Broadway dreams fulfilled, Danny Knaub returns to the Blumenthal, bringing a profound passion for theater.
by Page Leggett | photograph by Justin Driscoll
Theater public-relations guru Danny Knaub was living his best life in New York City and promoting touring Broadway shows when Covid hit. The extended hiatus eventually led him back to his parents’ home in Lake Lure.
After a yearlong, unplanned sabbatical, Knaub got an unexpected call from his former boss, Wendy Oglesby. The Chief Marketing Officer at Blumenthal Performing Arts asked if he’d consider coming back to work at the place he started his career in 2008 as marketing and video coordinator. He wasn’t about to say, “No, No, Nanette.”
In fact, “Once” was not enough for Knaub, who turns 40 this month: After nearly a decade working in New York and San Francisco, he’s back, this time as Blumenthal’s vice president of marketing. It’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” We sat down with the ever-optimistic Knaub to learn more about the Great White Way and what it’s like to come home again.
Comments have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Was Broadway everything you thought it would be?
Yes, Broadway has been my dream since I was a little kid. Moving to New York was one of the highlights of my life — getting to ride a subway every morning, eating bagels and working in Times Square. It’s fast-paced — it is constantly entertaining. The fact that I could just sit at work and go, “I want to see a Broadway show tonight,” blew my mind. There was a moment I actually struggled because I thought, “I don’t know what’s next — my dream came true.” But I don’t want to stop dreaming because that, to me, is my driving force.
What was it like when everything shut down in New York?
Scary, surreal — it was the first time I experienced almost a disconnect within our country. I was watching my entire city shut down. I was essentially confined to a very tiny apartment, just me and my dog. Obviously, the pandemic was awful, but I was grateful to be part of a city where we all had each other’s backs. Every day at 7 p.m., we would all be on our balconies cheering for the nurses, frontline workers and first responders. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody.
Did you think Charlotte would ever be on your list of places to live again?
Honestly, no — not because I don’t love Charlotte, but the Blumenthal already had their whole team in place. A true testament to the Blumenthal is that they kept going. [CEO] Tom Gabbard really fought to keep everybody employed.
Wendy [Oglesby] was my first boss and has always been my guiding force. When Wendy called, saying that a couple of people in the marketing department were leaving … It was the moment I was waiting for. I had been saying, “Something good is going to come out of this pandemic.”
I thought it was an embarrassment of riches. I had been living with my parents, sleeping in my childhood bed in Lake Lure, which is only 90 minutes away. I had built a foundation of friends there, and I was going to miss them. But I landed in Charlotte — I got to keep all those friends, reignite my relationship with my sister (who lives here), and see my niece and nephews regularly. I’m taking Josie, my niece, to Wicked. [Note: Wicked runs through Oct. 3 at Oven Auditorium.] This will be her first Broadway show. We’re going to dress up. I’m taking her to dinner. She’s at that age where she’s singing “Frozen” and dancing around in dresses.
What’s changed since you’ve been away?
Blumenthal is really embracing the community more than ever. I love seeing that we’re employing local artists (at “Immersive Van Gogh,” for instance). That’s slightly new territory for me. I know how to promote the shows, but this is a new segment, which is exciting. I like to learn. I want to keep learning. I want to learn from my team. I’m not going to dictate. I want to be collaborative — that’s how you get the best results.
What are you most looking forward to this season?
I’m just excited that Broadway’s coming back. We’ve got this incredible lineup of shows, and our subscribers have been so understanding. I think that’s a huge testament to our ticketing staff, because we were very forthcoming with information and keeping our subscribers in the know.
I know the first show I sit down and see, I’m going to be a blubbering mess. I can see it in my head: I know those first few notes of the Wicked score, and as soon as those lights go down, I know I’ll cry. It’s similar to when I graduated with my master’s degree [from UNC Wilmington]. I celebrated by taking my best friend to New York because I wanted to see a Broadway show. It was the first time I’d gone to New York as an adult and bought the tickets. The lights dimmed. Those first notes played, and I started sobbing. My best friend was like, “Danny, the show hasn’t even started yet.” SP