Kelley Shanley, the president and CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, runs Fort Lauderdale’s major arts facility, a collection of buildings on the curve of the New River that got a $58 million upgrade not so long ago. The center draws over 600,000 people to its wide variety of programming each year, and its annual economic impact on the region is estimated at more than $90 million.
Shanley became head of the Broward Center in 2009, following a path that took him from box office manager and assistant general manager of Massachusetts’ Lowell Auditorium to a job as general manager of the Coral Springs Center for the Arts to a 10-year run as general manager and executive vice president of the Broward Center. But during his early years of growing up in tiny Middleport, New York, the arts were the furthest thing from his mind — until his parents took him to see a high school production of the musical Brigadoon.
“I remember the anticipation, being in the seat when the curtain went up and thinking, ‘Wow! What’s going to happen here?’” says Shanley, then in seventh grade and having his first-ever live theater experience. “I was really, truly drawn into the story. Maybe I was spoiled out of the gate by the magic of it.”
Shanley didn’t end up being “that musical theater guy” in high school, but his friends convinced him to try out for My Fair Lady. He did, auditioning with Jingle Bells, and got the part of Eliza’s rascal of a father, Alfred P. Doolittle. On opening night, he was up in the fly loft, looking down on the stage and the orchestra. Then the curtain opened, and again, he felt that electricity he remembered from Brigadoon. He went on to work in the technical side of theater during college, then snagged that first job selling tickets in Lowell.
The rest is history. And bringing artists and audiences together for so, so many nights of electricity.