Theatres in financial trouble often have a problem with communication. Instead of cultivating their subscribers and donors by providing financial information transparently, they keep the financial information under wraps, serving only to create uncertainty. When information does come out, often it shows up in the newspapers before subscribers know. We saw this happen time and again with the Pasadena Playhouse, its bankruptcy and rebirth… and it left a bad taste in our mouths. The situation with The Colony Theatre in Burbank has been a little better: they’ve had their financial panic (in the fall, the 38-year-old Colony was on the brink of shutting down and was looking to raise $500,000 by the end of 2012), but were able to eke out finishing the season, and have been reasonably good about getting out emails (although the financial updates have been few and far between).
Uncertainty, at least for the Colony, has been made worse by their delaying of the announcement of the 2013-2014 season. Normally this happens around January-February. There was still no announcement when the final show of last season closed in late June, and the usual response has been “we’re waiting.”
Thus, I was pleased (and not surprised) to find the answer show up in today’s LA Times
[note that there is nothing about this on the Colony Website, nor have they sent email to subscribers yet] . What’s happening?
- The Colony will limp on into another year, thanks to a donation from a long-time unnamed subscriber. According to the Artistic Director, Barbara Beckley, “We are stabilized but you never know what the future holds.” The company hopes to raise a total of $1 million for the new season with the help of subscription renewals.
- The Colony has announced their new season: Daniel Beaty’s “Breath and Imagination” (Sept. 14 to Oct. 13); Tom Dudzick’s “Miracle on South Division Street” (Nov. 9 to Dec. 15); Lissa Levin’s “Sex and Education” (Feb. 15 to March 16) [which was last produced in Burbank at the VTC in 2011]; and a revival of James Goldman’s “The Lion in Winter” (April 19 to May 7). This is four shows, down from six in 2012-2013 and 2011-2012, and five in previous seasons. It was prefaced in the LA Times article with “includes”, so there might be an additional show. Although not noted by the Times, “Breath and Imagination” is a musical that explores the life of an American pioneer through words, movement, spirituals and classical music; this is its West Coast premiere.
not yet received new subscription material from the Colony , so I have no idea if the 4-show season will be less expensive than the 5- or 6- show seasons were. Past seasons were around $200 per subscription (much more affordable than the Pasadena Playhouse ever was).
P.S.: Alas, another thing I subscribe to did just die: PC World magazine is no more.
On Wednesday, the Ahmanson Theatre announced their 2013-2014 season. As I do with other major theatres, I thought I would share with you, over lunch, my plans regarding the announced shows:
- “The Sunshine Boys“ (Oct. 2 to Nov. 3). The Savoy Theatre production of the Neil Simon comedy, with Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths. Maybe.
- “Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty“ (Nov. 21 to Dec. 1). Bonus show – the theatrical presentation of the ballet being presented at the Music Center. Perhaps, although I’m not a big ballet fan.
- “Peter and the Starcatcher“ (Dec. 4 to Jan. 12). The national tour of the Broadway play with music. Casting not yet announced. Yes.
- “Harmony” (March 12, 2014 to April 13, 2014). A new musical written by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. The show is inspired by the real-life story of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of young singers who rose to fame in Germany before World War II. (ETA: LA Stage Blog noted “a half-Jewish singing group in German during the Third Reich”, so this could be interesting). It has been in development for over 15 years, with prior productions in La Jolla (1997) and Atlanta (earlier in 2013). Maybe.
- The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess“ (April 23, 2014 to June 1, 2014). I last saw Porgy and Bess in the 1970s when the Houston Grand Opera brought it to Los Angeles. This production got some mixed reviews for how it restaged things, so I’m not chomping at the bit for it. Maybe.
- “The Last Confession“ (June 11, 2014 to July 6, 2014). Bonus show – part of the Taper season but presented at the Ahmanson. A Vatican drama. Uninterested.
- “We Will Rock You“ (July 16, 2014 to Aug. 24). The long-running London musical created by Ben Elton that uses the music of the rock group Queen. Uninterested.
So, where do you think I’m going wrong. Are any of these “must sees” that I misjudged?
Music: The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire): “Plume De Radis”
Staring at the collected links today while eating my salad over lunch identified two distinct themes. The first brings together a number of entertainment items of interest:
- Money for Music. Some interesting numbers out of SXSW 2013 provide a picture of entertainment spending: Serious music fans spend over $442/year on music. Specifically, Neilsen has identified three core consumer categories. The “aficionado” is willing to spend more than $422 per year on music, concerts and artist merch, and does so via sites such as iTunes, Amazon and indie outlets. The “digital fan” was determined to spend about $363 per year and views a smartphone or tablet as the entertainment hub. Finally, the “big box” fan shops at mass retailers, is partial to pop and country and spends, on average, $196 per year on music. Those who can be classified as music fans account for nearly 75% of all music spending in the U.S. The bad news? The most avid of fans in Nielsen’s sampling of 4,000 consumers downloaded the most tracks for free, approximately 30 in a year. What’s more, those classified as “music fans” account for just 40% of the music-buying public in America. Based on these numbers, I’m in the aficionado group — about 3-4 times per year, I’ll do a $100+ music buy — usually a mix of used CDs, new CDs, LPs, and digital music. I go to lots of concerts and musicals during the year, but don’t buy that much merch. I also listen to my music — I’ll note my Music playlist on the iPod is at 30,888 tracks, and nearly two-thirds of those tracks have been listened to at least 8 times.
