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No Wang for 2004 Nutcracker


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In 2004, for the first time in 35 years, Boston Ballet will have to find a venue other than the Wang for their Nutcracker.

Quote from today's Globe:

The Wang Center for the Performing Arts confirmed yesterday that it has decided to boot Boston Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker," an annual Christmastime rite that draws 120,000 fans a year. The show will be replaced by another, starting in 2004.

This year's Nutcracker run will take place as scheduled, but next year the Wang hopes to present the touring "Radio City Christmas Spectacular," according to the ballet's directors.

Yet another salvo fired in the ongoing struggle between supporting the arts and having a profitable business...

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According to the article, Boston Ballet gets a discount rate when using the Wang.

So the Wang will make more money by having a more commercial venture in the house.

I'm pretty sure there is no recourse (legally, anyway), and I wonder if this means they will end up with the show outside of Boston??? (Lowell or Foxborough have big auditoriums.)

Parking is horrible for the Wang, which is right in the middle of Boston, so maybe a more accessible (read: suburban) venue would actually have some people attending who wouldn't otherwise.

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In the world of my dreams, the Boston area has a performing arts center that is easily accessible by car and by public transportation, has ample well designed parking (no 45 minute waits to escape after a performance), several theaters of varying sizes to accommodate various performances and with good sight lines from all the seats, and access to eateries of varying types and price ranges. All with good food and attuned to the need for patrons to make curtain times. Did I leave anything out? Oh yes, a commitment to the organizations that perform there! In the real world, I expect Boston Ballet will find another venue and cope with the impact.

Ironic that this came out in the paper on national Take Back Your Time Day, geared to thinking less about the bottom line and more about quality of life.

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bbfan--What you are describing is the Kennedy Center here in Washington.

(I am not completely sure about the parking since I usually just park on the street.)

Where one would put such a place in Boston, though, is a tough question.

Maybe on the site in Somerville (?) where they were talking about an IKEA?

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Something like Kennedy Center or Lincoln Center would be nice... finding a good space for in could be a challenge. There is an area near the waterfront but that would be expensive and not so easy to get to, even after the Big Dig is done. Somerville could be an interesting choice... I'm leading us off topic though.

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The Nutcracker/Radio City Musical Hall problem is going to koeep cropping up, I think. The entertainment industry has discovered there's a Holiday Market and are programming "family friendly" entertainments during the Christmas season. I've heard/read reports ini several cities where an ice show, or Cirque du Soleil, or the Rockettes, or a Christmas play with big name stars has come in and really cut into Nutcracker ticket sales.

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"No city has ever booted 'The Nutcracker.' Not in San Francisco, Washington, New York, for a commercial thing, " said "The Nutcracker's" artistic director Mikko Nissinen.

Mikko should have a conversation with Raymond Lukens about Miss Saigon and Hartford Ballet at the Bushnell.... or perhaps he doesn't consider Hartford a city.

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The entertainment industry has discovered there's a Holiday Market and are programming "family friendly" entertainments during the Christmas season.

The film industry has understood this for years -- since I've had a child I've been very aware of the upcoming "holiday films," which open just before Thanksgiving to take full advantage of the possibilties.

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We went to the Nutcracker the year it was in the Hynes. It was a relatively last-minute situation, the then-Metropolitan had roof trouble and there was a need to relocate while it was repaired. I don't remember how much in advance of the season that happened; it might even have been after the fall season had started. At the time, the Hynes space was quite sterile, and I recall feeling that it detracted from the performance. However, the Hynes has been refurbished since then, and with sufficient lead time it could be that the space would be more charming. We sat in a balconey area with good sightlines; I don't know what the floor seats were like and don't remember how the orchestra was accommodated.

I think the Hynes location - in Copley Square area - would be a good location for an arts center. Lots of parking around, very good access via public transportation, restaurants etc. The things I mentioned elsewhere I'd like to have.

Another location that has been mentioned for possible Nutcracker is a new theater in the new convention center on the waterfront. The building isn't finished so have no idea what that would be like. The location feels like 'can't get there from here' because of the road construction, one would hope that would improve....

I guess we'll hear in a few weeks. Meanwhile, we can look forward to Nutcracker this year in the Wang.

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Read today somewhere (Herald? Globe? Phoenix? Can't remember and lost the paper) that Wang is rumored to be contemplating a multi-year contract for the Rockettes.

Looking at that poll (the Nutcracker leading now at 84%) who's going to go see it the first year, much less years to come? Everybody seems to be insanely polite about this, but I seem to be missing something here, is this not the most widely attended Nutcracker in the world or something ridiculous like that?

