Each year two thirds of Broadway's business happens on tour outside New York. During the League of American Theatres and Producers' annual Road Conference in May, the Broadway community took time out to recognize some of the people who make this national entertainment medium a hit in more than 140 cities across North America.
In bestowing the Distinguished Lifetime Service Award for Touring Broadway on Carol Channing, Broadway honored one of the most beloved and respected performers ever to appear on the stage. Channing has created roles and toured extensively in such Broadway classics as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly! A true superstar whose commitment to her work and her audiences is unparalleled, she has appeared in Dolly! more than 4,000 times.
This year the League introduced a new honor, the Star of Touring Broadway Award. Four people were recognized for their outstanding efforts which help make touring Broadway a success in their local communities year after year. One of those individuals is Governor John G. Rowland of Connecticut, whose administration has devoted more than $75 million in state funds to Connecticut's theatres, museums, galleries, and arts festivals. In December Governor Rowland announced a $10 million state grant which will make Hartford's Bushnell Audittorium one of the top regional arts centers in the Northeast and enable it to present an expanded menu of Broadway shows and other top-quality entertainment.
A second honoree, Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. of Providence, Rhode Island, led the drive to rescue an old movie palace slated for destruction and transform it into the nonprofit Providence Performing Arts Center. He created a downtown Arts Entertainment District in Providence with the Center--and the Broadway shows it presents--as an anchor tenant.
This year's two other Stars of Touring Broadway are William B. Cheeseman, CEO of Stratton-Cheeseman Companies, who has been a.key supporter of the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts in East Lansing, Michigan; and Donald K. Spies, who was recognized for his tireless advocacy on behalf of Dallas Summer Musicals. Congratulations and bravos for all. As the League's Executive Director Jed Bernstein put it, "We are proud to be able to pay tribute to these special people who have made an extraordinary contribution to Broadway in their communities."