Blogs > The Arts Whisperer

Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

arts mergers

It was announced earlier this week that Proctors in Schenectady is taking control of all of Albany's Capital Repertory Theater's administrative functions. This is major news.

Philip Morris will be the CEO of both Proctors and Capital Rep. Maggie Mancinelli -Cahill will continue as Capital Rep's artistic director but will report to Morris.

Morris was vague about how much control he would exert over programming, instead he focused on complimenting the good job Mancinelli-Cahill has done with the artistic mission of the theater. We'll see. He did insist that Cap Rep would stay a producing house creating all their own shows, while Proctors would continue to present shows produced by others.

This is, on the surface, a good thing. Capital Rep has been in financial trouble seemingly forever. A couple of years ago they sold for $900,000 the building on Orange Street in which they rehearsed and built sets. Today there are in worse financial shape then they were then and they don't own the building.

This kind of thing scares off corporations and private donors because it looks like they are throwing money down a sewer. A lot of organizations are willing to rescue a struggling arts organization but few want to enable fiscal problems and help pay off continuing debt that will never be retired.

Morris believes that this move will signal to those potential givers that a new day has arrived and their contributions will lead to financial stability for Capital Rep. I hope he's right. Capital Rep stands to save $200,000 a year from this reorganization, plus they will get added advertising and promotional clout by being part of the giant Proctors entertainment machine.

Indeed, it sounds so good it might be the wave of the future. Morris dreams of a future where there are the same number of arts organizations operating in the area but being managed by a few super managing organizations.

Last spring Troy Music Hall was in intense negotiations with the Egg to take over their booking, and other administrative duties. The deal fell through at the last minute. The Troy Music Hall is currently conducting a national search for a new Executive Director. Let's hope the Egg is part of that search. It makes a lot of sense.

Friday, January 21, 2011

the cruel world of show business

You might remember the delightful production of "Cactus Flower" that was produced at Capital Repertory Theatre last Oct.-Nov. It was a charming effort that proved the Abe Burrows work is not as dated as conventional wisdom thought.

Obviously not. reports the work is moving to New York City and will be produced Off-Broadway at the Westside Theate on 43 Street. Previews begin Feb. 24 for a scheduled March 10 opening. By the way, tickets will cost $75, which is nearly double the average ticket price at Capital Rep.

The move illustrates why so many actors are neurotic. Despite fine work and excellent reviews the male lead Don Noble is being replaced by Maxwell Caulfield. Caulfield might not be a Broadway star but he is much better known in NY theater circles than is Noble - who though he did a stint in "Mamma Mia" is thought of as a regional theater actor. By the way, I should add Noble is a really good actor. Area audiences might also recognize him from his excellent portrayal of Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird" at Cap Rep last spring.

Good is not always the criteria for being cast in New York. Box office appeal is the main criteria. I am not suggesting Caulfield cannot do the role, but I don't know that he is a superior actor to Noble. His major theater credit is work in the Tony-nominated play "An Inspector Calls." I suppose the press promotion will also point out Caulfield came to attention for his work as the lead in the film "Grease 2." I suspect Caulfield would rather let that credit fade away.

The good news is Lois Robbins continues as the female lead. She was terrific at Capital Rep and she and producer/director Michael Bush have a professional history of working together. Robbins is a diligent actress who is devoted to the stage, even though she gained her public persona from a lot of work on various daytime soaps, especially "Ryan's Hope."

Also continuing in New York is Robin Skye who was fantastic as the comic client at Julian's dental office. Let's hope this gig gets both Robbins and Skye the public acclaim each deserves.

John Herrera, a respected character actor on New York City stages also continues in the role of the older diplomat who courts Robbins.

Not appearing in New York is Toni Trucks who was a charmer in the role of the ditsy young woman who is having an affair with Julian but wants to make right with Julian's non-existent wife. (It's complicated - but that's farce.) Anyway don't feel bad for Trucks, she was cast in an important role in the next film of the Twilight series. That's a better career move than Off-Broadway.

This is nothing new in theater. Business decisions ofter negate good work and actors who create a role are pushed aside for financial reasons. All this proves is that theater is a tough business and great work is not always rewarded by producers.

One thing that does bother me about the move is that in any of the press I've seen about the New York opening work Capital Rep is neglected. Their help in shaping this play is never credited. Indeed, there is no mention of the Albany run. That's wrong, because it's the kind of notice that would help Capital Rep's national reputation.

I would hope producer Michael Bush somewhere along the line gives some credit to Capital Rep. It is not overstating the case that this Off-Broadway production would not be happening without Capital Rep and area audiences who proved the material deserves a larger audience.

I hope Cap Rep doesn't suffer the same unfair fate as Don Noble.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

friends abroad

No matter how much you enjoy yourself when away, it is always comforting to meet a friend from home.

Just as I was completing my second week in London I met fellow RECORD blogger, David Baecker who teaches and directs theater at Sage College. He's here with about 20 Sage students on an Art's Immersion trip. During their stay, the students will experience London theater, museums and art galleries. What a wonderful experience. I'll let him use his blog to speak to the values of such a trip. But I think it's great and valuable.

It might be ironic that on New Year's Day two theater guys meeting at the Leicester Square ticket booth had a tough time deciding what to see. Part of the problem is I've been here for a couple of weeks and already have seen a lot of theater. He's scheduled to take the students to other shows and a lot of the shows available were on his schedule. So we were left with the dregs.
We chose Richard Sheridan's "The Rivals." What the heck, we figured -a genuine classic almost 300 years old, directed by Sir Peter Hall with a distinguished cast. How bad could it be? Too. there's the snob value about all the names we could drop when we returned home.

Wrong choice. It wasn't walk-out terrible, but it sure wasn't worth recommending. It was slowly paced and stodgy. The actors failed to find the potential fun in the characters and the plot. Instead of leaving a show amazed at how brilliant writing can survive over the centuries, we left wondering if the play survived by reputation rather than on the quality of the writing. I still think it is a really good play, but maybe the Brits aren't perfect - even with their own classics.

It was still a good experience. When you love theater you can always find something to enjoy in any production. Besides it was great fun seeing a friend in London.