- Blood on the Stage. This is some exciting news. Playbill has announced that the Transfer Theatre Company will be mounting a production of the musical “Carrie” this fall. Transfer Theatre Company is what used to be known as the Neighborhood Theatre of Palos Verdes. In that guise, we saw truly excellent productions of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Parade” (the latter even better than what the Mark Taper Forum did). So I’m really excited about TTC’s production of Carrie. The original production was a notorious flop; the revival redeemed the musical’s reputation, and I can’t wait to see what TTC will do with it.
- Veronica Mars Lives. Now I’m not into TV that much, except for a few guilty pleasures (cough, Dallas, cough, Survivor, cough, Smash). But I have been having fun with Kickstarter lately, so an article in EW about the brief UPN/CW series “Veronica Mars” being revived for a movie was interesting. Why? Because the only way it will happen is if a $2 million, 30-day Kickstarter succeeds. I’ve seen Kickstarter used for lots of things — cast albums, theatre productions, and some specialized movie projects, but this is the first time I’ve seen it for a major-market product with a major studio. It is also a gigantic amount they need to raise. It will be interesting to see if they can do it. [Note: In less than a day, they've raised over $800,000; if this pace continues, reaching $2,000,000 is clearly possible.] [ETA: In less than 8 hours, they are up to 1.84 million. I expect them to reach their goal in under 24 hours. Amazing!] [ETAA: They made it, in less than a day. Expect to see funding efforts for movies like this again.]
Music: The Wedding Singer (Original Broadway Cast): “If I Told You”
While reading the news over lunch, I noticed that the Pantages Theatre (Broadway LA) has just announced their 2013-2014 season, so I thought I would post my assessment of it, and which shows I plan to see:
- The Wizard of Oz (Sep 17 – Oct 6, 2013). This is the Andrew Lloyd Weber reworking, with a number of additional songs. I have the album of the new version, and the lead (at least in the London cast) has a number of weird and interesting vocal inflections. I know this story by heart… and have seen it many many many times (as well as many many many ancillary productions) … but also have a soft spot for it. Maybe.
[As a P.S. on Oz, there was a interesting article earlier this week in the LVRJ about L. Frank Baum's great-grandson, who is still writing Oz books.]
- War Horse (Oct 8 – 13, 2013). The show whose main draw on stage is a gigantic horse puppet. That wasn’t enough to draw me in when it was at the Ahmanson for $20 tickets. It certainly is not enough of a draw to get me to the Pantages with worse sight lines and higher ticket prices. Uninterested.
- Evita (Oct 23 – Nov 10, 2013). I saw Evita when it was out in its original incarnation at the Shubert Theatre in Century City in the 1980s. I saw it again recently at a surprisingly good production at Van Nuys High School. I have no urge to see it again. Uninterested.
- The Lion King (Nov 20, 2013 – Jan 12, 2014). I saw The Lion King during its first run at the Pantages many many years ago. It’s been back numerous times since then. I’m not aware of anything in this production that makes me want to see this retread. Uninterested.
- The Book of Mormon (Jan 21 – Feb 9, 2014). Hello. My name is Elder I-Just-Saw-This-A-Year-Ago. Why would I want to go and see this show again? Uninterested.
- Green Day’s American Idiot (May 13 – 18, 2014). This is another show that was just recently in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson. As with Lion King, I’m not sure that there was enough different in this run to make it worth a second visit. Uninterested.
- The Music of Andrew Lloyd Weber (Jun 3 – 22, 2014). A jukebox show of Sir Andrew’s music, including some from Love Never Dies. Weber is like Wildhorn — you either love or hate his work. Although I like some of his early shows, his later stuff has been mostly ponderous, and I have no strong urge to see a jukebox show of his stuff. Uninterested.
- Ghost: The Musical (Jun 27 – Jul 13, 2014). This is a new musical that did so-so on Broadway. I’ve got the album, and actually find it enjoyable, but have never seen the original movie. Probably.
- Once: The Musical (Jul 15 – Aug 10, 2014). This is the musical that has surprised everyone. An intimate musical with a folk-ish score, it has been winning Tony awards and Grammy awards left and right. But it is also being done at the Pantages, which doesn’t quite fit with the notion of intimate musical. I’ll likely go see this, and then hope for an intimate, more regional production. Probably.
