Genevieve Holt brings Broadway shows to town

She likes to watch the audience response.

Genevieve Holt, general manager of Broadway in Cincinnati, has been busy gearing up for the 2017-18 season. The season will kick off on Wednesday, Sept. 13, as “Wicked” returns to the Aronoff Center.

The national touring production will be in Cincinnati through Sunday, Oct. 15.

We talked to Holt to find out what she loves the most about bringing Broadway shows to Cincinnati. She shared about the return of “Wicked” and reflected on some of the highlights of the upcoming season.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your role?

A: I oversee the local operations of Broadway in Cincinnati, which is a local office of our national parent company, Broadway Across America (BAA.) I am involved in deciding which shows we bring town, interacting with our season subscribers, interfacing with the Broadway touring show companies, and I also do all of the marketing of our shows.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about what you do?

A: I love that working in theater can be fun. It's an important business, but when the end goal is to get people to come see a show so they can have fun for a couple hours, that's largely an enjoyable pursuit, no need to get terribly serious. I love that we have new shows each year, so there are always new opportunities to partner with local businesses, new groups and communities to market to, and new, fun experiences to share with our audiences. My favorite moment of each show is to sit in the back of the theater on opening night and observe how the Cincinnati audience responds to the show. I'm always so eager for them to love it, and it's wonderful to see those moments when people laugh, gasp or tear up.

Q: Can you give us an insider’s look at theater in Cincinnati? How are you able to bring so many great shows to town?

A: Our goal is to share the best of what New York Broadway stages have to offer with people in the Queen City. We are so proud to be able to bring top-quality shows to Cincinnati, usually within a couple years of them opening on Broadway. Our task each year is to figure out which Broadway shows are going to be able to go out on tour, then we aim to assemble a pleasing mix of titles. We want to bring new shows that are right from Broadway that have never been seen here before, like this year's "Waitress," as well as fantastic productions of more familiar titles like this year's revival of "The King and I." We also try to bring titles that appeal to the whole family, like "Aladdin," and titles that may be more edgy or adult, like "The Book of Mormon."

Q: What shows have been the most popular, and how has the community responded to live theater events?

A: Our region loves Broadway theater! We are lucky to have an incredible amount of subscribers — more than any other city of our size on a national scale. We have a great turnout for all our shows, but some of the most popular over years, as you might guess, are "Wicked," "The Lion King," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Mamma Mia!" "Les Miserables" and others.

But my favorite experience is the once or twice a season where there’s a show people have never seen in Cincinnati, and they come in without specific expectations, and the show delights them in a totally surprising way. “Kinky Boots” and “Beautiful” were two recent shows where people sought me afterwards out to tell me how much they loved them beyond their expectations. That’s a great feeling.

Q: Wicked will return to Cincinnati to open on Sept. 13. Can you give us a preview of what to expect?

A: We are very proud to be bringing the show to Cincinnati for the fifth time this fall. We have found that while there are lots of people coming back for the second, third or even fifth time, there are also so many people who have never seen it and will get to experience the story for the first time. "Wicked" is the story of things that happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in. Glinda and Elphaba, before they were witches, were just young girls at school. They were good friends until their paths diverged. "Wicked" is a wonderful story about friendship and following your heart, and has some of the most incredible visuals of any Broadway show ever. Plus, the music is unforgettable.

Q: What are some of the other upcoming season highlights?

A: "Finding Neverland" (November) is a musical that tells the true story of how author J.M. Barrie found the inspiration to write Peter Pan, a risky venture at the time that has become one of the most beloved stories of all time. "Waitress" (January), which was created by a historic all-female creative team, tells a charming story of a woman who is looking to bake her way out of her unhappy life with her dazzling pies. And, "School Of Rock" is one of the most fun shows I've seen on stage, I think people will love it. Plus, there's Disney's "Aladdin" at the end of the season, which is one of "the most glittering and spectacular shows I've ever seen.

Q: Is there a show you’re most looking forward to this season?

A: I haven't seen "Chicago" in years, and I am crazy for Bob Fosse's style of dance, so I'm really looking forward to that.

Q: From your perspective, what are some of the greatest benefits from experiencing live theater in Cincinnati?

A: In one way, I think seeing a Broadway musical is a wonderful form of escapism. It's a time to take a break from your life, turn off your phone, and go somewhere else for a couple hours. But it's also the opposite of escapism, because it's an exercise in empathy. You are putting yourself in the characters' shoes for a couple hours, and maybe getting insights into your own life along the way.

Q: How can we purchase tickets or find out more about the 2017-18 season?

A: There's lots of information on our website — — where you can link to our blog, social media, and get information about all the shows coming up this year.

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