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Update March 17: This show has been canceled.
Yesterday morning, I received a press release that probably would not have existed last year. Or ever. The subject line read: “I.M.P. PRESENTS MORRISSEY AT THE NATIONAL THEATRE.”
Yes, yes, I know, Moz just played Strathmore back in January. But this is still pretty big news—-for National Theatre as well as I.M.P., the Bethesda-based company that operates 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavilion. Why? Morrissey’s gig on April 5 will be the first time I.M.P. has produced a show at the historic downtown theater. What’s more, it’s another sign that the National Theatre is getting serious about bouncing back. For decades, the facility sat closed for weeks on end, dusting off its curtains only for the occasional touring musical. But recently, the 178-year-old theater has begun to show new signs of life.
In 2011, City Paper‘s former Housing Complex columnist Lydia DePillis asked whether the National Theatre could ever be revived. Its outlook was improving: The theater had picked up a new executive director, Tom Lee, and its 30-year management contract with New York’s Shubert Organization was due to expire in less than a year. When it finally did, National Theatre snapped up two new managers, Philadelphia’s SMG and Chicago’s JAM Theatricals, Ltd. That could have been the game-changer National needed.
Lee says consistent programming has “been part of the mission for a number of years, but has not been the case entirely.” In 2011, the director told City Paper the Shubert Organization hadn’t figured out a way to keep the theater in regular business. Now, he says, National is advancing and broadening its mission to include “artistic performances,” like Morrissey, in addition to Broadway shows. He says he’s especially interested in working with local promoters like The Birchmere and I.M.P., and that he’d been in talks with I.M.P. Chairman Seth Hurwitz in the last year or so about eventually producing a show at the theater.
The Morrissey show announcement comes a little more than a month after National Theatre hosted one of its first “comeback” shows: Bryan Adams on Jan. 26. When asked whether he’s looking forward to keeping National’s doors open, Lee says yes, absolutely. “We think that it’s important that this theater serve Washington, D.C.”
Tickets for Morrissey’s April 5 show at National Theatre go on sale Friday, March 8 at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster and at the 9:30 Club, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and National Theatre box offices.
Photo by Erica Bruce