5 Questions with Jim Strong, Off Broadway Producer

Jim Strong of Strong Travel Services in Dallas is producing a play Off Broadway called "Craving for Travel," which is getting ready for its debut in just a few weeks.

The comedy, which aims to upgrade the image of the travel advisor in the public eye, will run Off-Broadway January 9 – February 9, 2014 at the Peter J. Sharp Theater (416 W. 42nd Street, NYC).

Here's a snippet of the plot, from a press release written about the project: "With their reputations on the line, travel agents Joanne and Gary will tackle any request, no matter how impossible, and any client, no matter how unreasonable. Full of overzealous travelers, overbooked flights, and hoteliers who are just over it, Craving for Travel reminds us why we travel—and everything that can happen when we do."

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Tickets are $32.50 and $49.00 and can be purchased online at www. ticketcentral.com or www.CravingforTravel.com, by phone at 212.279.4200, or in person at the box office at 416 W. 42nd Street (12 – 8pm daily).

We caught up with Jim Strong to find out how the show came to be and where he found his inspiration.

Luxury Travel Advisor:  From luxury travel advisor to Off Broadway producer. How, in a nutshell, did you get involved with this project?

Jim Strong:  I wanted to do something fun and unique that no one in my position had ever done before.  All of my creative projects, from my travel books to my iPad/iPhone app and my songwriting, have kept me energized and engaged with my suppliers and clients.  The off-Broadway play, Craving for Travel, was born from a desire for a more public forum to get the message out about the professionalism and abilities of the travel agent.  Doing this as a comedy for a limited engagement in New York, I hope will bring attention to all sectors of the travel industry.

RELATED: Craving for Travel on Off-Broadway

Luxury Travel Advisor:   Tell us what the play is about. 

Jim Strong:  I hope the play will touch all emotions, but mostly we want to entertain and make everyone laugh.  It is two actors playing 30 different roles.  The two main characters are Gary and Joanne (played by Thom Sesma and Michele Ragusa), rival travel agents and former spouses, who are vying for their industry’s most prestigious honor: the Globel Prize. With their reputations on the line, they’ll tackle any request, no matter how impossible, and any client, no matter how unreasonable.  Craving for Travel reminds us why we travel…and everything that can happen when we do.

Luxury Travel Advisor:  Who are your key partners in the project? Do they have experience on Broadway?

Jim Strong:  I have some fantastic sponsors who have partnered with me to make this production possible….Four Seasons, Virtuoso, Viking River Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn, Sabre, Cox and Kings, Travelex.  Additionally, I have a Tony Award winner who is part of my creative team as the play's co-author and director, Andy Sandberg, and his writing partner is Greg Edwards.  Together, they are a proven force and an excellent comic writing duo in the theater world, and I am excited for audiences to see their work.  Two Broadway veterans are heading our cast, Michele Ragusa and Thom Sesma – both extraordinary talents who are well respected in the entertainment world. We have also engaged major players for the design and production team, including Tony Award winners and nominees among them.

Luxury Travel Advisor:  With the bright lights of Broadway beckoning Jim Strong from Dallas to New York City more frequently in the coming months, tell us about your favorite Manhattan haunts. What’s your favorite bar, your top restaurants and who’s the best GM in New York?

Jim Strong:  This could take a full page, but you can’t go wrong with Lunch at 21, drinks at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle, Dinner at Jean George at the Mark - all  on the upper east side.  Or Midtown…lunch at the Andaz 5th Avenue, followed by drinks at Gramercy Park, and dinner at the Parker & Quinn at the Refinery Hotel, but do not forget after-dinner drinks at the Chatwal.  Downtown…lunch at Locanda Verde, drinks at Crosby Street Hotel followed by dinner at David Burke Kitchen at The James Soho.

When you hold the position of GM in a NYC luxury hotel, you have to be at the top of your game. Many are my friends, so I think naming one wouldn't really be fair. It's kind of like asking who your favorite child is!

Luxury Travel Advisor:  What’s next for Jim Strong?

Jim Strong:  I have very much enjoyed my time speaking to many university students about how they should consider entering the hospitality business on the side of selling travel.  I hope to continue that, but I always have new and exciting ideas, so stay tuned.  And if Craving for Travel receives the response we hope it will, then perhaps we'll be doing an interview next time about the Broadway transfer or the touring plans!

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