The show must go on! Broadway performances return to Louisville

DAVID MATTINGLY | WAVE 3 News

At the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (KCPA) on Louisville’s West Main Street, a sold out theatre and sounds of applause will soon be music to the ears.

“Live theatre is the last thing to really come back from the pandemic, to really bounce back,” Matthew Porter, the director of public relations for PNC Broadway-Louisville, said. “And it will have been 616 days that we have been on intermission.”

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (KCPA) in downtown Louisville

The return of Broadway shows with performances of the musical Waitress and robust ticket sales raise expectations that a recovery from a fire and a pandemic is accelerating. In 2018, a fire damaged part of the venue forcing months of scaffolding in the lobby and repairs, but that disruption was nothing compared to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Artists were not touring, performances were not happening,” Christian Adelberg, a KCPA spokesman, said. “So all of the facilities had to be shut down for safety purposes.”

Attendance dropped at all Kentucky Performing Arts venues in Louisville from 420,358 in 2019 to just 175,672 in 2020.

2018 performances of the Broadway hit Waitress were canceled because of the fire, and they were canceled again in 2020 because of the pandemic. The 2021 performances begin Monday and are nearly sold out Adelberg said.

“The benchmark of having an indoor live performing venue come back to life,” Louisville Tourism VP Zack Davis said, “and bring folks in is really kind of one of the last marks we need to say OK we’re back to getting close to a new normal.”

That new normal is part of an upward tourism curve. According to Louisville Tourism, downtown hotel occupancy hit a September record in 2019 at 73%, and that dropped to 16% at the height of the pandemic.

This year, the numbers are rising but still short at 55%.

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