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fendrock

No Wang for 2004 Nutcracker

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Any Nutcracker purporting to be on a professional level but using, say, 25 dancers, would look rather spare and would probably require using a fair number of those dancers in many roles, which would be very difficult on them and risk increasing injury rates.

It always feels wonderful to have the professionality of one's company publicly questioned by someone who does not know it. Our Nutcracker has 20-25 dancers. It is often described as "intimate" by the press, but rarely "spare". We also have one of the lowest injury rates in the industry. Maybe it would look sparse on the Wang stage, but we've never put it up there. The fact is, a performance on a smaller stage in a smaller auditorium doesn't require as many dancers to fill it up.

In any case, hiring more dancers would not be a problem for Boston Ballet. As was pointed out earlier, they only hired 2% of the dancers who came to audition. They could easily hire another 2% for Nutcracker if they wanted to, just like Radio City hires its dancers for the Christmas season. Good dancers are easy to come by. Since dancer salaries are only a tiny fraction of a production's budget, hiring more dancers for the same number of ticket sales wouldn't necessarily blow the budget. (The scenery costs an ENORMOUS amount, and many of these costs are recurring. In past years, advertising has tried to wow us by telling us how many tons of confetti were used for the snow scene --- and then not recycled. I wonder how much that costs...)

I wasn't saying that the Wang Center is the largest auditorium in the country, although it is certainly one of the bigger ones. I WAS saying that BB's Nutcracker is the largest Nutcracker in terms of TICKET SALES.

Maybe what it comes down to is that the ticket prices for a travelling road show like the Rockettes Radio City Music Hall thing are potentially higher

I have a hard time believing that the ticket price for the Rockettes will be any higher than for Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. Nutcracker tickets already run about $90 for good seats, even $36 for lousy seats. That is more than NYCB, more than ABT, more than any show I've ever seen on Broadway. Probably that's because there is less competition than in NYC. I just cannot imagine the market bearing anything more than $90 per ticket at this point.

More likely is that the Rockettes have reigned in production costs. They pay their dancers very well. But orchestra, sets, etc. are probably all on a MUCH smaller scale.

so Boston Ballet shouldn't be looked down upon for doing some performances at the Wang and some elsewhere

I agree entirely. However, that is not their problem with the Nutcracker --- they can still sell plenty of Nutcracker seats, probably enough to justify the Wang Center for them. However, what is the Wang Center to do the rest of the year with such a big theater?

In general, the entertainment and media industry seems to be moving toward more choices, each one in a smaller venue. Big screen cinemas have given way to multiplexes. ABC/CBS/NBC has given way to 250 Cable channels. And I really, really believe that the future of ballet (and live theater in general) lies in a larger number of smaller productions.

Along the lines of choice, here's an idea for those who like the Holiday show but are sick and tired of seeing the Nutcracker for the hundredth year in a row... BB could produce MORE THAN ONE Holiday show. One could be a scaled-back Nutcracker. The other could be something else with a Holiday theme. It could certainly backfire if done wrong, but it could also bring back customers who used to see the Nutcracker but got bored of it after a decade. And the real dance afficiandos would buy tickets to both...

We have a definite shortage of theater space in Boston. We need more small-to-midsize theaters, and we need them more in places like Cambridge. The articles seem to indicate that part of the problem is with the Wang Center itself --- that they have a hard time paying their own bills.

Mel, do you know the address of the Tremont Street Theater? It isn't Tremont Temple Baptist Church, is it? That was always a church... (but is now facing the same problem as the Wang Center, that of filling the seats). Look at it on the bright side, in Cambridge we converted a Baptist Church into a theater.

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The Tremont was at the corner of Tremont and Avery. Sarah Bernhardt used to play the place. It was the place in Boston where D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation had its Boston debut. It used to be rented by the First Corps of Cadets for their annual "Cadet Show" which in Hasty Pudding tradition, had the female parts played by the men. Their headliner was often female impersonator (Julian) Eltinge.

