NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I was counting how many plays, musicals, and concerts I attend in a year. It’s probably 15 or 20. I attend almost every community theater performance in Central Wisconsin (and blog about them and write reviews for wsau.com). I wish I could attend more live concerts, too. If I could, I would.
I’ve noticed something. Attendance at most of these events is down. A lot. Live events that I think are going to do big box office, don’t. In fact, I’ve been really off at predicting which plays and musicals would be popular locally. I think our community theater groups and other producers aren’t any better with their calculations than I am. They’re not interested in playing to half-empty halls.
Wausau Community Theater’s Annie, the ultimate kid-friendly musical, didn’t attract a lot of kids to the audience. The bottom level of the Grand Theater was less than half-filled at the performance I attended. Last year’s production of ‘A Chorus Line’, which was WCT’s best show of the year, was nowhere near sold out. Just last month a high-quality production of ‘Camelot’ in Stevens Point also played to far too many empty seats.
Why? Well, your theory is as good as mine.
Maybe at $20 a ticket, it’s too expensive. I don’t think so. I night of community theater is no more expensive than a night at the movies if you include the overpriced popcorn and soft drinks. Besides, these community theater groups are all non-profit. Their shows are priced at break-even, and ticket prices probably can’t be lowered.
Maybe we are demanding higher quality local entertainment. Admittedly, some community theater productions are uneven. I can’t promise you a triple-threat knock-em-dead star in every leading role. But none of these productions are flops. This is high-quality, well put-together entertainment. I don’t think people stay away because the shows aren’t done well.
I suppose it’s always possible that people’s tastes in entertainment is changing – that movies, the internet, and sports are winning out over live stage productions. I doubt it.
Another community theater production opens tonight. It’s The Best Little Whorehouse inTexasfrom Wausau Community Theater. It should be a fun time. (No worries – everyone keeps their clothes on; I’ll leave it up to parents if their kids need to stay home tonight, but there’s nothing ‘R’ rated on stage tonight.) I’ll post a review after tonight’s performance.