“In the age of COVID, having 16 performances out of 16 planned performances, if you know the national landscape right now, you know that’s remarkable,” said Ty Sutton, president and CEO of Dayton Live. “‘Hamilton’ was a great success. Artistically, it’s a fantastic show and we were really glad it came to Dayton. And the response we’ve heard across the board has been very enthusiastic.”
Due to contractual issues with “Hamilton,” Sutton declined to comment on the exact financial boon Dayton Live received from the tour. Nonetheless, he said the numbers positively reflected high interest in the show, which likely bolstered surrounding businesses.
“We’re very pleased with overall sales and we had much more demand for tickets than tickets that were available,” he said. “And I know from experience these kinds of weeks bring a lot of people downtown. On social media, we saw a lot of places advertising ‘Hamilton’ drink specials and all sorts of things. So, I’m guessing business was very brisk.”
Wheat Penny Oven and Bar in the Oregon District is among the restaurants that appreciated the uptick. Located on Wayne Avenue across the street from the Dayton Theatre Guild, the establishment thrives on the downtown arts scene, particularly shows presented by Dayton Live.
“Schuster Center shows really influence every independent restaurant in downtown Dayton,” said Elizabeth Valenti, executive chef and partner at Wheat Penny Oven and Bar. “The buzz about ‘Hamilton’ really propelled us. I think people saw the opportunity to have a whole evening and really celebrate what this great city of Dayton can offer – great theater, great independent restaurants and great bar programs. I think people are really cognizant of the fact that we lost a great deal of time and money and energy to COVID, and people are ready to take that back.”
A significant hiccup surrounding “Hamilton” occurred Feb. 3 when the Miami Valley coped with the first major snowstorm of the season. In a rare move, Dayton Live offered patrons the opportunity to refund their tickets due to a Level 3 snow emergency in surrounding counties. However, the announcement came less than two hours before the 7:30 p.m. curtain. Still, Sutton said over 1,000 patrons attended.
“Anytime we have (bad) weather, we also have people who have come from far away to see the show who are already there in advance,” Sutton explained. “We have to take a lot of things into consideration for any storm or situation. But for this, we really tried to treat people the best way we could. We went on with the show. Almost 1,100 people were there in-person. We also offered refunds to anyone who couldn’t make it based on the weather conditions or their own personal experiences. And in that way, that was the best we could do.”
Looking ahead to the remainder of Dayton Live’s 2021-2022 season, Sutton is excited for the local premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” an emotional, social media-driven story of a teenager’s struggles with family, insecurity, loss and connection. The tour will be at the Schuster Center March 8-13. The organization also has tentative plans to announce its 2022-2023 season in April.
“We have a ton of first-time attendees, a lot of people are new season ticket holders, so I hope people are able to experience the depth and variety of the different shows we have,” he said.
“Obviously, ‘Hamilton’ is on such a grand scale, but ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is a much more intimate show. All of our shows are selling very well. In terms of how many tickets we have available for every show, we have sold more tickets at this point in this season overall than we probably have in any season we’ve ever had. It’s encouraging that people really want to come to a great variety of shows. It’s been rough for Dayton Live these past two years, so it was great to bring something like ‘Hamilton’ to uplift people,” Sutton said.