Colleen Jennings-Rogensack is celebrating two decades as the top chief for Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium.
Jennings-Rogensack, the sole Tony Awards voter in Arizona, said so much has changed since her tenure as the executive director, including Gammage being financially independent from ASU for 11 years.
“It doesn’t feel like 20 years at all, when I look back on it all,” she said. “We were in a bad financial position when I first took over, but everything turned around.”
In addition, Jennings-Rogensack built Gammage Auditorium into one of the top theaters to house Broadway national tours. The organization has pumped more than $3.5 million into the state’s economy since she began work there.
Gammage also created a number of partnerships and programs in the community, such as Camp Broadway and other social projects.
Jennings-Rogensack said she’s looking forward to the future.
“I see us having deeper relationships in our community,” she said. “And we want to continue to be committed to our goals that access excellence along with innovation and impact.”
In the coming years, she also hopes to have Gammage audiences embrace Broadway plays more, just as they have with musicals.
For several years, Jennings-Rogensack has been a Tony voter and travels to New York to see shows, many of which she books for national tours at Gammage.
This year’s Tony Awards air Sunday on CBS KPHO Channel 5.
She’s watched more than 36 shows this season and recently cast her ballot for several standouts, hoping for them to become tours.
Many people have asked her if there were any breakout hits.
“Was there a ‘Book of Mormon’ or ‘Wicked’? No, but the season was still fun,” Jennings-Rogensack said.
One of her favorites is “Once,” a stage adaptation of the film about two musicians, one Czech and the other a Dubliner, who fall in love. The musical, which is nominated for Best Musical, features the Academy Award-winning song “Falling Slowly” along with new material and other tunes from the soundtrack.
“I’ve seen some great things, but I absolutely love ‘Once’ and I’ve seen it twice,” she said. “It’s such a sweet musical that gets us away from the bells and whistles of the ‘theme park musical’ that we’re used to.”
“Newsies,” also nominated for Best Musical and a movie-turned-musical, is another crowd pleaser, according to the Tony voter.
“I definitely expect for our audiences to love a show like that, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a national tour finds itself on the road,” Jennings-Rogensack said.
More than anything, she’s excited about the plays on Broadway, including Tracie Bennett’s turn as the tragic Judy Garland in “End of the Rainbow.”
“She was so fantastic, and it wasn’t an impersonation,” she said. “I really felt like she was Judy Garland on stage.”
Jennings-Rogensack said Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman shines as Willy Loman in the Broadway revival of “Death of a Salesman.”
“It was one of those performances in the last 10 years that I’ll never forget and look back on and say that I’m so glad I was in the audience,” she said.
Many of this season’s shows won’t make it as tours, but Jennings-Rogensack believes quite a few will make it across the country.
“It was a solid year in New York for theater, and I can’t wait for our folks here to see some of that,” she said.