That’s it. The Broadway LA 2013-2014 season. Mostly, ehhh, with a few possibilities.
P.S.: And an ancillary note regarding the Oscars, which are relevant because the Pantages hosted the Oscars in the 1950s, including the first televised ceremony. It appears that this year, the leggy busty models will be not used to present the statuettes. Rather, that honor is going to six aspiring filmmakers who won a contest. What happened is this. One of the co-producers of the Oscars, Neil Meron, believed “This tradition of the buxom babe that comes out and brings the trophy to the presenter to give to the winner seemed to be very antiquated and kind of sexist, too. They’re just there to be objectified. Why can’t we have people who actually care about film and are the future of film be the trophy presenters?” So he and co-producer Craig Zadan developed a contest directed at college students that asked: How will you contribute to the future of film? More than 1,100 students submitted essays and videos, and six were chosen to appear on the Oscar telecast. All six winning students will walk on the Oscar stage during Sunday’s ceremony. They’re each getting a makeover and formal tuxedo or gown for the event as well.
P.P.S.: As it is still lunch hour, a few thoughts on tours and revivals. There’s a meme going around on Facebook about supporting local and independent artists, and that’s one thing I like to do with live theatre. For the small and mid-size venues, it is all about the local institutions and local performers and local technicians. But what about the big institutions and tours. Many of these (such as the recent Backbeat at the Ahmanson) had no local performers or staff; this is also often the case at the Pantages/BroadwayLA productions. These productions, while supporting a small number of local artists, primarily line the pockets of the commercial producing organization, with a small about to the local producing organization. That’s OK, as it encourages said producers to keep producing work, but it’s not the reason I choose to go. My primary reason for going is whether I’m interested in the particular show. For such productions, my priorities are (a) new shows that I think may move to Broadway or other significance (e.g., Backbeat, Les Jazz) ; (b) revivals that aren’t simply retreads, but are reimagine-ings of existing properties (e.g., Sweeny Todd); and (c) shows that I haven’t seen before but want to see. So when the Pantages presents a season of shows I’ve seen, with the only difference being a new tour cast, I have no urge to see them again.
Just received the announcement of the Cabillo Music Theatre 2013-2014 season. Here are the shows and my thoughts thereupon:
- Kiss Me Kate, October 18-27, 2013. It’s been ages since I’ve seen this, and it has wonderful music. It will be nice to see it again. Based on the advertising, this appears to be based on currently licensed 1999 version.
- Forever Plaid, January 31-February 9, 2014. I’ve seen this numerous times, from the original production at The Pasadena Playhouse in 1991 to the most recent Cabrillo production in 2006 (and that’s not counting the holiday variations such as Plaid Tidings in 2001). I’m not that excited about seeing it again, but that’s probably just me. It’s a great show and a crowd pleaser, and should do well for the Cabrillo audience in the Winter “jukebox” slot. The licensed version says one act, but I recall an intermission.
- In The Heights, March 28-April 6, 2014. We last saw this in 2010 at the Pantages, and the Pantages ruined the show. We were in the balcony, and the sound was so muddled we really couldn’t follow the story. Thus I’m looking forward to this production where I can actually see the show. It will be really interesting to see how Cabrillo handles this in what is likely one of the first regional (non-tour) productions.
- Bye, Bye, Birdie, July 18-27, 2014.I haven’t seen this on stage in ages, or at least long enough that I don’t remember it. It’s a good and fun show, and I’m surprised that the latest incarnation wasn’t a long runner on Broadway. This is the sort of show that Cabrillo can do well. Unclear what version they are doing, or if they are adding any songs.
In summary, a reasonable season. Three shows it will be good to see again, and one “eh” but tolerable. No shows that are new to me, but that’s getting harder to do. I’m sure we’ll renew, and we’ll likely move from the balcony to the mezzanine (the balcony is getting too steep for my wife and her mom to handle). Right now, we’re the penultimate performance the last Saturday at 8pm. We might change that to the first Sunday matinee or the 2nd Saturday matinee if the wife and M-I-L prefer. We moved to Saturday night to accommodate our daughter, but going back to the Saturday matinee could impact the occasional So Cal Games Day, or impact seeing a Saturday night show.
The Ahmanson Theatre has just announced their 2012-2013 season, so I guess I should comment on the season offerings:
- “Seminar” (Oct. 10-Nov. 18). A transfer of the Broadway production of Teresa Rebeck’s comedy about a group of young novelists who are criticized and sedued by a bullying editor. Stars Jeff Goldblum. I hadn’t heard of this before; I’m not sure I’m that interested. Probably not ticketing.
