Company manager Jose Solivan makes sure everything goes right for ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: “The Play That Goes Wrong” company manager Jose Solivan. (Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic)

The company manager for a national Broadway tour has a lot of responsibility.

“I’m basically the producer’s and the general manager’s representative on the road,” says Jose Solivan. “I deal with payroll, with travel, the housing, a lot of the marketing and advertising and playbill edit. I’m essentially HR, accounting, Mom and Dad, a shoulder to cry on.”

Solivan is the company manger for the national tour of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” a hugely popular show in where a fictional college drama society is putting on a fictitious murder mystery play where everything goes completely and terribly wrong.

“It’s kind of like if ‘Spamalot’ and Sherlock Holmes a baby,” Solivan says. “That would be ‘The Play That Goes Wrong.'”

“The Play That Goes Wrong” began in 2012 when Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields of the Mischief Theatre Company decided to write a play about all of the problems a theater company could have during a production and put them all into one show.

“The original players started the show in a pub in London,” Solivan says. “It started small and it grew and grew in popularity and now they have several different types of shows that go wrong including ‘Peter Pan That Goes Wrong,’ which is hilarious.”

Along with “The Play That Goes Wrong” and “Peter Pan That Goes Wrong,” Michief Theatre also penned “A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong,” “The Comedy About a Bank Robbery” and “Magic Goes Wrong” among others.

“The thing that’s so spectacular about this show, and the other ones they write, is how they are written for everybody,” Solivan says. ” It’s just fantastic comedy. It’s funny, it’s quick and anybody can enjoy it.”

While the comedy lands perfectly for all audiences, there is one group who the story of a play where everything that can go wrong does plays very nostalgically.

“If you have been a part of a theater production in any capacity, some of this is going to feel really familiar,” Solivan says, laughing. “I was collecting for Broadway Cares out front in the lobby at one performance and this woman came up to me and said the show reminded her of the time she did ‘Sweet Charity’ for a local theater troupe.

“She told me how one of the women in the show got injured but she refused not to go on and in the middle of the show she just popped onto the stage while her understudy was on the stage. She said this play took her back to a time she hadn’t thought about in years. I love that. I love hearing stories about audience members’ time on the stage and how this show sparks those memories.”

“The Play That Goes Wrong” will be stirring up memories and laughs for audiences in Central Florida during its run at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando Dec. 3-8. The show’s stop in Orlando is a bit of a homecoming for Solivan, who moved from New York to Orlando and lived with his partner for several years.

Jose Solivan. (Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic)

“[My boyfriend at the time] got a job at Disney World and we lived right off of Universal Blvd. I’m Puerto Rican and I loved how Orlando has such a wonderful Latino community and there is really amazing food everywhere.”

While he only lived in Orlando for a short time, Solivan says those few years were pivotal ones in his life.

“I sang with the Disney Encore Choir, I celebrated my 30th birthday at Pulse. Orlando is very special to me and I am so excited to get back and see a bunch of my friends that are still there,” he says. He also can’t wait to check out some of the local entertainment.

“One thing that I have to say about Orlando, there’s so much talent,” Solivan says. “There’s so many great singers. There’s so many great dancers, there are so many great actors. I mean, there is just so talent in that city. It’s insane.”

And Solivan knows talent. He was a performer himself before the opportunity to work behind the scenes came knocking.

“I was on a tour of ‘Oklahoma’ and my company manager for that show, the amazing David Jennings, he was going to do ‘Hairspray’ after ‘Oklahoma’ wrapped and he asked if I knew anybody who wanted to be a production assistant in New York for the rehearsals,” Solivan recalls. “I said, ‘Let me do it, I need to do it, I don’t have a gig,’ and he was like, ‘It’s not performing, it’s admin work. It’s very different.’ I said, ‘No, I need to do that. I need the job.'”

After the rehearsal process they kept him on as the assistant company manager of “Hairspray” and the rest is history. Solivan has now worked on nearly 20 tours including “The Producers,” “RENT,” “The Color Purple,” “Anything Goes” and more.

“I’ve been very, very fortunate, and I don’t take for granted the opportunities I’ve had,” Solivan says. “As a gay, Hispanic, Latino person of color who has a job that is in a position of authority and leadership, I think it’s really important to show yourself and show kids who may think they can’t be a part of a touring theater show, or may not know that positions like a company manager even exist, that they can do this too.”

“The Play That Goes Wrong” runs Dec. 3-8 at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando. Tickets start at $44.50 and are available at DrPhillipsCenter.org.

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