The Peabody Opera House is celebrating the first anniversary of its reopening with an exciting new season of Tony-winning Broadway shows, Grammy-winning pop artists and live comedy. Ladue News recently spoke with John Urban, Peabody’s executive VP of events and new business, about the eclectic lineup.
LN: Are there any special surprises planned for the first anniversary of the reopening?
JU: We’re celebrating by introducing the exciting second season. We all look back with a lot of pride with what last year has brought us. We hosted the nation’s three ‘first ladies’—queen of TV, Oprah; queen of soul, Aretha Franklin; and real First Lady, Michelle Obama—among a variety of other amazing artists and shows.
LN: Describe the shows in the new season.
JU: Our Broadway shows kick off Nov. 8 to 17 with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the 85th anniversary tour of the Rockettes. It’s a real feather in the cap of the Peabody to host the first of four national tour dates of the show. The size and scale of the production is something people are going to be talking about for a really long time. Then the St. Louis premiere of the musical Flashdance will be from Jan. 8 to 13. It’s the movie coming to life on stage with memorable songs like What a Feeling, Maniac and Gloria. From March 21 to 23, we have A Chorus Line. The intimacy and sound design of the Peabody will be great for this show, which you really want to immerse yourself in. We also will have Peter Pan—and there are not too many family titles better than this one. It will be the story you know and love, with the acclaimed Cathy Rigby starring in this family favorite.
LN: What are some of the standout shows this year?
JU: In addition to the Broadway shows, we have some unique concerts coming, including Norah Jones—imagine her voice and her piano in the Peabody; a very popular and talented band, The Script; and a unique 3-D production by cult-favorite, Primus. In addition, comedian Kathleen Madigan is coming on the heels of a great amount of successful comedy shows in our first season—from Daniel Tosh to Lewis Black.
LN: How do you choose the shows that come to the Peabody’s stage?
JU: Some of it is dictated by what artists are on tour at the time, and what Broadway decides to put on the road each year. We have a mission programming-wise about putting diversity in the season. We strive to get the right mix of shows at the right time on the calendar.
LN: How have audiences reacted to the past year’s shows since the reopening?
JU: We chose a wide range of shows because we wanted to attract a variety of audiences. We are really proud of that range because we gave just about every part of the St. Louis audience a reason to come down. St. Louis has responded by coming back in huge numbers.
LN: What is it about the Peabody’s atmosphere that makes for a special experience?
JU: It’s three things: a great building, an unforgettable sight and sound experience and a caring staff. The Peabody is an amazing building at almost 80 years old with so much history, tradition and legacy. And the sight lines and quality of sound make this a live experience that is really second to none. That’s something that brings people back.