Fort Myers’ first dinner theatre company, Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, is celebrating its 30th anniversary, marking over three decades of Broadway caliber performances, exceptional service and community impact.
Broadway Palm is a family-owned and operated dinner theatre co-founded by Will Prather and his parents, Debbie and the late Tom Prather, who founded the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster, Pa., in 1987. Six years later, the Prather family opened Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers, bringing Broadway style shows and quality dining to Florida’s Gulf Coast. Breathing new life into an old Publix Supermarket, Broadway Palm made its debut in October 1993, transforming a 36,000-square-foot space into Fort Myers’ first dinner theatre company.
“Broadway Palm has been a dream come true for me and my family,” said Will Prather, owner and executive producer of Prather Productions. “We started with a vision of bringing a unique dining and entertainment experience to Fort Myers, and we have been blessed with the opportunity to do so for 30 years. We are grateful to our loyal patrons, talented staff and performers, and supportive community for making this milestone possible.”
Now a second-generation business, the premier dinner theatre has grown substantially through Prather Productions. The family production company runs Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre and Prather Touring, an international touring division that brings productions across the world. The combined companies entertain half a million guests annually and employ over 300 people, reaching audiences far and wide. Producing popular musicals like The Wizard of Oz, Chicago and Hairspray, the company’s touring arm is an international enterprise that has expanded Broadway Palm’s reach and reputation for world-class productions.
Today, Broadway Palm stands as a testament to the Prather family’s vision and hard work, becoming a cornerstone for the region’s arts and culture scene. Completing its 30th season, the theatre entertains over 170,000 guests annually and employs 175 people. The venue boasts a 382-seat dinner theatre, an 86-seat black box theatre, a dining room, a meeting room and gallery space. Each year, the theatre produces more than eight main stage shows, four children’s productions and more than 200 community functions, including business meetings, seminars, fundraisers and special events.
Serving as a source of economic growth in Southwest Florida, Broadway Palm has generated jobs, attracted tourism and stimulated local businesses. Its success is particularly notable given that it is the only self-funded theatre in town, maximizing growth without the support of investors, grants or other outside funding. A feat that speaks volumes about the company’s commitment, financial prudence and high quality of productions.
As part of Prather Productions, auditions are held throughout the year in Chicago and New York, as well as locally depending on casting needs. More than 300 local performers have appeared in Broadway Palm productions, in addition to many local adult actors and musicians. Scouting talent from across the country, Prather Productions also provides local housing for the cast while performing shows at Broadway Palm, contributing to dozens of new and unique residents for months at a time.
Beyond theatre, serving the community has been at the forefront of Broadway Palm over the past 30 years – from sponsoring local sports teams and charity events to hosting fundraisers and contributing in-kind donations. It has also served as an anchor in the community through challenging times, providing food, water and essential supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as hurricanes Irma and Ian.
Located in the Royal Palm Square Mall, Broadway Palm will be part of the planned redevelopment of the center with the mall’s recent change in ownership. The dinner theatre will continue its long-term tenancy as the property transforms into a mixed-use community, centered around cultural arts and quality of life.
As Broadway Palm looks toward its future, it remains dedicated to its mission to give back and entertain through a shared love of live theatre. To commemorate its 30th anniversary season, Broadway Palm is kicking it off with the Tony Award-winning musical, Hairspray, Broadway Palm’s biggest national show to date. Performances begin Sept. 22 and run through Oct. 28.
For more information on Broadway Palm or to purchase tickets, visit BroadwayPalm.com or call 239-278-4422.