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Just to address one point, Bob:

This is what one of the websites for the Radio City show says about the show:

"It takes over 100 people just to stage the Christmas show, including the cast and crew which loads in the production weeks before the show opens. The total cast of 55 includes Rockettes, singers, dancers, and more. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular includes: "Christmas In New York," which features ice skating, dancing snowmen, a bigger than life New York skyline and a dazzling production number by the Rockettes. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular features an ice rink built on a movable platform. Used during the "Christmas In New York" scene, the rink is made from an artificial surface with the same properties as real ice. Six little people and four children are in the production. Each little person is under four and one-half feet in height, but have big roles as elves in the "Santa's Workshop" scene. Over 300 colorful costumes and 200 hats were specially created for the cast members of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Nineteen playful teddy bears star in the production's tribute to Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker." Called " The Nutcracker: A Teddy Bear's Dream," this number features polar, panda, Arabian and baby doll bears in a variety of sizes. During the Christmas engagement, The Grand Palace houses a "zoo" of live animals that appear throughout the show, including the grand finale, "The Living Nativity." This menagerie of animals includes five sheep, three camels, two donkeys, one dog and one horse. Scenery and eight sets were hand-painted and assembled from coast to coast with some elements produced in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland and Washington D.C.. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is produced by Silver Dollar City, Inc. and Radio City Productions, in partnership with the Syncor, Inc., owners of The Grand Palace."

And I have friends who have worked wardrobe on this show. It's absolutely enormous.

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It always feels wonderful to have the professionality of one's company publicly questioned by someone who does not know it. Our Nutcracker has 20-25 dancers.

It is often described as "intimate" by the press, but rarely "spare". We also have one of the lowest injury rates in the industry. Maybe it would look sparse on the Wang stage, but we've never put it up there. The fact is, a performance on a smaller stage in a smaller auditorium doesn't require as many dancers to fill it up.

Whoa! I didn't question anyone's professionalism. And I do know your company. But I think I already said that productions of the size you're speaking of already exist to such an extent that I don't know if there would be a point in Boston Ballet attempting to duplicate that effort. I suspect it might end up being seen locally much as the attempt by Clear Channel Entertainment to obtain the Wang Center, and greatly resented.

In any case, hiring more dancers would not be a problem for Boston Ballet. As was pointed out earlier, they only hired 2% of the dancers who came to audition. They could easily hire another 2% for Nutcracker if they wanted to, just like Radio City hires its dancers for the Christmas season.

Bob, if they had 1000 people come to a Boston audition and hired 2 percent of those, that would be 20 people. Not all of them would be local, so they would have to offer housing, possible per diem, and the like. In hiring another theater, there would be another work crew (even if some of them were theater personnel, there would have to be another stage manager, another set of stage hands, another set of wardrobe personnel). There would be a very big outlay for costumes alone, even for a smaller cast, and for sets, even for a smaller theater. And that's not taking into account the different unions involved. I don't know whether Boston Ballet would even be allowed to employ people for a smaller production without the union's okay.

Good dancers are easy to come by.

Do you think so?

I wasn't saying that the Wang Center is the largest auditorium in the country, although it is certainly one of the bigger ones. I WAS saying that BB's Nutcracker

is the largest Nutcracker in terms of TICKET SALES.

I've often thought that a good way to compare numbers would be to take the same number of performances of a run, even accounting for the differences in theater size, and compare them that way. If you program more performances than anyone else, then there's a good chance you'll have greater ticket sales than anyone else, so it always seemed like a strange thing to publicize.

I have a hard time believing that the ticket price for the Rockettes will be any higher than for Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. Nutcracker tickets already run about $90 for good seats, even $36 for lousy seats. That is more than NYCB, more than ABT, more than any show I've ever seen on Broadway. Probably that's because there is less competition than in NYC. I just cannot imagine the market bearing anything more than $90 per ticket at this point.

Don't know about that. I thought I recalled that over a year ago there was some noise about the top ticket price on Broadway going up to 100 dollars. Top at Radio City for that show is 95.00 that I can see. The market in Boston, though, is not IMO going to bear anything higher than it's paying now for a long while. Not certain of the top price at NYCB or ABT.

...what is the Wang Center to do the rest of the year with such a big theater?

Well there's always the umpty-umpth touring production of The Lion King, which seems to be making the rounds these days....

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The Wang lost the Lion King to another Theater I believe

During the past four years, ClearChannel has become the biggest player in Boston. When the restoration of the Opera House is complete, ClearChannel will control venues of every size and shape, including the 200-seat Charles Playhouse basement (``Shear Madness''), the 500-seat Charles Playhouse (``Blue Man Group''), the 1,700-seat Colonial, the 1,200-seat Wilbur and, most dangerously for the Wang, the 2,400-seat Opera House.

