Bernardini to retire from Spirit of Broadway Theater

Norwich — Brett A. Bernardini, who founded the Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich 17 years ago, is retiring, the theater announced Wednesday.

“It’s just time for me to move on,” said Bernardini, 51. “The time is right. It’s not anything bad. ... The theater is fine. There’s still lots of shows to produce and events and a gala.”

In short, he said, “I think I’ve done everything I could do here.”

With Spirit of Broadway’s founding artistic director and CEO leaving at the end of this year, the theater’s board of directors has established a transition team to “explore all possibilities for the future of The Spirit of Broadway Theater beyond Brett Bernardini,” according to a press release.

“Brett Bernardini has been the driving force behind The Spirit of Broadway Theater for these 17 years and one who led the company through recent challenging times and an extended period of exceptional growth,” board President Carol Adams said in the release. “The board is grateful for his innumerable contributions to the company and his distinguished tenure as CEO over these 17 years.”

Before he departs, Bernardini will direct two musicals at Spirit and produce its gala, as well as continue to run the business.

Since its inception, Spirit of Broadway has produced more than 150 new musicals. The most recent production, a musical commissioned by the theater about Norwich native Benedict Arnold, “was huge for tickets,” Bernardini said.

He said he’s pleased “that so many people embraced my dream of creating a theater that only produced new works — the fact that so many people rallied around it.” In addition, he pointed to “the fact this theater grew and thrived for 17 years. I’m thrilled that, when the recession came and so many theaters around the world went belly up, we didn’t. We hung in there.”

He noted that there’s an “amazing” Spirit of Broadway organization still here that many people helped build.

“I can be very proud of what we have accomplished,” he said.

The Spirit of Broadway began in the Goldberg Building on Chestnut Street in 1996. A year later, it moved across the way to the 1907 Chestnut Street Fire House, which it renovated to create a black-box theater.

Bernardini has directed more than 200 productions there. He also established The Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards program, which recognizes excellence in educational musical theater in the state’s high school.

Bernardini said he will miss the city and its people.

He had mulled the possibility of retiring for a long time, asking himself whether the time was right. Now, it was.

“It’s time for me to see what’s next,” Bernardini said.

k.dorsey@theday.com

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