Conner clears his channel for Columbus

Legit exec sez good drama, timing boost road

Southbury, CONN. — Bullish about the road, William B. Conner Jr. has a new job.

At the end of August, Conner wrapped up his three years as president of Clear Channel Entertainment Boston, a one-city position, and headed to the Midwest to become president and CEO of the Columbus Assn. for the Performing Arts, a three-city gig (Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; and New Haven, Conn.) that from time to time can encompass three additional Ohio cities (Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo).

And why is Conner so optimistic about the road? Two reasons.

“First,” he says, “we’ve enjoyed a real renaissance of good drama in New York, plays such as ‘Wit,’ ‘Proof,’ ‘The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife’ and ‘Dinner With Friends,’ that have gone on to do well on the road.”

With such plays, Conner believes, the road has learned that as long as a play is good, it

doesn’t matter whether it comes from Broadway or Off Broadway.

“Second, we’re really living in the moment on the road right now where musicals are concerned, there are such a lot of good ones out there,” he continues, citing “The Lion King,” “Mamma Mia!” and “The Producers” and, waiting in the wings, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hairspray.” Conner sees the road as at its best since the heyday of the fabulously long runs of touring productions of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Conner will by no means be completely severing his relationship with Clear Channel: The legit org already has an ongoing relationship with CAPA as the primary presenter of touring Broadway product in Columbus at CAPA venues through Clear Channel’s Broadway in Columbus series.

This relationship also will benefit CAPA in its running of New Haven’s Shubert Theater, which CAPA took over slightly more than a year ago and the administrative operations of which are headed by CAPA vice president John Fisher.

Conner himself will be on the road a lot in his new CAPA job. He has seldom sat still throughout his career.

Tony McLean replaces Conner in Boston. Currently completing two years as vice president of domestic touring for Disney Theatrical Prods., McLean has been chosen by Clear Channel to be the next president of its Broadway in Boston, effective Sept. 30.

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