  In a one-two punch, ClearChannel has come up with a viable alternative to the Wang and forged a relationship with Disney. ``The Lion King,'' on which Spaulding had counted for the Wang, is now scheduled to open at the Opera House next summer.

Boston Herald article on the politics of Theaters in Boston

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Don't mean to add "fuel to the fire" here, but the highest price Nutcracker tickets are $77.00. They range in price fro $19 to $77. Also, I believe BB reduced the number of shows they are doing this year considerably.

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No fire, mom, just pithy conversation! :wink:

I had heard Boston Ballet were reducing the numbers of shows, it had gone way past 50 last I knew, and I had always wondered when the law of diminishing returns would kick in. I checked the NYCB site and their ticket prices vary; weekdays I think the high price was 82 dollars, weekends I think it was 93. I also seem to remember that Chicago Tribune Charities had always tried to keep Nutcracker prices down, though now that I've checked the site, their tickets range from 15 to 90 dollars too, and they are doing it now at the Auditorium Theatre, which has 4300 seats. According to their web site, the Wang Center has 3600+ (their usage) seats.

Interesting to compare:

New York State Theater @ 2737 seats

Arie Crown Theater Chicago @ 4500 seats

Wang Center @ 3600 seats

Metropolitan Opera @ 3800 seats

War Memorial Opera House @ 3200 seats.

San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker has a top price for what is called Center Box seats of 130.00, 96.00 for Grand Tier and 86.00 for Orchestra Center.

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I'm wondering what, if anything, any of the local Boston Ballet fans have done to register their indignation with the Wang Center Board of Trustees over their decision to evict the Nutcracker? I've written a letter to the Board, which I am also sending to Mayor Menino's Office and to the Boston Globe and Herald. I've also been telephoning friends of mine on the Wang Center Board and registering my opinion. I know it's not going to do much more than give me an opportunity to vent, but it can't hurt to express an opinion. I was appalled to read in Sunday's Globe that the touring company of the Rockettes has caused a severe downturn in Nutcracker sales to regional ballet companies throughout the United States. In turn, the regional directors have downplayed the "high culture" aspect of the Nutcracker, which I think is a grave mistake.

One friend on mine on the Wang Board suggested that the Ballet should alternate years in Boston and go to Providence and Worcester in between times to build audiences. There has been a lot of talk about the expense of taking a production on the road, but does anyone have a clear sense of how much it actually would cost to take a large scale production such as Boston Ballet's Nutcracker on the road? I need to marshall my facts in order to respond!

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Festival Ballet Providence already puts up the Nutcracker in Providence. Not only would they be likely displeased to see the Boston Ballet nextdoor, it's also unlikely that BB would find enough ticket sales in a small market like Providence to meet their needs --- Festival Ballet has only 5 performances of Nutcracker 2003.

I think any talk of taking BB's Nutcracker on the road --- or putting it up in a significantly smaller space --- would entail a different production.

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Someone mentioned the new convention center... The Democratic National Convention will be held there next summer, so the convention center will be as done as it's going to get by then. Whether the building has suitable space for ballet or can be readily converted is another matter.

On the other hand, by the time Nutcracker season rolls around in 2004 we may all be so engrossed in the recount of the votes in the presidential election that no one will care about the Nut.

:wink:

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In term of touring costs, depending on the venue and the number of dancers and whether the orchestra is going, the cost to tour (even just to Worchester) would probably be at least $100,00-$250,000. That hardly seems worth it to a company that is struggling financially already.

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Why doesn't Boston have a Licnoln Center/ Kennedy Center/ Place Des Artes (Montreal)?

There will be plenty of empty space after they take down all those cranes at the big dig.

A logical location would be next to the new convention center, there seems to be plenty of space there.

MJ

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Why doesn't Boston have a Lincoln Center? Why doesn't San Francisco?

The simple answer is that no one thoguht it was important enough to build one. Or maybe that's the short answer, not the simple answer.

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I'd guess that NYC and Mexico Citiy are the only North American cities big enough to support a Lincoln Center, with its many (at least 6 that I can think of) theatres and 12 resident companies.

