The North Shore Music Theatre needs about $4.5 million, give or take 10 bucks, by next spring or it will close. The whole thing begs for Mickey Rooney to say, “He kids, I know, let’s put on a show!”
The North Shore Music Theatre needs about $4.5 million, give or take 10 bucks, by next spring or it will close.
The whole thing begs for Mickey Rooney to say, “He kids, I know, let’s put on a show!”
But it’s going to take more than a few charity benefits to save the 55-year-old theater. Where have you gone, David Coffee, the North Shore turns its lonely eyes to you.
Perhaps, somewhere up those long driveways on Argilla Road in Ipswich, in Beverly Farms, Manchester By-the-Sea, and up the horse farms in Hamilton and Wenham there’s enough interest, money and love of the American musical and its preservation as a living art form, not just on Broadway, but for average folks on the North Shore, that theater board members can cobble together some kind of rescue package.
After all, rescue packages are kind of in vogue now — rescue packages, they’re the new Prada.
I’d love to blame the board of director’s choice to dump “A Christmas Carol” this year in favor of “High School Musical 2,” one of those tween Disney musicals in which every song forces the performer to sound like one of the Chipmunks after an afternoon drinking at Starbucks.
I found the theater’s “High School Musical” production surprisingly passable, if only because my expectations were so low. Its music was mercifully forgettable. Its message of kids pursuing their own dreams and interests regardless of peer and parental pressure was worthwhile. But did we really need a stage version of “High School Musical 2” and presumably at some point “High School Musical 3”?And to replace my beloved Christmas Carol with, with that?
I truly enjoyed “A Christmas Carol” and always considered it a highlight of the holiday season, something that made living on the North Shore special.
Last year I wrote of the production, “So thank you to … the North Shore Music Theatre for putting on a fully human production that both plumbs the depths of isolation, loneliness and greed and soars with gratitude, love and forgiveness.
“For a moment at least, the show provides a respite from the pressures of unending consumerism and refocuses the holiday season on the possibility of renewal and rebirth — at least for those who will listen to their own ghosts who have only their welfare at heart.”
So, I’d really love to blame “High School Musical 2” for the theater’s grim financial circumstances, but I’d rather tell the truth.
And the truth is this: A number of factors have combined to push the theater to the brink. The economy is chief among them. Overall attendance this year is off by about 120,000, 230,000 compared to the normal 350,000. Donations are also down. The theater is still recovering from the $1 million loss it suffered in the 2005 fire, despite $500,000 from the state and $760,000 in insurance money.
In hindsight, the move to bump “A Christmas Carol” was a mistake, both of the heart and of the purse.The decision took away a signature show longtime patrons loved.
Even worse, the economy and High School Musical fatigue dropped ticket sales 25 percent below projections.
The North Shore Music Theatre thought it was trotting out a cash cow with “High School Musical 2.” In reality, Disney had already milked the cow dry with movie sequels two and three. In fact, High School Musical 3 just finished its run. The tweens who loved the first one have moved on to, what? The Jonas Brothers? And for the new tweens, the franchise is no longer the new, shiny pop culture bauble.
Sure, the theater says tickets for “High School Musical 2” and “Christmas Carol” are about even, at 13,000. But the theater has slashed High School Musical prices to get those sales. So gross revenues have to be less than for “A Christmas Carol.”
So, we lost “A Christmas Carol” this year — a hole in the holiday season — and we now face a much larger, permanent hole in the area’s culture and luster.
Maybe there’s still some financial finagling out there. Maybe there’s a buyer. It’s a beautiful theater. Maybe there’s some kind of Chapter 11 bankruptcy option that will allow the theater time to recover and stay alive.Maybe.
Here’s hoping the kids can put on another show.
Dan Mac Alpine is senior editor of the Beverly Citizen. E-mail him at Beverly@cnc.com.