- “Anything Goes” (Nov. 27-Jan. 6) the touring version of the current Broadway production. This one will star Rachel York in the role of Reno Sweeney.I’ve only see Anything Goes once before–it was the first production we saw at Cabillo Music Theatre. Good music, and the production should be good. Will probably ticket.
- “Backbeat” (Jan. 16-Feb. 24). This is a new musical in development about how the Beatles became the Beatles. The musical focuses on Stuart Sutcliffe, the so-called “fifth” Beatle who died in 1962. The show ran in Glasgow, Scotland, and in London recently and is scheduled to open in Toronto in July… and will supposedly transfer to Broadway from the Ahmanson. The score features the rock classics such as “Money,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Twist and Shout,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music” and more. This is potentially interesting. Will probably ticket.
- “End of the Rainbow” (March 12-April 21). Peter Quilter’s play with music charting the final days of singer Judy Garland. In the show, concert sequences are meshed with private-life scenes involving Garland, her husband and her accompanist. The L.A. premiere will again star two-time Olivier Award winner and current Tony Award nominee Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland. Tony Award winner Terry Johnson will again direct. This has gotten good reviews in the New York run. Will probably ticket.
- “Fela!” (April 25-May 5, 2013). The 2010 Tony Award-nominated Best Musical biography of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti. Bill T. Jones directs and choreographs. It has a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, additional lyrics by Jim Lewis, additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean, and was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel. This was just at the Ahmanson in December 2011 as the replacement for “Funny Girl!”. I saw it then; I have no desire to see it again.
- “The Scottsboro Boys” (May 21-June 30, 2013). The provocative musical about a grim chapter in American justice. In the Depression, a group of African-American teenagers were jailed for a crime they did not commit. The musical satire — with a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb and book by David Thompson — is offered in the form the defunct theatrical convention of the minstrel show. This had a short life on Broadway, and is currently in a revised staging in San Diego–and I was annoyed I couldn’t get down to see it. Definately will ticket.
In general, a so-so season. The only show I’m really excited about is “Scottsboro Boys”, with the “Anything Goes” revival as a runner up. The tours coming into the Pantages were also so-so, with the only excitement being “The Book of Mormon”, “Catch Me if You Can”, and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. … that reminds me, however… I must see if I can get “Follies” tickets for this weekend, and it’s about time to go to the box office to get “Book of Mormon” tickets.
Music: The Wiz (1977 Original Broadway Cast): The Feeling We Once Had
Broadway/LA • Pantages Theatre just announced their 2012-2013 season, and here are my thoughts regarding the upcoming shows:
- × Chicago (May 15- 27, 2012). Starring Christie Brinkley. I saw the original of this back in the 1970s, and the revival at the Ahmanson. No need to see it again.
- √ The Book of Mormon (September 5 – November 2, 2012). Ding, dong. Yes, yes, oh yes. This one I’m going to. Luckily they are bringing it in for a long run.
- × Donny & Marie – Christmas in Los Angeles (December 4 – 23, 2012). Feh. Now, if they had brought in Elf, that would be a different story.
- × Peter Pan (January 15 – 27, 2013). Starring Cathy Rigby. Not that interested; I’ve seen the show before, plus Cathy Rigby’s getting a bit old for the role.
- × RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles (January 28 – February 3, 2013). Not interested.
- – Jekyll & Hyde (February 12 – March 3, 2013). Starring Constantine Maroulis. I saw J&H at Cabrillo, and I’m not sure that much will be added with the retooled Pantages production, even if it is aiming for a Broadway run. I think I want to learn more on this before I make a final decision.
- √ Catch Me If You Can (March 12 – 24, 2012). Yes. I like the music for this quite a bit.
- × Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (March 26 – April 7, 2013). I’ve seen this at Cabrillo (as well as at Nobel MS). No need to see it again.
- × West Side Story (April 9 – 14, 2013). Why, oh why? The last production (the bilingual one) was horrible. Do something more interesting from that era, like a large staging of Gypsy.
- √ Priscilla Queen of the Desert (May 28 – June 16, 2013). Yes. Although this is essentially a jukebox show, this is a fun jukebox show.
- – Sister Act (July 9 – 28, 2013). I saw this in the early days when it was at the Pasadena Playhouse. I’m not sure that enough was added to it since then to make it worth Pantages prices, although if the $25 tickets are available, I might go.
They haven’t yet announced the date for single tickets, so I’ll have to keep checking…
Music: Greatest Hits! (Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band): I’m Satisfied with My Gal
This has been a busy week, what with loads of meetings, getting in early and such. That lead to a late lunch today, and thus this post. Here are a few upcoming theatre productions I’ve noted of late that I’m meaning to investigate. This is mostly for my own edification and enjoyment, but you might find it of interest as well:
Music: Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits (Creedence Clearwater Revival): Down on the Corner