BWW Interview: The McCallum's President/CEO Mitch Gershenfeld Talks Upcoming 2018-19 Season And More

BWW Interview: The McCallum's President/CEO Mitch Gershenfeld Talks Upcoming 2018-19 Season And More

The McCallum Theatre recently announced its new lineup as it begins its fourth decade of presenting world-class artists and entertainers for Coachella Valley audiences. The new season includes McCallum debuts, iconic superstars, family-friendly entertainment, holiday sensations, and an outstanding roster of Broadway favorites including Jersey Boys, Spamalot and Something Rotten. I had the opportunity to catch up with McCallum President and CEO, Mitch Gershenfeld, to reflect on a very successful 2017-18 season and to get his thoughts on the blockbuster season ahead. (I will say at the start, I am a big fan of Mr. Gershenfeld for consistently bringing diverse and high-quality entertainment to desert audiences and for his constant optimism and positive energy.) Here are a few excerpts from our interview:

DG: How would you sum up the overall 2017-18 performance season in one sentence?

MG: We've had another extraordinary season, filled with exquisite performances and appreciative audiences.

DG: What production do you think was the "audience favorite" for the 2017-18 season, and did that surprise you or was that your expectation?

MG: Kinky Boots was definitely an audience favorite. I was a bit surprised at not only how quickly it sold out, but by the incredibly enthusiastic audiences.

DG: You offer such a bold and eclectic presenting season each year -- how do you select the performance menu for desert audiences?

MG: It's a combination of factors. Part of it is what shows are available in our short timeframe. I am offered lots of shows in July and August, but that's not when our audience is here. Beyond that, I am looking for a variety of performers that have one thing in common - quality.

DG: How do you select the performances that will be included in the MITCH'S PICKS series??

MG: I have the great pleasure of traveling around the world and seeing a lot of artists. I also spend a lot of time on YouTube exploring new artists. And I think about half of the Mitch's Picks come from artists I have seen and half from ones I have only seen online. But there are so many wonderfully talents artists out there and I am so happy that people trust me to bring some talent that they would not otherwise be able to see. And we've introduced artists that we have brought back because of the demand.

DG: Was there a particular performance that was surprising to you in how it was received by desert audiences this season?

MG: MozART Group was a delightful surprise. It's a classical string quartet that does physical comedy. We had a much larger audience than I expected, and they loved the show. I thought they were so good that I helped them get management in New York so we could have them back in 2020.

DG: Do you have a favorite production from the 2017-18 Season?

MG: I have to say that Bill Murray was certainly one of my favorites this season. His choice of poetry and prose, plus his singing and dancing was spot on. What an amazingly talented individual.

DG: With more people living in, and visiting, the desert year round -- do you ever anticipate lengthening the performance season (starting earlier or running later) and/or adding any summer offerings on The McCallum stage?

MG: We have certainly tried going earlier and later than the regular season. It works when you have an extraordinary performer like Steve Martin or kd lang, but we will only do shows out of the season if the artist warrants that.

DG: Talk about your self-produced production of West Side Story In Concert? How would you rate its' success? What were the pitfalls of producing rather than presenting? Is this something you will do again?

MG: Producing is something the McCallum is not physically set up to do. So it becomes really difficult to free the stage for any kind of rehearsal time. I was very pleased with West Side Story and thought Chad Hilligus put together the best cast I have ever seen, even on Broadway. We will do another project only if and when it makes sense to do so.

DG: Talk about the 2018-19 performance season. What performance/production are you particularly excited about offering next season?

MG: Of course, I am always excited about some of the artists who come here on a consistent basis, and The TEN Tenors are one of my favorites. But there are a few new things like Savion Glover and the Broadway musical Something Rotten that are really fun to have on the season. And I am very excited about Michael Feinstein and Storm Large together. I think that is an incredible combination of talent!

DG: It appears that the Broadway Series offerings have been expanded. Is that due to the demand by McCallum audiences?

MG: Broadway is one of the cornerstones of our programming at the McCallum Theatre. There is always great demand for our Broadway offerings, and we're really the only venue in town that can handle big touring productions that need a large stage and fly loft.

DG: What would you say has been the most highly acclaimed and/or successful production or performance in your tenure at The McCallum?

MG: There was a time when Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were the most popular and longstanding act at the McCallum. But in recent years, The TEN Tenors have taken over that spot. We've sold out 30 performances and look forward to six more in the new season.

Tickets for the 2018-19 season go on sale Monday, April 16 at 8am at the McCallum Theatre Box Office, 73000 Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert, by phone at 760-340-2787 or online at

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