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Exploring San Diego: La Jolla Playhouse Becomes Broadway Breeding Ground

Theatre has sent 32 shows to Broadway
La Jolla Playhouse Ashley.png
Posted at 8:13 AM, Apr 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-23 15:22:00-04

LA JOLLA, Calif. (KGTV) - After two extensions, the musical, Diana just closed at the La Jolla Playhouse, bringing the 2018-19 season to an end.

But, as in previous years, it won't be the end for many of the shows that premiered on stage this season.

Diana is still waiting to see if it will head to Broadway, go on tour, or play at another Regional Theater. If it heads to Broadway, it will become the 33rd play from the Playhouse to head to New York.

"People have so much pride about the shows that are born here," says Artistic Director Chris Ashley, who has overseen nearly a dozen shows to advance from La Jolla to Broadway.

In the last couple of years, nine shows have gone to New York, including 2015's smash hit, Come From Away. It recently won the Olivier award for Best Musical in London. It also gave Ashley a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical.

Other shows from the last few years to make it on the Great White Way include Jimmy Buffet's Escape to Margaritaville, Summer, based on the music and life story of singer Diana Summer, Paula Vogel’s Indecent, Ayad Akhtar’s Junk, Wild Goose Dreams, John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons and Miss You Like Hell .

That continues a long tradition of creating shows with world-wide appeal.

Since reforming as a professional, Regional Theater in the mid-80's, the La Jolla Playhouse has produced some of Broadway's biggest hits, ranging from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying to The Wiz.

But the Playhouse's big break came in 2004 with the show Jersey Boys.

"That was one of the first times that people in New York said, hey, what's happening, lets go look at what's happening in San Diego," says Ashley.

Jersey Boys won the Tony for Best Musical, and ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2017. In its wake, more artists began coming to La Jolla to get their work on stage.

"I found that as we started to do more and more of it, more and more exciting artists were knocking down our doors saying we want to start our show in La Jolla," says Ashley.

In the last six years, the Playhouse has only produced first-run, world premiere shows. They also developed smaller projects through the Without Walls (WOW) Festival and the DNA New Work Series.

"Having those works developed and it becoming clear that the playhouse had the muscle to be able to do what we said we could do has made it so it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Managing Director Debby Buchholz, who has been with the theater for 17 years.

It's been the theater's focus on innovation that has led to its success. Ashley credits his creative team for their willingness to try the impossible, giving audiences an unforgettable experience.

"I hope that, when you come to the La Jolla Playhouse, you have an experience that opens your mind and your heart to the ways that people live and the possibilities of taking care of each other and being human right now on this planet," he says.