Showtune Productions Brings Regional Artists and Beloved Music to the CCA
I sat down on one of the benches in the south hall with JR McAlexander, owner, executive producer and genius behind local stage company Showtune Productions. Sunlight is streaming through the double doors and we are hoping we have found a quiet corner in the CCA so we can record our conversation for the Backstage at the Center podcast as well.
He tells me he started his career 30 years ago, touring with Broadway shows, including eight national touring companies. Then he was offered a position to oversee productions at three theatres for Prather Productions which included Broadway Palms in Arizona, Florida, and Dutch Apple in Pennsylvania. This experience let him expand into his own business and in 2010 he started offering the entertainment quality he saw that people wanted through his own production company.
“The first show was a Patsy Cline Tribute that was better than anything else I had ever seen on in the area,” says McAlexander. “Monica Heuser had done three national tours of ALWAYS PATSY CLINE so we created her own show that we brought it to Arizona Broadway Theatre. It was one of their top selling shows there.”
Just as we begin to delve into what he is bringing to the Chandler Center for the Arts this season, the doors to the Hal Bogle Theatre swing open and the tech team is starting to load in Run Boy Run for a performance later that day.
We move into seats in the main stage where they are starting to get things ready for Boney James, performing the next day. We have just started to talk about Best of Broadway coming to the CCA on New Year’s Eve when Bill, lighting coordinator for the CCA, starts the turntable so the seats that make up the back rows on the south side of the main theatre can populate the Hal Bogle Theatre.
We take a rare E ticket ride as the theatre turns 180 degrees. We talk about Broadway musicals and then take our leave to another part of the Center. We finish the interview in a green room that is down a set of stairs below the theatre and at the end of a long hallway.
“Best of Broadway is my favorite show out of the 25 that I produce,” says McAlexander. “We have some of the best vocalists in the Valley performing with a 10-piece orchestra, singing songs from My Fair Lady, Hair, Godspell, Jersey Boys, Mama Mia! and Carole King’s Beautiful.”
Presented on the main stage, Best of Broadway is the CCA’s New Year’s Eve celebration on Friday, December 31, complete with a champagne toast, party favors, photo booth, free gift, and balloon drop. All these perks are only the icing on a cake that includes the incredible voices of Kristen Drathman and Jamie Parnell, as well as Kaitlynn and Jordan Bluth.
The CCA is also presenting three additional performances from Showtune Productions for its Showtime Series – Legendary Ladies of Soul (January 23), You’ve Got a Friend: Songs of Carole King and James Taylor (February 3), and Wonderful Crazy Night: A New Elton John Tribute (March 13). Starring regional artists with powerhouse voices, performances produced by McAlexander are some of the most popular matinees at the CCA.
“Legendary Ladies of Soul is a lot of fun,” says McAlexander. “Three amazing singers with a six-piece rock band, performing gospel, disco and Motown standards from artists like Etta James, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin.”
When we get to the Carole King and James Taylor show – You’ve Got a Friend, McAlexander’s eyes get wide and he sports a giant grin.
“You know, Carole King wrote a lot of songs. She was one of the writers who would churn out songs at the Brill Building in Manhattan in the ‘50s,” he says. “She was the author of songs like, ‘Natural Woman,’ ‘One Fine Day,’ and ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’”
“It wasn’t until Tapestry that she wrote and sang her own songs,” adds McAlexander. “And, what can you say about James Taylor? His music speaks for itself. All of this is performed by two amazing vocalists – Kristen Drathman and Kyle Sorrell – with a six-piece band.”
Wonderful Crazy Night stars the incredibly talented Colte Julian. McAlexander saw him perform in Million Dollar Quartet in Las Vegas, playing the part of Jerry Lee Lewis.
“Colte was doing a rehearsal and started playing the piano, singing Elton John,” says McAlexander. “He was remarkable! I told him we needed to do an Elton John tribute show. We premiered the show your audience will be seeing at the Apollo Theatre in Chicago.”
In 2020, when the pandemic closed theatres, McAlexander had 22 productions ready to tour. Luckily, one of the shows was a tribute to Johnny and June Cash that played with 90 sold-out performances in Kansas City. He also had an Elvis tribute show in Kansas City that sold out 80 performances at that same theatre.
“But, I was blessed,” says McAlexander. “I started directing music for a church, arranging and recording music videos for services each week. I also started teaching at University of Arizona.”
Now, McAlexander is back to what he does so well. He is currently, writing and arranging music for a show called, “Rockin’ Rewind,” which features music from the ‘60s to present day.
“The new show will feature music from Adele, Queen, Journey, Black-Eyed Peas,” says McAlexander. “I am currently writing this show now, doing the musical arrangements, and rehearsing the music. I am also looking at doing a tribute to Glen Campbell in the future.”
As a youth growing up in Iowa, McAlexander’s first concert was in the ‘80s while he was in high school. He went to Lincoln, Nebraska, to see Styx.
Of all the Broadway shows he has worked on, what is his favorite? “There are two that come to mind. The Wedding Singer was a lot of fun to do. But, artistically, the best show was Sundays in the Park with George.”
Tickets are now on sale for all four of the shows mentioned in the interview. Visit the links below to purchase tickets or contact the box office at 480-782-2680. If you want to see all of the shows in the Showtime Series, save $6 on each ticket and purchase a series package online or over the phone.
Take a listen to the Backstage at the Center episode that was recorded for the Voices of Chandler podcast during this interview