Saturday, January 03, 2009

More thoughts on the demise of the Carousel Dinner Theatre

A lot of folks have been stopping by here hungry for Carousel Dinner Theatre info. Tony Brown at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has the latest updates. Along with 150 staffers facing unemployment, the theatre's demise will mean fewer jobs for union actors, less work for local theatrical suppliers and food service vendors, and will send some package tour operators scrambling to find new options.

What will happen to the building and all the theatrical sets, costumes, and props is unknown at this time. The Carousel also rents space at Canal Place, so that will have an impact upon that business. Oddly, according to a comment posted below the ABJ article, it will even have an effect upon business at Donzell's Garden Center, where tour buses regularly discharged passengers for shopping sprees upon departing Carousel.

Dinner Theatres were really big in the 1970s, but as costs increased and the audience demographic grew older, it became more difficult to fill houses and turn profits. Carousel has not released any financial information yet, but it seems clear that even a top seller like Wizard of Oz was not enough to make the business profitable. Ticket prices were increased for the 2009 season, with a top rate of $60 for dinner and a show on Saturday night. Cheapest price listed was $39 for a matinee performance without a meal.

In times of economic uncertainty, people will think twice before taking the family to a dinner theatre. With two adults and two children under twelve, the total comes to $170 + the service charge which as I remember was another 7 bucks per ticket -- yikes!

It will be interesting to see if professional sporting events see a decrease in ticket sales. However, with a pair of binoculars, a family of four could see a Cavaliers game for $40 plus parking and concessions.

For the true blue theatre goers, sporting events are no replacement for live theatre. So what are the local options? Will E J Thomas Hall schedule more shows in their annual Broadway series? Ticket prices range from $32.50 in the upper levels to $52.50 orchestra seating -- and that is for a show with no dinner. Quality of touring productions varies and you won't get a local theatre review for anything that is here for one or two days only.

At the Akron Civic Theatre, you'll find the third string touring companies -- the ones that bring "educational" offerings for school groups. These are generally one show only productions. Coming up, Tom Sawyer - an original musical in March and The Princess and the Pea in April (no production details given for either).

Other local professional options include Actors' Summit in Hudson and The Bang and the Clatter in Akron and Cleveland. Somehow I'm thinking Actors' Summit has more chance of latching onto Carousel regulars than BNC. However, Actors Summit does more straight plays than musicals. As far as I know, BNC never does musicals and their very adult productions would stand a lot of blue hair on end. (BNC really needs to update their web site and keep us posted on the status of their Akron venue.)

Musical theatre fans might turn toward community and university theatres who do put on the occasional splashy musical. Weathervane just finished a sold out run of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Their next big musical is Man of La Mancha in June. The University of Akron is presenting Big River in Feb/March, while Kent State will be presenting the musical version of Jane Eyre, also in Feb and March. You'll have to wait until summer for the musical offerings at Porthouse Theatre.

Otherwise, it's time to look northward to the Cleveland theatre district or else hop an Airtran daily flight to NYC and fork over the big bucks to see musical theatre at the source. As for dinner -- you'll have to find that on your own

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