From left to right: Garett Hawe performs as Tommy Djilas, Julia Udine as Marian Paroo and James Snyder as Harold Hill in the 2023 Broadway At Music Circus production of “The Music Man” at the UC Davis Health Pavilion. (Photo by Charr Crail, courtesy of Music Circus)

What’s On Tap at Music Circus?

A season of Broadway favorites comes to Sacramento’s beloved musical theater-in-the-round

Back Web Only May 28, 2024 By Cathy Cassinos

The question “What’s on tap at Music Circus?” could not be more appropriate than it is this year. The 2024 season of the beloved musical theater-in-the-round, a more than 70-year-old Sacramento tradition, kicks off June 11 with “42nd Street,” a vintage favorite and a veritable vehicle for tap dancing.

“Our audience has an affinity for tap dancing, so that’s how we wanted to start the season,” says Scott Klier, president and CEO of Broadway Sacramento, a title he assumed last July when the company’s longtime leader, Richard Lewis, retired. Though he’s only been top dog a short while, Klier — who held practically every position on the Music Circus masthead, from student intern to producing artistic director, while rising up the ranks — has long been in charge of choosing each season’s titles as well as its casts, spending a month in New York each year for that purpose. 

Klier’s spacious office in the Broadway Sacramento suite on J Street has a big picture window facing Memorial Auditorium — an appropriate spot for a guy making big-picture decisions. But there are also a zillion logistical considerations when launching a summer-long season of musical theater, and Klier, given his long history in the trenches, has likely encountered them all. 

Case in point: The decision to place “42nd Street” at the start of the season had only partly to do with the show’s popularity, Klier says. Production challenges were also a factor. “The show has one huge production number after another, so it needed to be in the front of the season because we’re able to devote more rehearsal time to it,” Klier says. Once the six-show season gets underway, he explains, there’s only a week between shows to prepare for the next one.

Scott Klier is the CEO and president of Broadway Sacramento. (Photo by Kevin Graft, courtesy of Music Circus)

Looking at this year’s lineup, which ranges from classics to modern fare such as “Waitress,” one wonders what kind of balance Klier and his team are trying to strike when concocting each summer’s cocktail of shows — a mix that will, if things go right, keep the old-timers happy as well as the young and the hip.

For the 2024 season, that mix includes four Music Circus premieres — “The SpongeBob Musical” (June 25-30), “Sunset Boulevard” (July 23-28), “Waitress” (August 6-11) and “Jersey Boys” (August 20-September 1) — and two oldies but goodies, “42nd Street” (June 11-16) and “Fiddler on the Roof” (July 9-14). But Klier says the formula used to be just the opposite, with the emphasis on old familiar shows rather than new ones.

“Back in my early days with Music Circus, there would typically be four classics and only a couple of premieres,” he says. “But the feedback from the audience was that they wanted new shows, so that’s our new focus,” he says. ‘New’ doesn’t necessarily mean the shows themselves are new, he explains; it just means they’re new to Music Circus. “Sunset Boulevard,” for example, debuted on Broadway 20 years ago. 

Variety is also a huge consideration, Klier says, as well as show content, casting needs and technical needs, which in the case of a theater-in-the-round like Music Circus can be especially tricky business. “It’s a complicated process to come up with these titles,” he says. 

Equally complicated is the casting process, which every year draws a sea of headshots from hopeful performers. This year, the number of submissions swelled to 27,000, according to Klier. “The demand to work here is overwhelming,” he says. “I think the best in this industry want to be here because they feel appreciated. It’s not just the experience this company provides; it’s the performing experience that our audience provides. The energy in that room is unlike any other place.”

Each and every submission is considered, Klier says, before whittling the crop down to the couple thousand who will actually audition. Most of the casting is done in New York, and some in Los Angeles and Sacramento. While Klier is not at liberty to name names at this juncture, this season’s casts will include some locals as well as Sacramento natives who are now based elsewhere, he says.

Klier, a Sacramento native himself, was also based elsewhere for a while. He was only 23 when he moved to New York, where he built a career as a stage manager on Broadway. “I went there thinking I’d stay three months, and three months turned into 10 years,” he says. When “Sunset Boulevard” makes its Music Circus premiere this July, it will mark a bit of a full circle moment for Klier, who worked on the original 1994 Broadway production starring Glenn Close. 

As heady as that was, Klier still smiles when describing his humble beginnings with Music Circus as a 19-year-old intern, slogging away in what’s now nostalgically referred to as “the tent” — the canvas structure that served as the theater’s home until 2003, when the new, fully modern (and blessedly air-conditioned) venue at 15th and H streets opened.

