After a lengthy pandemic pause, Broadway Olympia Productions is back — but not for long. The musical-theater-focused company recently announced both a short 2023 season and a suspension of operations beginning in early April. “I’m taking a break,” said Kyle Murphy, the company’s founder and managing director. “My life has changed so much in the past five years that I cannot continue to be the driving force behind a theater production company.”
The black box theater that Murphy established in Capital Mall, though, will remain open. Theater Artists Olympia, which has mounted two shows in the space since it partnered with Broadway Olympia in the summer, will take over the lease and will continue to offer the space to other performing arts groups. “It’s a little daunting and very exciting,” said Pug Bujeaud, TAO’s artistic director. “The shows that we’ve done there have worked really well. It bodes well for the future.”
While Bujeaud and company are making plans, Broadway Olympia will produce three shows in two months before Murphy steps back. The mini season will open Feb. 16 with “Baby,” a 1983 musical about three couples with babies on the way. Kathryn Dorgan will direct the musical, created by Sybille Pearson, David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr.
“The Last Five Years,” Jason Robert Brown’s 2001 song cycle that tells a love story from beginning to end and end to beginning, will open March 16 — just a week and a half after “Baby” closes.
Then there’s “Mercury Rising: A Queen Tribute,” a one-night-only concert set for April 8 at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The show, featuring the vocal talents of Jerod Nace, Bruce Haasl and Amy Shephard, was originally scheduled for March 2020 — just one month before Broadway Olympia planned to open its first show in the black box, located across from Old Navy.
During the lengthy pandemic pause, Murphy’s life got busier. “With two kids in elementary school and one dealing with pivotal life stuff in high school, as well as increasing responsibilities at my day job, it’s impossible for me to devote the time required to meet my own standards,” he told OLY ARTS. “When I started Broadway Olympia, I hoped that I’d have built and developed a team by this point so that I could be less hands-on, but Covid literally ground that plan to a halt.”
Though he wasn’t able to build his own team, the energetic producer found one in Theater Artists Olympia. “It does feel bad that we never really got to where I wanted to be,” he said. “I am happy, though, when I look at the outcome. Part of Broadway Olympia’s mission was to create opportunities for performing artists in the community. TAO is going to focus on that and focus on bringing people in. That’s what this community needs. It feels like something has been achieved.”
Bujeaud agreed, pointing out that many of the spaces TAO and other companies once rented for shows are no longer available. Some have closed, some are too expensive, and some are too busy to host visiting productions. “It’s important that alternative theater is alive in this town,” she said. “We are more than happy to take this on so that can happen.”
Theater Artists Olympia, which is still restructuring after a long period of inactivity, is just beginning to work on plans for the space, she said. The group aims to resume hosting evenings of short works by local playwrights, as it did when it was in residence at The Midnight Sun downtown. “That’s the next step, Bujeaud said, “and then there are many different irons in the fire.”
And even as he announces his need for a time-out, Murphy has plans of his own. He’ll continue supporting TAO and its work in the black box, he said, acting as a liaison with the mall management and helping however he can. He also envisions producing small-scale shows if the right opportunities come along. “I never want to say never,” he said.
8 p.m. Feb. 16-18, 24 and 25 and March 2-4 and 2 p.m. Feb. 19 and 26 and March 5
Broadway Olympia Productions’ Black Box Theater, 625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia