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Arts / Performing Arts

Dallas’ Own Broadway Wizard

Oak Cliff Product Turns Into a Major Star Maker

BY // 09.02.16

“Stop trying to figure out how you got here,” Terry Loftis’ brother, Keith, whispers into his ear. “Just enjoy it.” They are waiting for the curtain to rise on opening night of last year’s Broadway smash The Visit — a dark love story starring legendary performer Chita Rivera — in New York City’s Lyceum Theatre.

Terry glances around. Two rows in front of him sits Angela Lansbury. To his immediate right is Tommy Tune. Wonderment and pride wash over him. The little kid from Oak Cliff is now the producer of this Tony–nominated production, seated mere feet away from his performing-arts heroes. He has made it.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Oak Cliff was not the progressive Dallas borough it is today. When they moved in, the Loftises were one of very few black families in the neighborhood, prompting several neighbors to move upon their arrival. Terry’s mother, Carolyn Loftis, was a singer who worked several jobs to support her family. One of these jobs was for hotelier and philanthropist Caroline Rose Hunt (then known as Caroline Schoellkopf) who, Terry says, always took an authentic interest in her employees and their families.

“During the summers, she told me, ‘You’ll pick a book out of my library, read it, and when you come back next week, we’ll sit down and get a summary of what you got out of it,’” he remembers. “As a young man coming from a much different background, and having direct access to someone who is a beautiful, genuine, smart, intelligent entrepreneur … the respect I have for her is great.”

Inspired by Hunt and his mother, who continually infused music into his life, Terry studied the trumpet and French horn at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, then jazz at Eastfield College in Mesquite. (His mother, father, brother, and sister all attended the performing-arts magnet high school.) Post-grad, the need for a career that guaranteed a stable income prompted him to abandon the arts in favor of marketing and public relations.

Loftis with Tommy Tune (Photo courtesy Terry Loftis)
Loftis with Tommy Tune (Photo courtesy Terry Loftis)

A consummate networker, Terry expressed his newfound interest in producing musical theater to Tony–nominated producer Rich Affannato, a friend, who brought him on as co-producer for Broadway’s Ann, a comical account of Texas governor Ann Richards, who was portrayed by Holland Taylor. The Visit followed, and when he found out it was nominated for a Tony Award for best musical, Terry did a happy dance alone in his living room. During the award show’s after-party at New York’s Carlyle hotel, he sang show tunes with Tommy Tune until 4 am.

Terry’s next production is Bandstand, an American swing-era musical premiering on Broadway next spring. Backed by Dallas–based Broadway producer Roger Horchow and directed by Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand tells the tale of a war veteran returning to his hometown in Ohio and subsequently entering a band competition. “All the actors performing the musical numbers are actual musicians themselves,” Terry says. “It’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on the stage.”

Occasionally, NBC’s The Voice taps Terry to recruit talent if he discovers a singer and recognizes star potential. He’s still in marketing — as president of Dallas design firm Eisenberg and Associates — and when he’s not dazzling on Broadway, you’ll likely find him singing jazz (George Gershwin, Nat King Cole) in local clubs, restaurants, and wine bars.

“I prefer smaller, intimate settings,” Terry says. “It really feeds my soul.”

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