The Show’s The Thing

The Flagler Auditorium’s 2022-2023 Season is finally in sight. Who will shine on this year’s stage, and how does the Flagler Auditorium staff, led by Director Amelia Fulmer, turn a blank slate into a full plate of “can’t wait to attend” performances?
That journey begins when she explores next season’s available “pro” shows during bi-weekly Zoom meetings and agent conferences of the Florida Professional Presenters Consortium. Amelia shares the initial roster options with a sounding board of advisors: members of the Auditorium Governing Board who have volunteered to serve on a Selection Committee.
When interest is expressed to Amelia, “she will then establish a contract price and furnish that information along with a short video for the committee members to review,” says Auditorium Governing Board V.P. Priscilla Netts. “We provide her with feedback: positive, negative or neutral.” They continue to work closely together over the course of several meetings to establish a roster for the coming season.
Because an Auditorium mission is to encompass arts education, Amelia strives to ensure the schedule includes performances that achieve that goal. So she is very enthusiastic about this season’s addition of “Sleeping Beauty” by The National Ballet of Ukraine. Additionally, local dance students of all ages will audition to be included in the internationally professional performance.
Of course, the “bottom line” is a major consideration when building the season schedule. Amelia makes verbal agreements for show’s various costs, but cautions, “some are so expensive that if we don’t pack the house, we might barely break even or even lose money.”
Many bands like to reduce expenses and time on the road by “routing” the tours, which can provide savings for both the artists and the venues. Agents loosely plan a regional route their artists prefer, then contact the theaters in that loop to assess their interest. When the logistics work, the tour costs are spread across more locations in fewer days, a savings which results in lower artists’ fees for the venues.
This season the Auditorium gained an inadvertent bonus from routing. “Unless we have a last minute cancellation, we’re always working a year in advance. So I was attempting to schedule “One Night of Queen” for the 2023-24 season,” Amelia explains.
“Suddenly they had to rework their routed South Florida schedule due to a cancellation, so they offered us November 30th this year straight from Ft. Lauderdale.” To be first regionally to present “One Night of Queen” this autumn (far in advance of their May 2023 show at the Florida Theater) should be a boost for sales and exciting for the audience.
Even after taking advantage of cost cutting and cautious scheduling, calculating the expense of a performance includes more than just the artist’s asking price. Amelia and the agent negotiate that amount, but the contract riders must be scrutinized closely for other requests. “The need for specialized equipment could add $10,000 in costs,” Amelia explains. “Jack must be sure the act and equipment can fit on the Auditorium stage, but also determine at what cost.”
Auditorium Tech Director Jack Neiberlein comments with a laugh, “Don’t fall for the popular belief that contract riders are just about the requested color of the artists’ M&Ms!” Assisted by Cole Sever, Jack analyzes every detail from staging requirements to specific lighting, sound, and power needs. The cost Amelia referred to is often associated with “backline demands” that occur when instruments are requested. If they can’t be fulfilled from the very good selection on hand, Jack turns to Orlando Backline for estimates on instrumental rental and delivery and sometimes picks items up himself to save money.
Jack points out that there are also abundant cost savings thanks to the talents and labor of FPCHS Guild members. Students assist in all areas: sound, lights, stage creation, costuming, and “roadie” equipment set-up/break-down duties. His seasoned, well-trained Guild students always win the appreciation of the oft-surprised tour crews.
With the contract riders’ challenges noted and adaptive costs added, Amelia finishes a pro forma spreadsheet for her advisory board, projecting potentials for loss or profit. Priscilla describes the Selection Committee situation, “The most challenging part is being able to provide entertainment that the public will like and that the auditorium can afford.”
With both budgeting and “entertaining the public” in mind, future audiences are key. Amelia notes that our area is experiencing a dynamic change as audiences that have always enjoyed 50s and early 60s music are beginning to shift more toward late 60s and 70s groups. The task is to figure out how to reach these audiences to help the potential newcomers “discover” the Auditorium.
