Producers owe it to their playhouses to be concerned about a healthy box office, but do producers owe anything to the community? — especially an artistically hurting community like Vegas?
There’s a disturbing trend evident in some of the play listings for the about-to-begin new season. Signature Productions, for example, has announced what seems to me to be a cowardly lineup. They are opening in October with "Beauty and the Beast," which was just performed in June at the Spring Mountain Ranch. Philip Shelburne is again directing, and the cast will be a mixture of old and new.
Their second show is "Thoroughly Modern Millie," which the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts brought to life just two seasons ago.
Their third and final offering is a repeat for the Spring Mountain Ranch of "Once on This Island," which Signature mounted likewise two seasons ago.
Topping off the disappointment is that another show scheduled for the ranch is Jade Productions’ "Working" — which Jade presented five seasons ago. Considering that Jade has a very low output, it’s surprising that they’ve already reached the stage where they are repeating themselves.
It may be fair to point out that playhouses need to do whatever it takes to sell tickets. After all, it’s easy for people such as me to complain for "artistic" reasons that it’s lazy for shows to be remounted so soon. It’s not my money on the line. And going broke isn’t healthy for any theater. It’s also worth noting that Signature has a history of fine work. Even when I object to their titles, I am often blown away by the talent involved, and the care and respect that the directors take with that talent.
But I hope it’s also fair to consider that a producer needs to be concerned with his town’s cultural health. If he’s not, who will be? What is served by Signature doing "Beauty" four months after its ranch production? Are the creative juices of the troupe going to be stirred? Is the local arts scene going to be well-served? What sort of creative joy is there in playing everything safe? If Signature is so concerned about "safe," why not do "Annie" and "Grease" every year? And come to think of it, since theater is a minority art form, why not do something other than theater if bucks dictate your every decision?
What’s baffling about all this is that there is no shortage of musicals. There are hundreds of popular, commercially proven shows that Vegas has yet to see. Am I being naive in believing that local playhouses don’t need to whore themselves in order to succeed?
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.