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Hamilton fills Marcus Center for first time since pandemic began

'Hamilton' leads Tony Awards nominations
Posted at 6:02 AM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 09:58:27-04

MILWAUKEE — Hamilton continues its two week run at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and the venue is playing to full houses for the first time since the pandemic. It’s a blockbuster return to the Broadway series at the MPAC, which has new COVID-19 procedures and facilities upgrades in place. It’s an emotional return to live musicals and a huge operation for the touring company and the Marcus Center.

“They bring everything,” described Kendra Whitlock Ingram, President and CEO of the Marcus Performing Arts Center. “One thing people don't know about Broadway shows is, it's like Broadway in a box.”

Crews Tuesday of this week emptied nine semis at the State Street loading dock to prepare for Wednesday’s first performance.

“Everything comes in, including sound, lighting, you know it's like a little mini city back there, particularly with a show like Hamilton which has a good sized cast and crew," she said.

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Bringing musicals back to the Marcus Center is emotional for the staff, as it will be the first time the venue will be at full capacity since spring of 2020. Milwaukee is fortunate to be able to kick off the Broadway season with a big attraction.

“I cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to open with Hamilton,” said Whitlock Ingram. “I mean, it's such a gift, frankly, after a long and dark, literally dark and figuratively dark, no season, lost season. To then come back to Broadway in Milwaukee with that show, which is just a gloriously exciting and uplifting show. I mean you can't ask for anything more than that.”

Broadway Across America produces the series of musicals the Marcus Center puts on in Milwaukee. Lauren Reid is the president of the parent company, the John Gore Organization. She said the timing worked out well for Milwaukee to kick off with Hamilton, but added it’s not an accident.

“There's been so much work in working with Kendra and the Theater in Milwaukee, to coordinate all the details with the touring traveling shows and agents to really make sure we brought all of the shows the people in Milwaukee wanted to see and to replace those that we missed, and we've been very successful in doing so,” she said.

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Broadway Across America has three Hamilton casts touring right now, as well as a Broadway based cast in New York City. The touring shows are only just beginning, having been on the road since August.

“We had a number of protocols and guidelines that we all needed to follow, in order to be sure that the venues could accommodate the tours,” Reid detailed. “In good times, it's a giant jigsaw puzzle to try to figure out where the show goes and each city that makes geographical sense to be able to travel and move from week to week. But when you throw in COVID and all the nuances and guidelines and a lot of the local conditions, it made it much more difficult, but all the more rewarding, that we were able to bring Hamilton and the like of the shows back to Milwaukee this quickly.”

The Marcus Center will require all guests to wear masks, and they will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID test or vaccination in order to enter. To make sure the audience can plan ahead, MPAC will begin checking COVID status three hours before curtain.

“You can get checked in advance, get a little wrist band, you come back from dinner or drinks or whatever you want to do before the show, you can go in the express line, which is pretty cool,” Whitlock Ingram said.

Security screening at the Marcus Center got a big upgrade post COVID. New detectors allow people to walk through without emptying their pockets. Questionable items show up on a video screen, and security may ask for a closer look inside a purse or pockets, but most people will be able to breeze right through.

Whitlock Ingram says despite the COVID shut-down, the Marcus Center is on strong financial footing, but certainly needs to have a big season. “A big part of our revenue is ticket sales, ticket fees, people renting the space to produce concerts,” She indicated. “We really need people back. It is very important that we are successful this year. If for no other reason than to give the public confidence that they can come back to live theater.”

No show will bring them back in bigger numbers than Hamilton. The Marcus Center expects every performance to be at or near capacity. For information on COVID protocol and tickets to this or any show at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, click here.

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