Director proving summer shows can draw a crowd

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

When Michael Blachly arrived in 2000 he got one major piece of advice - forget about summer.

Well Blachly, performing arts director at the University of Florida, is proving to have the last laugh, showing that summer can work at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Blachly says when he came to Gainesville the conventional wisdom was everybody left town in the summer. He didn't see it that way.

"Everywhere I went I saw people. I saw people at the restaurants. I saw people at the movie theaters. I saw people out shopping," Blachly says.

So, last summer he decided to give it a shot. Bluesman Buddy Guy drew raves in the opener in June and helped launch a summertime entertainment experiment. The season included the percussion/dance "STOMP," jazz-infused rock of Spryo Gyra, old-fashioned folk of the Kingston Trio, and the a cappella gospel of Take 6. Every time the doors opened, there was a crowd to enjoy the shows.

This summer even bigger productions are coming to town. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who performs on July 14, will likely be the hottest ticket in Gainesville. (It won't be Seinfeld's first Gainesville visit, but the crowd this summer may be smaller. In 1987, two years before his hit TV series, Seinfeld was the headliner at Gator Growl.)

Blachly says "The Producers" is one musical that's drawn many requests, and it opens the season on June 29. And when the summer makes the transition into fall in August, a stage musical version of the film "The Wedding Singer" has a Gainesville date.

Summer, he says, is more light and whimsical, and it taps into an audience that may not typically visit the Phillips Center. He says from a practical standpoint it keeps awareness up, while also providing work for the technical and box office staff that is so vital for success.

He also discovered summer audiences are a bit more spontaneous with their choices.

"I think people make decisions much later, like, 'What would you like to do tonight?'" Blachly says.

Gary Kirkland can be reached at 352-338-3104 or

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