J.L. “Lynn” Singleton

J.L. “Lynn” Singleton, president of the Providence Performing Arts Center, must be doing something right.

The 3,100-seat theater remained empty for more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020. Shows by the dozens had to be canceled and uncertainty reigned about when performances would return.

That’s why Singleton was stunned when the theater sought subscription renewals last fall for its Broadway series – 80% of PPAC subscribers renewed. “It’s one of those things where people know us; people trust us,” he said. “I was very personally and professionally gratified by the loyalty.”

That’s what happens when you’ve been running a crown jewel of downtown Providence for four decades, as Singleton has.

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Long before the coronavirus crisis, Singleton has steered PPAC, a restored 1920s movie palace, through other milestone moments. That includes a major expansion of the backstage in the 1990s that allowed big shows such as “Phantom of the Opera” to play in Providence for the first time.

Back in the 1980s, Broadway producers would not open in Providence ahead of Boston. Now some shows kick off national tours in Providence, and Broadway road openings in particular are huge for Providence’s economy.

The most recent sensation was “Hamilton,” which drew 73,000 people during its run between July 23 and Aug. 11, 2019. PPAC estimated $3.5 million in direct spending in Providence and $7.6 million in secondary spending.

Looking to the future, Singleton is eager to develop future patrons. In March 2019, he announced the initiative Experience PPAC, which would provide every 10th grader in R.I. a chance to see a touring Broadway performance for free.