Now, as to why more cities don't have an equivalent to DC's Kennedy Center or Houston's Wortham Center, I suspect that LMC's right; it's a lack of vision.

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Or Denver Center in Denver or the Music Center in LA...

San Francisco has actually pulled itself together in the last 20 years and built a rather nice facility in the Yerba Buena Center, but the theater is small and parking is expensive. And it took them a long time to get the funding in place.

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Speaking of BB doing their Nut in a convention center... may I say that I thought the Arie Crowne was a god awful space in which to see one's first ballet? What a cavern... how it dwarfed the energy of the dancers... spaces that big are perphaps better suited to Rockette type shows... or maybe marching bands would be even better...

Why doesn't Chicago have a Lincoln Center either? It was once a centralized city, wasn't it? In the 90s when I lived in Chicago, the Loop was pretty dead... everyone was in the suburbs and getting anywhere involved long boring drives... very annoying to a NYer. At least LSD had a view. But there wasn't even a decent restaurant scene to support the theaters in the loop... it was like Wall Street, mostly closed down after the business day ended... no one hung out at bars or sidewalk cafes after a performance, or promenaded down the avenue... just long traffic jams of cars.

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Another good example.

At least in SF we don't have to worry about a lack of restaurants. We have more than our share in EVERY neighborhood. I read somewhere that it would take 7 years to eat at every restaurant in SF if you ate 3 meals a day out and then you would have to start over because there would be all these noew restaurants because turnover is so quick.

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There was a meeting for parents regarding Nutcracker 2004 tonight at BBS:

there will be a Nutcracker next season--by February BB will announce where.

the Wang contract with the Rockettes is not yet signed (according to the BB)--so the Wang is still a possibility.

additionally the Rockette contract is for alternate years--so maybe the Nutcracker could be at the Wang every other year.

Mayor Menino is on board to keep the Nutcracker in Boston.

perhaps the Wang is not the best place for BB--is very expensive even with "discount" (some figures thrown around: Wang gets $3 per ticket in addition to rent--$25,000/week was mentioned-- and all concessions and BB pays for time it does not use)

This was directly from the ballet--but I am not a reporter so...

As far as the financial relationship between the Wang and the BB--that may be fairly standard, I do not know--perhaps the Wang is just too costly for the BB.

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It certainly seems that way.

I'm sure someting will come together. Especially if they have the mayor on board.

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I'm glad Mayor Menino is committed to helping the Nutcracker stay in Boston but I was disappointed to see an interview with him and a news reporter saying that we should be "honored" that a New York production such as the Rockettes should come to Boston. I don't think he would say that if the Yankees wanted to play their games at Fenway Park instead of the Red Sox.

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I am wondering if I have missed something regarding the Wang and Nutcracker 2004. In a letter on Boston Ballet letterhead to the parents of Nutcracker children regarding Nutcracker pick up changes (made to lighten the conjestion caused by double parking etc) they state: "Help us keep the good will that we have been receiving as a result of the Wang's decision for next years Nutcracker going and please do not double park" Am I reading too much into this or does it appear that the BB has been granted a one year stay?

Moderators, if this is too speculative please delete.

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I read this as "help keep us on the good side of the public approval fence. Let's minimize the inconvenience to others: don't double park. We don't want to give anyone ammunition for complaints."

Just my thought on it.

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Just came on to say "false alarm"--probably would be better worded as PUBLIC SYMPATHY/good will (like the buyout of the private performance and the $3 million gift) as Wang seems to be in no position to be generous (according to article in Globe today).

Anyway fingers still crossed!

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In today's Boston Globe, link in Todays Liniks section:

The Wang has also become a target in the national dance world, where ballet leaders have criticized the decision and the way the Wang operates. They question the center's priorities and its top administrator, Spaulding, who despite two years of losses is paid $536,159 a year, more than almost any other nonprofit performing arts center head in the country. Michael Kaiser, the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts -- which has a $120 million budget, 10 times larger than the Wang's -- makes $548,113.

Over a half a million dollars. I would not exactly consider him a CEO of a major corporation.

Had no idea an administrator of a large performing arts center made that kind of money, given what many performing artists make such as ballet dancers and orchestra musicians.

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I think he's overpaid too, but in all fairness, dancers and musicians aren't expected to go out and bring in millions of dollars personally.

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