Interview with Broadway Across America Midwest President Leslie Broecker

When I asked to speak with Leslie Broecker I was told we’d get along as she was a fellow “theater nerd.”  What an understatement.  The President of Broadway Across America Midwest, Ms. Broecker lives and breathes theater.  When we spoke she had just spent a whirlwind week in New York City, seeing EIGHT Broadway shows in seven days.  Thank goodness for matinee’s. 


Michael Smith:  First off, please tell our readers what you do, how long you’ve been doing it and how I can apply for your job when you decide to retire?

Leslie Broecker: (laughs)  Absolutely you can!    I’ve been here 35-years.  I started in the marketing department but I’ve loved theater my whole life.   Really my passion has been in radio and television production, especially radio.  And so I worked with the local Broadway series in Louisville (Kentucky) on some of their radio buys.  That’s how the local company hired me as their marketing director.  The company became so successful that it grew into Cincinnati, and then Columbus and Indianapolis.  Ultimately our partner, which was Pace Theatrical Group, purchased our company and that is how Kansas City became part of my responsibilities as well.


MS:  How do you go about choosing what shows go to which city?  Is it just a national tour of certain shows or do you pick specific shows for specific cities?


LB:  The tours are tailor made for each city.  It’s a jigsaw puzzle of what shows are available, what dates are available in the theaters and then trying to marry those.  We are very reliant on our neighbors and friends that present in other cities in order to make routing reasonable and responsible.  We need to have decent jump cities that are not too far apart.  We’re all tied together.  Most of our shows close on Sunday night.  Then they have to break down, move and be ready to go by curtain time on Tuesday.  It’s all very calculated.  That’s the unsexy part of it.  The other way we choose shows is that we survey our subscribers and single-ticket buyers and group clients and see what’s on their list.  What do they want to see?  We not only survey about shows that are current and will go out on the road, but also about shows that are in development so we can have a voice in what is created for the future three or four or five years down the road.


MS:  I was in the film marketing and promotions business for 20-years and had to deal with not only first run theatres but second run and discount houses.  If a show is currently on Broadway, is there a time limit before it can tour?


LB:  That’s a great question.  There’s not.  But I think the comparable analysis might be that when a show goes on the road, they first thing they want to do is play in markets that can sustain it for a long period of time.  So many shows that come off Broadway will go and sit in Chicago or Boston or L.A. or even the Kennedy Center (Washington D.C.)  Then they begin to look at the next markets.  Where can they play a few weeks instead of several months?  That includes cities like Cincinnati, Ft. Lauderdale, Denver.  Markets that can support the shows for two weeks.  And where Kansas City fits in is where most cities are, a one-week grouping.   The way you stand in the pecking order is that shows want to play where they will be successful.  People love theater in Kansas City, and we can do many week’s of shows.  Kansa City usually lands on the first or second year of a tour going out, which is really great.  Other cities, like Indianapolis, are on the third or fourth year of a tour.  Kansas City is way up there for getting in line for the best shows as fast as they come out. 


MS:  When Ellen (McDonald, my local rep) and I spoke about this interview she said you were kind of a theatre nerd.  You are so much more so I have a couple questions.  What was the first show you saw?


LB:  “Hello, Dolly.”


MS:  With Carol Channing?


LB:  No, that was a local production.  My first Broadway show was “Barnum,” with a then unknown Glenn Close and Jim Dale.  How about you?


MS:  My first show, that I wasn’t a part of, was “A Chorus Line,” which I saw here in Kansas City with a then unknown Bebe Neuwirth as Cassie. 


LB:  You just gave me goosebumps.


MS:  My first Broadway show was “42nd Street,” with Jerry Orbach.


LB:  That was a pretty good starting point, definitely. 


MS:  What is your favorite show, if you can have one?


LB:  That’s like having to pick between your children.  I will say that the first show I worked on was “Hello, Dolly” and that made such an imprint.  I was able to present “Hello, Dolly” eight or ten times with Carol Channing and we became friends.  That’s my favorite show.  The book is incredible, the music…there’s not a bad number.  Well, maybe “Ribbons Down Your Back” is a little slow (now THAT’S a theatre nerd!) but the show is awesome.  And then to be friends with Carol….we spent many times together beyond “Dolly.”  I brought her in a couple of times to do some fund raisers and things in the second half of her life, which was amazing. 


MS:  I’m guessing the answer is “no,” but is there a show you’ve wanted to see but never have?


LB:  Hmmmmm….no I can’t think of one.    Oh wait!  There’s a show by Kander and Ebb called “70, Girls, 70.”  I’ve seen a lot of community productions but I’d love to cast it on Broadway.  (NOTE:  “70, Girls, 70” premiered on Broadway in 1971 and ran for 35 performances.  It was revived in London in 1991, where it played for several months.  However, there has never been a Broadway revival.  Until now?


MS:  In the last 10-years, there have been countless musicals based on popular films.  Why do you think that is?


