GARNER — Tony-nominated Christiane Noll will wrap up the fourth season of Broadway Voices on March 15 and Neal Padgett, the president of the Garner Chamber of Commerce and a concert series founder, said plans are underway for a fifth season.
“I think it is something our community is proud of and something that has been very good for the area,” he said.
Noll is the latest example of the caliber of performer that has been attracted to the Garner Performing Arts Center.
Noll, who earned her Tony nomination for “Ragtime”, will be the fourth Tony nominee to perform in the concert series. The other venues for her concerts this spring have been in Charlotte, Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit and Houston.
The previous Broadway Voices artist was Norm Lewis, one of the biggest names on Broadway now. In the months before coming to Garner he had performed in New York, where he was Tony nominated for his work in “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess”; in Los Angeles, where he appears in the television show “Scandal”, and in London, where he was in the 25th anniversary celebration of “Les Miserables”.
“Who would have believed that Garner would be getting the same stars that are on Broadway and Los Angeles,” said Mayor Ronnie Williams. “Times change. This is incredible.”
The concert series began with the belief that some of the biggest names on Broadway would present concerts at the GPAC, which was then known as Garner Historic Auditorium.
Noll is a prime example. She has received rave reviews in “Jekyl and Hyde”, “Chaplin”, “Grease”, “Miss Saigon”, “Ragtime” and others Broadway shows, has recorded six solo albums and 12 cast recordings and has sung with performers such as Julie Andrews and Placido Domingo.
She had a prominent role in the recent television broadcast of “The Sound of Music.” She was one of the featured performers in a recent event at Studio 54 Below in New York along with Broadway Voices vets Craig Schulman and Ron Bohmer. Other Broadway Voices vets to play the club have been Stephanie J. Block and Susan Egan, who both have Tony nominations, and Ashley Brown.
“Garner is attracting some of the same artists who appear at one of the most popular venues in New York,” Padgett said. “The difference is that they take the subway to Studio 54 and have to fly to Garner.”
The GPAC has been on the venue list for Carnegie Hall sellout performers Block and Brown, plus J. Mark McVey, who also has performed to sold out audiences at the Hollywood Bowl.
“For our auditorium to be mentioned with places like Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington is amazing,” Padgett said. “The series has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of positive publicity to our community. When I go to meetings throughout the area, it become very clear that Garner is becoming known as a home to the arts.”
McVey said the alliance of the Chamber with the Town of Garner and the business community is remarkable.
“What Garner has done should be emulated throughout the country,” he said. “Garner has hit on a formula that works. The community has made a commitment to the arts. It has provided a beautiful theater. I will always be proud to have been your first artist.”
Egan, who earned her Tony nomination for “Beauty and the Best” and also starred in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Cabaret”, said the facility at the GPAC is outstanding.
“It has everything,” she said. “The town has done a remarkable job. Garner has everything it needs to attract some of the top performers in the country.”
The artists also appreciate the warmth of the community. Ciaran Sheehan, who brought his “Galway to Broadway Christmas” to the GPAC last December, said, “People here are just so nice,. They are genuinely nice.”
Padgett said the process has begun to line up the artists for season five.
He said one key to the series’ success has been its business supporters. The same six firms – Jones Insurance; S&A Cherokee; Capital Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep; Ruggero Piano; Ed Keeton, Lonnie Hedrick and David Beeler of Edward Jones and Fred and Doris Huebner of McDonald’s – have been the principal sponsors the first four years.
The playbill, which Sheehan called the best he had seen, has about a 90 percent retention rate of advertisers, too.
“We’ve had lots of sellouts and tremendous publicity, but we couldn’t do the series without the participation by our businesses have been a key,” Padgett said.