To that end, a few shows from the latter eras are now being included. Amelia and the Selection Committee hope that the calculated risk of scheduling “outside the box” will pay off as happened with (Eagles Tribute Band) “Hotel California.” The group developed a great following here and have transformed fans into recurring attendees.
Any risk in that approach is hopefully minimized by the incredible level of skill and musical talent of today’s professional tribute bands. This season that includes “Hotel California”, “Rumours” performing Fleetwood Mac, plus the Doobie Brothers Tribute “What a Fool Believes,” and of course, the exceedingly popular “One Night of Queen.”
Amelia laments that misunderstanding these groups can result in lukewarm sales, until ticket-buyers actually attend a pro show. “People assume tribute acts are just impersonators. But these are artists, some with music degrees, who have spent their lives in this full-time job of training, rehearsing, studying and saluting the legends.” Amelia adds, “Most of the time, tributes tell the artist’s story with accompanying video, while singing you through their lives.”
The Cher Tribute is a multi-media presentation. And like Cher, Lisa McClowry arrives with a rack of Bob Mackie (copied) costumes, and a full band. Also returning this year is “Always…Patsy Cline.” What differentiates this performance from those in smaller venues is the full 8-piece band. Portrayed by Misty Rowe (Hee Haw, Happy Days) “this Patsy plays a real steel guitar that creates that real Grand Ole Opry type sound,” explains Amy. “It’s actually a play. But she sings over 20 songs, so you know even though it is a music tribute, it is also a life story.”
The return of “Always… Patsy Cline” is just one example of how the Selection Committee also strives to satisfy their core audiences by bringing back perennial Flagler favorites. And no one knows more about these artists and groups than “Back of the House” Coordinator Elaine Gonsalves. She enthusiastically handles the artist’s off-stage needs, provides or offers tips to lodging, food, comfort, and downtime activities. She loves welcoming back old favorites whose preferences are already as known to her as the tunes they perform.
Elaine estimates that over a third of this season’s shows are time-honored friends of the Auditorium, and especially looks forward to Ted Torres Martin’s return as Elvis.
“He works out of Vegas and is one of the best.” Elaine says, “You close your eyes to listen, and will swear it is Elvis. He has been here before and shared the stage, but this year he will be by himself. He’s that good.” Elaine also eagerly anticipates the Bee Gees Tribute with their catchy memorable tunes with the twist of hearing the music performed by a different troupe of pros. This season it will be the renowned New York Bee Gees and she can’t wait to hear the differences.
The Auditorium’s premier Encore Band is multiple Award-Winning Bronx Wanderers who Elaine says, “got their start here and always return home here.” After performing classic 50’s through 70’s rock & roll sets, as they depart the Auditorium to resume their Las Vegas Residency, there are always calls of “Bye Elaine. See you next year.”
The season also celebrates returnees: Rocky & the Rollers, The Jive Aces, Celtic Angels Christmas, The Hit Men, and Steve Solomon, the rare non-musical act, known locally for his show: “My Mom’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m In Therapy.” The comedian will bring the same humor “Home for the Holidays” this December.
The event Elaine is most passionate about features both an encore, a tribute band and a cause: Breast Cancer. On October 15th “Pat & Pink — A Salute to Women” returns to the Auditorium to perform as part of AdventHealth Palm Coast Foundation’s annual Pink Army events to raise funds for breast cancer survival.
Amelia plans to introduce select participants of the previous Sunday’s “Pink on Parade 5K” and also spotlight stories of how breast cancer impacts so many lives. Elaine emphasizes that all funds raised for breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment “will assist women right here in our local community.” The Foundation’s John Subers and Pam Bolter add that zero dollars are spent on administration costs.
Like last year, local women’s groups will be invited to share information about their missions with attendees prior to the Rockin’ songs of Pat Benatar and Pink. Another bonus will be the Auditorium “Coming Attractions” previews – and the Box Office will be open. Can’t wait? Go to, call 386-437-7547, or stop by the Auditorium to learn the ins, outs and perks of the Supporters and Subscription programs. Member donations are always welcome. Support the arts.
— Teri Pruden