LB:  I think it’s similar to films being based on books.  There’s a following.  Producing on Broadway is incredibly risky and I think the foundation of a successful film gives a safe jumping off point.  I wish there could be 20 new musicals and 20 new plays a year, but creativity comes in little spurts.  If you’re lucky you’re blessed with a Sondheim, who could spit out a lot of those.  But it’s tough to come up with that success.  I’m no wiz on why that is but my guess would be that it’s a little bit safer ground.  I mean a show like “Hadestown,” the Tony Award winning musical, is hugely popular on Broadway but not many people know about it outside New York.  It may take a couple of years on the road for people to really discover how great a show it is.


MS:  Finally, any hints at what may be coming our way next season?


LB:  We’re actually just starting on next season.  We will be hopeful and looking for shows like “Frozen” or “Moulin Rouge.”  This year’s Tony Awards will help decide what shows are recognized and could do a tour.  One show I’d really like to do there is “To Kill a Mockingbird.”


MS:  With Richard Thomas?


LB:  Yes.  You know, there’s a cool casting twist in the show.  I can’t remember her name, but the little girl who played Scout in the film….


MS:  Mary Badham


LS:  …there you go.  She’s in this production.  She’s the nasty, racist neighbor…


MS:  Miss Dubose?


LB:  …yes.  You’re good.


MS:  It’s my favorite novel ever.


LB:  I’m working hard to get that as well.  The pipeline is full.


MS:  Great to hear.  Maybe you’ll bring “ROCKY” to town.


LB:  Yeahhhhh, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.


MS:  I guess I’ll wait for the local dinner theater production.


LB:  (laughs)  Perhaps. 

CD Review: Leslie West “Soundcheck”

Leslie West
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Soundcheck” is the newest solo offering from legendary Mountain front man Leslie West. The album is the much anticipated follow up to West’s 2013 release “Still Climbing” which featured guest performances by Mark Tremonti, Jonny Lang and the late Johnny Winter. “Soundcheck” follows in the same suit as “Still Climbing” while taking things to the next level with brilliant performances on all 11 of the albums tracks by West and company.

From start to finish Mr. West and his assembled group of musicians are in top form as they blast through a variety musical styling’s covering everything from gritty rock ‘n’ roll to heart wrenching acoustic tinged ballads that echo to the inner most points of the listeners musical soul. The albums opening track “Left by the Roadside to Die” works perfect in its placement by setting the stage for what the listener is in store for. Mixed in with a handful of original tracks are a plethora of re-worked covers including Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” a rawkus rendition of Gretchen Wilson’s “Here For the Party” an eerie instrumental version of the Beatles track “Eleanor Rigby” and a one of a kind rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” featuring Peter Frampton. Other guest performers include Queen’s Brian May on the track “Goin’ Down” and the late great Jack Bruce on the live recording of “Spoonful” a recording which until now has never been released.

If you are a long time Mountain/Leslie West devotee then “Soundcheck” will fit perfectly in to your music collection. For the more casual listener you will be hard pressed to find a track on here you won’t like. The production on each of the 11 tracks is really on par and even though the last track is a live track recorded in 1988 it still sounds crisp and in line with the previous 10 tracks making this a great album to listen to over and over.

Track Listing:
1.) Left by the Roadside to Die
2.) Give Me One Reason
3.) Here for the Party
4.) You Are My Sunshine
5.) Empty Promises/Nothin’ Sacred
6.) A Stern Warning
7.) People Get Ready
8.) Goin’ Down
9.) Stand By Me
10.) Eleanor Rigby
11.) Spoonful

Mountain’s Leslie West talks about new solo album “Still Climbing”

Leslie West the legendary front man for the band Mountain is back with a brand new solo album titled “Still Climbing”. The album features 11 tracks and is classic West through and through. The album also boasts an amazing line up of guest musicians ranging from Johnny Winter to Creed/Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Leslie recently about his work on the album and his career in the music business.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album?
Leslie West: I started on the album about a year ago in June. I took my time deciding which songs I wanted to do and who I wanted to play with me on them. I was able to just take my time which kept things from getting jumbled up and eliminated the idea of having a deadline. Things really worked out well.

AL: What was the band line up for this record?
LW: My bass player is Rev Jones; on drums we had my engineer/co-producer Mike Goldberg. Once the album was all recorded we sent it to Mike Frazier in Canada for the mixing. Mike has worked with everyone from AC/DC to Metallica. It was good sending the album to someone we knew could do a really good job mixing it. Mike was able to come in with a fresh set of ears as he wasn’t there during the initial recording process. There were also a bunch of guest musicians like Mark Tremonti, Jonny Lang and Dee Snider who came in and played on some tracks.

