Inside Broadway Across America’s 2024 Conference as ‘Purple Rain,’ Alicia Keys and More Make Their Pitch to the Theater Industry

Things kicked off with Alicia Keys singing the galvanic ode to the five boroughs, “Empire State of Mind,” and ended with Pete Townshend rocking out to “Pinball Wizard.”

Those performances were the type of flashy showcases that greeted guests of Broadway Across America’s 2024 conference, a closed-to-press event that highlights both new productions that are bound for the Great White Way, as well as shows that are about to kick off national tours. The biannual gathering has been a staple of the theatrical calendar for 30 years, but this was its first post-COVID edition, and it comes as the theater business has yet to fully recapture its pre-pandemic stride. The 250 attendees include investors, producers and booking agents, hoping to get a sense of the theater season to come, as well as the tours that could be headed to their cities. Keys was on hand in Miami, where the conference was held, to hawk “Hell’s Kitchen,” her semi-autobiographical musical that opens on Broadway this spring, while Townshend was promoting the upcoming revival of “The Who’s Tommy.”

More from Variety

Lauren Reid, president of the John Gore Organization, which produces the BAA conference, said that the program highlighted 16 new shows, double the usual number. She saw that as evidence that business is booming in the live event space after a challenging period.

“I don’t think you could walk away from this conference and feel anything other than optimistic about the kind of creativity that’s happening both on stage and behind the scenes,” she said.

Greg Nobile, the producer of upcoming shows like the Jeremy Strong-led revival of “Enemy of the People” and the buzzy new drama “Stereophonic,” praised the event as “…a rare moment for the industry to gather, commune, commiserate, inspire and scheme ‘off campus’ in a beautiful place and just be together.”

Attendees enjoyed presentations from Broadway-bound shows such as “The Lost Boys,” which brought out The Rescues, the rock group that wrote its music and lyrics, as well as “The Notebook,” an adaptation of the hit romantic drama. There were also discussions with the creative teams behind shows like “Purple Rain,” a stage show based on the hit Prince movie, and “Swept Away,” a musical about the survivors of a maritime disaster that features music from the Avett Brothers. The cast of “Buena Vista Social Club,” an off-Broadway hit that is expected to move to Broadway, also performed several numbers.

“We really try to showcase new talent and new works, as well as celebrate veteran artists,” says Reid.

The conference also included panel discussions on the use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, along with helpful tips from executives in the music and sports worlds about how to attract ticket buyers and better engage with fans.

“It’s a good way to get a better understanding of how to make more meaningful connections with our customers and to help grow our audience,” says Reid.

Here are exclusive images featuring Keys, “Buena Vista Social Club,” the Avett Brothers, and Townshend, all of them taken by photographer Emilio Madrid.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.