Okay, I found it, it's in this week's Phoenix (maybe somebody smarter than I am can get the link) Jeffrey Gantz giving all the pertinent information. He ends,

"Boston has never done anything to deserve a ballet company this big or this good, but we got it anyway. Now, if action isn't taken, we may lose it. The international arts world will be waiting to see whether Boston lets the world's most popular Nutcracker go homeless, and whether it lets one of America's finest ballet compalies go unsupported. We already lost game seven to the Yankees. Our biggest and best daily newspaper is owned by the New York Times. Do we have to trash Boston Ballet so we can watch the Rockettes?"

Edited by dido
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Looking at that poll (the Nutcracker leading now at 84%) who's going to go see it the first year, much less years to come?

The Rockettes have put on shows in many cities. Both they and the Wang Center probably know what they're doing. Web polls are not a very accurate indicator of Rockette ticket sales. By virtue of its nature, the Web poll is going to attract mainly people who have a distinct interest in the article it accompanies --- namely, those who would rather not see the change.

is this not the most widely attended Nutcracker in the world

Yes it is --- but it has also been shrinking for many years. Any rational business model must either take this into account or figure out a way to reverse the decline. One must question the artistic value of being the biggest or of having the most tons of confetti for snow.

Boston Ballet is big enough, it could put on multiple Nutcrackers in smaller auditoriums --- just like it now has multiple schools. It could do a smaller downtown Nutcracker, then one on the South Shore, one in MetroWest and one on the North Shore. That might help boost ticket sales by making it more accessible to the communities that support it. Depending on how it is done, it could also reduce production costs --- not to mention the possibility of employing more dancers in an age where there are thousands of great dancers with no work prowling the streets.

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I agree. Movable productions are not necessarily less expensive. The company is not that big....and it seems as if more wear and tear on the dancers is the only thing that would result. I don't see why or how they could hire more.

I agree that it is a sad thing not to have Nut at the Wang, as the Hynes Convention Center would seem more the venue for the Radio City Christmas show. The Wang is a beautiful, beautiful theatre and much of the magic of Nutcracker can only be enhanced by the exquisite setting for the production.

Let's hope that a solution will prove viable and not too costly for the company, as well as the audience which supports it.

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I'm not talking about touring. I'm talking about mouting multiple small stay-in-one-place productions rather than one that's the biggest in the country. There are surprisingly few economies of scale in ballet, and it could easily turn out that this is at least as profitable a route to take as the current one.

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Oh, don't get me started on Clear Chaneel. Their particular style of hardball used to be called illegal in this country.

citibob, do you mean seveal smaller productions of Nut running all at the same time? I don't think that would work if you only have on set of scenery and/or costumes, as I suspect BB has.

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Yes, that's what I mean. Clearly it would require some re-tooling. The suggestion comes from the observation that whereas BB's business model of the 100,000+ Nutcracker is in danger, plenty of ballet companies do just fine financially on smaller productions. That combined with the fact that BB is many times the size of those companies means that it too could play the mid-size Nutcracker game as successfully as anyone else if it wanted to.

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They may do fine, Citibob, but you still have the problem of only a certain number of dancers. You wouldn't really be able to take circa 50 dancers total and do more than one Nutcracker anywhere unless what you wanted to do was a student Nutcracker, and there are already too many of those in that market. 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. The company is AGMA, and that may be a point of argument for those who think that the union's rules are restrictive on this, but my bet is that AGMA might have something to say about conditions, overwork, etc.

The Wang isn't the largest such venue at less than 4,000 seats. Ruth Page's Nutcracker (and they didn't have a company as such for many years that they did it) performed in the cavernous Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place on the south side of Chicago, and I seem to recall that it had approximately 4500 seats (and a 90 foot proscenium!). Anything built for a place that large doesn't travel well as few theatres have the equipment to house a production like that. 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 and a big business entertainment conglomerate just has more guarantees to offer.

My particular feeling also is that it is fine to do a few weeks of a great big Nutcracker just about anywhere, but that some companies (and this may include Boston Ballet) fall for the idea that more is always better, add more and more performances per year when it isn't necessary, fail to recognize the potential saturation point and set themselves up for failure that way. It isn't any kind of admission of failure, though. for a company like ABT to do some seasons at the Met and others at City Center, so Boston Ballet shouldn't be looked down upon for doing some performances at the Wang and some elsewhere (not that you are necessarily doing so, but I have heard it mentioned as though it were a shortcoming somehow).

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The theater availability situation seems to have reached crush depth. When I was working in town on a museum project, I wanted to check out the old Tremont Street Theater, and found that it had been converted into a Baptist Church. Well, at least the place came with a pipe organ! Boston used to have lots of theaters - not barns like the Wang, but of respectable size, and centrally located. Robert Joffrey used to say that it was better to sell out a smaller theater than have the show at a bigger place. The trick was to know when you can sell out the bigger place! :wink:

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