July 21--A post-bankruptcy Prince Music Theater is coming into view with a 2013-14 season revealing it as a presenting, rather than producing, entity.
New leaders aren't ruling out producing shows in the future, as the group had done for decades under former artistic chief Marjorie Samoff. But for next season, it will import only.
The building just off Broad Street is now owned by a group of business investors, 1412 Chestnut Street Corp., who are leasing it to the Prince. Philadelphia businessman Herb Lotman is both an investor and chairman of the board of the nonprofit.
So far, the Prince has about 200 nights filled. Four theatrical shows are signed. Evil Dead: The Musical 4D runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 20. The rock musical, based on the low-budget horror-film franchise, involves college students, an abandoned cabin in the woods, and dismemberment, and requires a splash zone in the first few rows of seats. It is, of course, a comedy.
Potted Potter covers all seven Harry Potter books in 70 minutes. The two-man show, which has been running in New York's Little Shubert Theatre for more than a year, will play the Prince Dec. 10 to Jan. 5.
The Suit, premiered in 2012 at the The tre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, is Peter Brook's musical adaptation of South African writer Can Themba's story of the same name. Its Prince run is slated for Feb. 26 to March 8.
Lotman's wife, Karen, is also a member of the Prince board, and through her friendship with cabaret artist Mark Nadler is responsible for bringing in his show I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Musik From The Weimar and Beyond, April 2 to 12.
A cabaret series resumes in the smaller of the two performance spaces, the 146-seat black-box theater upstairs. Signed are Barbara Cook (Oct. 2 to 5); Patti LuPone in a program titled Far Away Places (Nov. 20 to 23); Steve Tyrell, I'll Take Romance, Feb. 5 to 8; and Karen Akers (April 30 to May 3).
Also booked are folk musician Laura Marling (Aug. 30), singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson (Sept. 14), actor Chazz Palminteri (Sept. 19 to 21) in A Bronx Tale, and actor/magician Justin Willman in his "Tricked Out Tour" (Nov. 29). On Sept. 12, the Prince is donating its space for a Shoah Foundation fund-raiser around the 20th anniversary of Schindler's List.
A film series is being developed for later in the season. Nothing has been signed except the Philadelphia Film Festival in October, but possibilities are "3-D films of old Led Zeppelin concerts, new ballets and operas, and maybe some older films, to see what people are drawn to," said Prince executive director James E. Hines. "We want to try a little bit of everything."
This summer, new seats, rugs, furniture, and drapes are being installed, as well as a high-definition projection system with 3-D capability. Lighting and sound systems are being upgraded. Planned for a later phase of renovations are a new HVAC system and an enlarged orchestra pit.
Eventually, a new Chestnut Street marquee will signal the internal transformation.
"The theater needed a total overhaul, it was tired," said Lotman. "We need to make people feel good who come into it." Lotman says all of the renovations will cost $3 million, an expenditure he hopes will be covered by a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant for which the theater has applied.
"It's really been a challenging first year, like starting a company over again," said Lotman, whose West Conshohocken-based Keystone Foods was sold in 2010 to a Brazilian slaughterhouse in a deal reportedly valued at $1.26 billion. "The first year is rush, rush, rush, get four great cabaret artists in and four great shows and get it up and running. Then we will be able to take a deep breath and figure out how can we improve in the following years."
If the Prince does begin to produce shows itself again, an artistic director would be hired, he said. The current schedule was put together by consultants Ed Kasses, president of Princeton Entertainment, and Lawrence J. Wilker, president and chief executive officer of TheatreDreams Inc.
The name of the theater will change. Harold Prince, the famed theatrical producer and director who was an early adviser to Samoff, has asked that his name be taken off the building. Lotman said he would happily comply, and will seek a 10-year sponsorship deal in exchange for a new name. The change is not expected before the end of the year.
The Prince's last production under Samoff was It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play in 2008. On Christmas Eve of that year, TD Bank, which had foreclosed on the mortgage, secured a judgment that pushed the theater closer to sheriff's sale. The Prince filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2010, emerging two years later with the current ownership group.
Information about performances at the theater is available at www.ticketphiladelphia.org and 215-893-1999.
Contact Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "ArtsWatch," at www.inquirer.com/artswatch.
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