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Head of Broadway in Tucson has big plans

Head of Broadway in Tucson has big plans

Diane Willcox has not slowed down since she arrived in Tucson six months ago.

Willcox took over the job as general manager of Broadway in Tucson in October, when Lendre Kearns retired. Previously she was doing marketing and outreach for the Broadway and performing arts series at Michigan State University.

Since her arrival, she has shepherded the 2018-19 season of Broadway in Tucson, and has overseen marketing for UA Presents. She selected the just-announced 2019-20 Broadway in Tucson season. And she has been pumping up UA Presents and Broadway in Tucson’s educational programs.

She guesses she works 12 to 14 hours a day.

It’s exhausting just writing that.

But Willcox, who has an extensive background in all aspects of theater, including acting, tech work and box-office management, is a rabid arts fan; the amount of work she has done only energizes her. Especially the educational aspect.

“We’ve been expanding interactions of casts with the community and (high school) students,” she says, obviously relishing the project. “We’ve brought in students geared toward non-theater careers. We’ve had company personnel, costumers, and tech people in to have a conversation about the alternate careers in the theater.”

She is also looking to develop an internship program with University of Arizona students, and collaborating with non-arts schools on campus, as well as with community organizations.

But her first responsibility is the Broadway in Tucson season.

And she’s very excited about the upcoming one.

The season will open with the road show of the “Hello Dolly!” revival (Oct. 22-27), which won several Tony Awards, including one for Best Revival of a Musical. The story is based on Thornton Wilder’s farce “The Matchmaker,” and it follows Dolly Levi, who is in search of a love match for the wealthy Horace Vandergelder.

Next up will be a musical Willcox is especially excited about: “Anastasia” (Nov. 19-24). It is an adaptation of the long-lived story of Russia’s Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna’s escape from the assassination of her entire family in 1918 (DNA testing conclusively proved she did not escape).

“It’s a female empowerment adventure,” says Willcox. “She is an adventurous girl wanting to uncover the mystery of her past. … It’s beautiful and lush and glorious.”

Dec. 3-8, “Jesus Christ Superstar” returns. This is the production that won a 2017 Olivier Award (England’s equivalent to a Tony) for Best Musical Revival.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” (Jan. 14-19) is a farce without music, an anomaly for Broadway in Tucson, which generally sticks to musicals. The play snagged an Olivier for Best New Comedy in 2015.

Doo-wop music figures in “A Bronx Tale” (March 24-29, 2020), which is based on actor Chazz Palminteri’s life.

Ending the season is the musical “Come From Away” (June 2-7, 2020), based on the true story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, after the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The 7,000 passengers expected to be there a day, but that stretched into a week. The population of about 11,000 quickly jumped into action, providing food and shelter for those stranded there.

Broadway in Tucson is also bringing in “The Book of Mormon” (Feb. 11-16, 2020) and “Jersey Boys” (April 24-26, 2020), but those two are not part of the regular season.

“I’m really proud of the season,” says Willcox. “I think audiences will love it.”

And audiences will love this: The smash musical “Hamilton” will make a multiweek stop in Tucson during the 2020-21 season, likely late in ‘20, says Willcox.

But there’s a hitch: 2019-20 season subscribers will have priority when it comes to purchasing those tickets.

Tickets for the full six-play season are $162-$612. You can buy smaller season ticket packages, but it’s those with the full season who will get priority for “Hamilton.”

Tickets are on sale now at or 866-821-2929.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar

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Kathleen has covered the arts for the Star for 20 years. Previously, she covered business, news and features for the Tucson Citizen. A near-native of Tucson, she is continually amazed about the Old Pueblo's arts scene and feels lucky to be covering it.

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