AL: When the guest musicians would come in did you have an idea what it was you wanted them to do or did you let them play what they wanted?
LW: With Jonny Lang I knew what I wanted and had the song down. Jonny was doing a show in New Jersey so we picked him up at the airport and brought him over to the studio. Johnny Winter who also is on the album was the same way. My co-producer recorded Johnny in Connecticut but when the track was all finished it sounded like we were right next to each other. Dee Snider came down to do his part for the song “Feeling Good” and we had a really great time.

AL: Are the songs that make up the album ones that you and your band worked on collectively?
LW: No. I wrote the original songs and the others I did all the arrangements. I ended up writing some song with the help of my wife despite my reluctance to have her involved. I would start writing songs on my iPad and then via iCloud things would be popping up that she had added. I asked her if I could use some of that stuff as I had some songs that didn’t have words and some words that didn’t have music. That’s basically how it went. I would go in the studio and we would just build the songs. I used my guitar layout and played to a click track. That could be why it took so long. The song “Fade In to You” is one I originally heard on the television show “Nashville”.  I really liked the song so we reworked it and gave it my sound. I think it turned out great.

AL: Having been in the music business since the 1960’s what do you feel has been the biggest change personally from when you started in the business to where you are now?
LW: I had two legs when I started. (Laughs) Digital was something that really changed things. When I started you had to make edits with a razor blade and some tape. Things would take forever but now you can just move things around very quickly. I think it’s just amazing. When we were recording to analog if you didn’t like an edit you would have to redo it by un-taping it and then re-taping it. You had to find a spot where there was no noise in order to make that edit.

AL: Some artists are very opposed to the idea of digital but you seem quite open to it. Is this true?
LW: I have been very accepting both with this new album and the previous one as well. With digital you have a lot more time to create the music. You can make changes very easily. As far as sounds go I use what comes directly out of the amps. We may have added a little reverb or whatever but for the most part what you hear is what you get. Mike did a great job of capturing the actual sounds coming from my amp.

AL: Has there been any talks of touring in support of the release?
LW: There are a few scheduled for November that we are currently working on. It will most likely be a run of select shows. The biggest thing is I haven’t been able to find a tour bus that is built to handle a wheel chair. It’s hard to believe but there really isn’t anything out there that will allow me to tour like I used to. For now we hit select venues. I can’t quite get used to prosthetics yet as I have been working with them at rehab. They strap the guitar on me and then have me stand to see how long I can balance. The most I have been able to stand for is 40 seconds. I don’t want to have to worry about falling down on stage so I sit now. That’s just the way it is. I am still able to play without that worry of falling.

AL: Other than the standing aspect has the loss of your leg changed the way in which you perform?
LW: Yes. I am no longer able to walk around obviously so when I find a spot that works for me on stage that’s where I stay for the rest of the performance. Having just the one foot also makes it a little more difficult to hit my floor pedals so we have some on a small table next to me and one or two on the floor. I don’t really use a lot live now as I have started using Blackstar amps which have a great tone straight out of the head.

AL: Can you tell us about your new website?
LW: We have the Mountain website still but they are currently working on one for my solo stuff. It will be located at so people will want to be watching for that.


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CD Review: Leslie West “Still Climbing”

Leslie West
“Still Climbing”
Producer: Leslie West/Mike Goldberg
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Legendary Mountain front man Leslie West is back with a new solo album titled “Still Climbing”. The 15th release from the 68 year old West is probably his most progressive yet as the album covers everything from hard rock and soul to straight up rhythm and blues.  The album which was co-produced by West and Mike “Metal” Goldberg is being released via Provogue Records and features 10 brand new tracks along with a cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman” which was originally recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966.

Right out of the gate Leslie and his guitar grab you with the track “Dyin’ Since the Day I Was Born”.  The song is a down and dirty hard rocking tune that is the perfect stage for West’s grainy vocals and signature guitar style. As the album progresses Leslie takes you on a musical journey hitting a wide genre of sounds which make this album appealing on a number of different levels. The song “Tales of Woe” is a semi acoustic number that seems to tap in to the darker side of West’s life experiences. The haunting slide guitar featured on and off through the song does a great job playing of the song’s lyrics adding an almost weeping type effect. The song “Don’t Ever Let Me Go” features a catchy guitar line that that gets stuck in your head in the same way a pop song might. One other track worth mentioning is “Feeling Good” which features some impressive dueling vocal lines courtesy of Mr. West and Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider. Even though the pairing may sound a little out there it works.

Fans of Leslies work will certainly want to pick up “Still Climbing” as part of their collection however the album is more than just for West’s devoted fans as it features great arrangements and performances by West and company that any music lover will be sure to enjoy

Track Listing:
1.)     Dyin’ Since The Day I Was Born
2.)     Busted, Disgusted or Dead
3.)     Fade Into You
4.)     Not Over You At All
5.)     Tales of Woe
6.)     Feeling Good
7.)     Hatfield or McCoy
8.)     When a Man Loves a Woman
9.)     Long Red
10.)   Don’t Ever Let Me Go
11.)    Rev Jones Time