The tent was where it all began in 1951, when Russell Lewis (former CEO Richard’s father) and partner Howard Young debuted Music Circus as the first professional musical theater-in-the-round west of the Mississippi. Today, Broadway Sacramento is the city’s oldest professional performing arts organization and the largest nonprofit musical theater company in California, entertaining an estimated 250,000+ patrons every year, 

Though it all falls under one umbrella, Broadway Sacramento encompasses two distinctly different operations: Broadway at Music Circus and Broadway on Tour. While Music Circus shows are uniquely created and produced only in Sacramento, Broadway on Tour shows, which happen in the off-season, are just what they sound like: Touring Broadway productions. Importantly, they also inhabit different venues, with Broadway on Tour shows produced at SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center at 13th and L Streets and Music Circus at the UC Davis Health Pavilion at 15th and H.

The Music Circus company performed the musical “Ragtime” at the UC Davis Health Pavilion in 2023. (Photo by Charr Crail, courtesy of Music Circus)

The capacity of the two venues is roughly the same — just under 2,200 seats. But that is where the similarity ends, as Klier points out. “The theatergoing experience is great in both places, but very different between them,” he says. 

It’s the intimacy of the theater-in-the-round, with a seating configuration that brings the audience closer to the stage, that makes the Music Circus experience so extraordinary, Klier says. “The theater-in-the-round really gets to the core of what we do,” he says. While there are technical limitations — it’s hard to create “A Chorus Line” in the round, as Klier says, or a show with big scenic effects — the advantages, he says, more than compensate. “You can use all kinds of jaw-dropping technical devices and effects,” Klier says. “But in the end, what it all boils down to is the actors and the material and their relationship with the audience. And that’s what the UC Davis Health Pavilion does better than any other venue I’ve known.”

The audience seems to agree. Not only does Music Circus continue to draw generation upon generation of loyal patrons, but it survived the COVID-19 pandemic despite going dark for two seasons in 2020 and 2021. 

It took a while for people to feel comfortable coming back to the theater. But things rebounded strongly in 2023, Klier says, with Music Circus attendance just shy of 90 percent. “Last year felt like the Music Circus of old,” he says. Klier is optimistic, he says, that business will be equally robust for the 2024 season.

“It’s a lot of good news, and it has to stay that way — otherwise, we will be in trouble,” Klier says. With an annual operating budget in the ballpark of $20 million, Broadway Sacramento, he says, is “a thriving business. But we could sell every seat in the house and still lose money. We’re a nonprofit for a reason.”

They’re also in it for a reason. 

“Nobody gets in this business to make a lot of money,” Klier says. “We do it for a love of the artform and a love of our community. And that’s what we have in abundance here.”

For more information about Music Circus and Broadway Sacramento, visit

Music Circus 2024 at a glance

We asked Scott Klier, president and CEO of Broadway Sacramento, to offer his thoughts about each show in Music Circus’ 2024 lineup. Here’s what he had to say.

June 11-16 “42nd Street”

“Our audience has an affinity for tap dancing, so that’s how we wanted to start the season. The show is one huge production number after another, so we’re starting off with a bang.”

June 25-30 “The Spongebob Musical”

“It might be misconstrued as a children’s title, and it’s certainly family friendly, but it has a lot to offer adults. It’s great storytelling, and highly theatrical. I went to see the Broadway production with no expectations, and I found it to be a pure delight.”

July 9-14 “Fiddler on the Roof”

“There are a lot of reasons to tell that story today, and it is a show that our audience has a great affinity for. It is near perfect in its construction. I’m thrilled it’s in the lineup.”

July 23-28 “Sunset Boulevard”

“This show is very different from the other five. It has a noir-esque quality to it. It has this lush Andrew Lloyd Webber score, and it’s a show that’s challenging to translate to the round. The original Broadway production was enormous in its scale, and that’s not what we do at Music Circus, but we’ve found a way to tell the story with less — and I think it might be better that way.”

August 6-11 “Waitress”

“‘Waitress' is from the great mind of Sara Bareilles, who is an amazing songwriter. It’s a very moving story, and it’s a fan favorite as well. I think it speaks especially to young women in a way that few shows can, and it does so quite beautifully.”

August 20-September 1 “Jersey Boys”

“'Jersey Boys' is a great time and a seamless musical. It carries you through with this great momentum — not only this amazing canon of pop favorites, but also the stories of these everyday Jersey kids finding each other and finding this sound, with Frankie Valli at the forefront of that, and how their lives kind of exploded in fame and success, and all the challenges that go with it. I think the show does an amazing job of telling their stories.”

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