers be anticipating in this 2020/2021 season?

Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Ron: You know there’s another show in this season that when I saw it, I just felt that it matched us. There are shows that match the heart of your city. It’s like Kinky Boots, which I brought here a few years ago. I saw that and was immediately reminded of Baltimore; they’re both filled with hardworking people who just want to do well and be there for each other. Kinky Boots hit this nerve with Baltimore audiences. They just connected to it. The Prom is this year’s Kinky Boots. It’s this story with so much heart; you just want the people to win. So many people want Baltimore to win. I mean even with this past weekend and the football— the whole city was out to win. And even though we didn’t get it— just the hope that it brought was amazing. I’m not a big football fan, but the hope that that brought? I was running around screaming “turn the whole building purple!” It’s the hope that unifies us. And The Prom is filled with that hope. And you hope that this can be the spark of things getting better here. That’s what we always hope for.

That sounds incredible. Are there other hopeful shows that will spark that sense of togetherness and hope for Baltimore?

Ron: Absolutely. You know, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, launched in DC. It started its wonderful life right down the street from us. It’s doing incredible on Broadway and it’s turning around and coming back to Baltimore. It’s fun. It’s hopeful. All the shows are that way. It’s a very dynamic season. There’s a lot of Broadway coming straight from New York!

I see the big ‘H’ is attached to the end of the 2020/2021 season here…

Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Ron: I gotta tell you it was such a phenomenon the first time around. We sent out a survey to our season ticket holders and our single-ticket buys and everyone said, “just bring it back.” And we agreed. We put almost 80,000 people through the doors the first time Hamilton was here. We had it over 4th of July and we’re going to have it over 4th of July again. It’s just super exciting. It was the biggest thing that ever came through the doors of our theatre. The excitement, the connection to history, and what Baltimore means as a historic American city…you know Lafayette on stage…knowing that Lafayette is right underneath George Washington under the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon; there’s such a connection. Our audiences absolutely ate it up. It was the most successful box-office-breaking show that we’ve ever had in the history of The Hippodrome. Because it was only here for four weeks, it was very limiting. Our season ticket holders, we could only give them two additional tickets; we normally give them eight. We had to limit them two last time otherwise the show would have been completely unavailable to anyone other than subscribers. Hopefully it will loosen up a little bit this time around and more people will be able to see it. Hamilton, you are always welcome in Baltimore, please come visit us often.

What would you say to people who have yet to take the season-subscription plunge or might be on the fence about doing it for this upcoming 2020/2021 season?

Ron: The best thing about it? Season subscribers are not waiting in lines. They know where their seats are. Our packages start at $288 for eight shows. That might sound really expensive, but if you break it down that’s less than $40 a show. If you look at the ticket prices of shows in New York, it’s a fraction of that. Movies are getting into that range; you can go out to the movies and spend more than that per show. If you’re going to be a subscriber and pay for eight shows in a season, you better like at least four of them. We attract shows that get people excited. We get seven or eight shows in a season that people are really excited, often new shows that have come straight off of Broadway. And we do go back and get other shows, like Cats, which will be here next week, but Cats hasn’t been here in over a decade. Same with Hairspray, it was eleven years ago. We bring shows that keep our subscribers very excited about what they get to see.

We have a very loyal subscriber base and we’re very excited about that. The world is so crazy; people need an escape. We’re a wonderful way to get out of your life, to get out of the news cycle, and to step into the world of what Broadway brings to a community. That is such a feel-good thing for everybody. We love our audiences; we love our patrons; our season ticket holders are the reason the building is still open. We’re coming up on our 107th year as a historic theatre. We are always remembering that our doors closed once and we don’t ever want that to happen again. We want to make sure that the experience of parking is wonderful; we have a garage that is attached our building.

It’s nice that you mentioned the garage, I noticed that the garage has a new queue system for exiting once the evening at the theatre has concluded! That’s impressive.

Ron: We keep listening to the patrons; we keep trying to make a difference. We’ve got that organized queue for stairs and elevator in the parking garage, we have a brand-new security system with Magnetometers in it so that we can try to keep people safe when they are here. We are constantly evolving, making sure we’re changing up our plan.

You guys have managed to land some really quality shows for this upcoming season; that’s quite impressive. What’s your secret?

Ron: Honestly? When the shows come in, we treat them so lovely. We have cast parties for the shows, M&T Bank sponsors a dinner for them. When they get here and they come back, we always here “We love coming back to Baltimore because you guys are so friendly to us!” That word gets around and it helps us get better shows. And our audiences help too. Word gets around about these enthusiastic audiences in Baltimore, where they stand on their feet and give standing ovations; it’s incredible. It’s a very good experience all around. And our theatre is small. A lot of the national touring venues are 2,600 to 3,000 seats. We’re 2,200 seats. You do get a very intimate feeling, a very Broadway-esque feeling when you come to The Hippodrome.

What can patrons and audiences and season subscribers look forward to in addition to these eight amazing shows this upcoming season?

Ron: Like I said, we’re always changing up the experience. Right now we’re in the middle of a capital campaign to build a fantastic, flexible, all-in space. We’ve raised $9.1 million dollars out of 12 million. We’re pushing through and we’re hopeful for construction to start in the fall of this year. The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center came about when the state bought all the buildings on the block. There are four buildings all together. The last building, which is called the M&T Bank Pavilion. It’s the old Eutaw Savings Bank; it was a bank from 1861. We are renovating that bank, bringing it back to look historic, and we’re going to turn it into an “all-in” venue that will be able to do all kinds of different events. It’s going to be an events center. It can do film; it can stand 1,200 people for a concert. It’s going to be a game-changer for us. That is on board, hopefully by the time Hamilton returns that room will be open. We’ll be able to do dinners and all kind of fun stuff. One of the things that we’re talking about now is doing live music after shows. If you don’t want to wait 30 minutes in the parking garage, this space will be there where you can have a drink or some dessert and hang out with live music and exit after the major crowd has gone. We’re continuing to look to the future; we are looking at what we will look like for the next 25 years.

That’s good that you foresee The Hippodrome having a future in 25 years!

Ron: We’re a product-driven industry. Broadway is on fire. Every time I see a show like Moulin Rouge pop up on Broadway, I think “that’s coming here soon.” And it gives me that hope I was talking about for the future. Frozen is out there; all these other big shows are out there, and they are all on their way here. We’re very fortunate that Broadway is in its heyday. National Touring Broadway is in its heyday. It’s the golden years and we hope to keep it going. Every time you see that Broadway opening? You know it has the potential to come to our city and our audiences are just so gracious. I love what I do; I love putting the season together. I think about our audience, I think about Baltimore, and I think about what we want to see to keep us happy and successful. I’m really thrilled with how this season turned out.

For more information on how to become a Season Subscriber, click here.

To see what’s up next at The Hippodrome, click here.

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