The good news: Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" is finally going on a real nationwide tour. Announcements in major newspapers this past week, including a full-color, half-page ad in USA Today, listed dates and venues for a 21-city, four-year tour.
The bad news: Salt Lake City isn't on the list.But that could change.
According to the folks at the Theater League of Utah, the dates in the ad aren't necessarily set in concrete. If one or two of those dates fall through, there's a good possibility that Salt Lake City - based on the record-breaking support for "Les Miserables" - could be selected as a replacement for one of the "Phantom" dates.
If there's one thing working against Salt Lake, however, it's that the Capitol Theatre just doesn't have the number of seats a large-scale production requires. I strongly suggest that it's time for the Salt Lake performing arts community to seriously consider the need for a 3,000-seat venue - the kind of facility that regularly draws big touring shows to Portland, Seattle, Denver, Phoenix and other Western cities.
Dates and cities on the tour, as it now stands:
This year: Boston (August), Detroit (November) and Seattle (December).
1993: Dallas and Portland (both in March), Cleveland and St. Paul, Minn. (both during April), Pittsburgh (July), St. Louis (October) and Cincinnati (November).
1994: Louisville, Ky. (January), Tampa, Fla. (February), Nashville, Tenn., (April), Houston (June), Costa Mesa, Calif. (July), Phoenix (September), and Denver (November).
1995: Kansas City, Mo. (January), Atlanta (April), Miami Beach, Fla. (May), and Columbus, Ohio (July).
A couple of things about this list just don't jibe. It seems rather odd that a show this complicated and costly appears to be booked for engagements of less than a month in at least four cities - playing both Dallas and Portland during March of 1993 and both Cleveland and St. Paul the following month.
When word of a possible "Phantom" tour first began spreading, it was indicated that engagements would be for at least a month or longer.
It also seems a bit ironic that it's scheduled to play in Costa Mesa, just down the road from Los Angeles, where it's currently enjoying big business, but hasn't been booked in the San Francisco area, where "Les Miserables" ran for nearly a year. (The blockbuster Ahmanson Theatre engagement in Los Angeles reportedly will close before then.)
Oh well, who knows? Maybe we can lure that other mysterious "Phantom" back to town - the really awful Regal Productions' "New York cast" version that stopped in Salt Lake City a couple of years back en route from Winnemucca, Nev., to Blackfoot (or some similarly strange itinerary).
- SPEAKING OF TOURING SHOWS - I'm beginning to sense the same bad vibes about the April 3-5 bus-and-truck production of "Annie" scheduled at Kingsbury Hall as I did about that notorious "Phantom."
A big, fat press packet arrived via priority mail Thursday. But it leaves something to be desired (and quite a few unanswered questions about potential quality) when 18 pages - more than half of the material - were mainly clippings and excerpts from rave reviews for the original Broadway production 15 years ago. Interesting stuff, but not particularly relevent. Printed applause from Rex Reed or the late Earl Wilson don't have much bearing on a touring version a decade and a half down the road.
The only current press material was an interview with Florence Wright (Miss Hannigan) from a Chattanooga Times from last fall, and a rave review from The Macon Telegraph in Macon, Ga.
You also have to wonder when the actual program for the upcoming "National Touring Productions" show is filled with biographical blurbs on the cast - and the biggest one by far is for Beau, the dog playing Sandy. Beau gets nearly twice as much space as any of the human performers in the cast.
But, they loved it in Macon and - who knows? - it might be a very fine production. The Kingsbury Hall box office reported on Friday morning that ticket sales were "going very well."
- SORRY, WRONG NUMBER - Few things are more irritating than patrons who try to carry on conversations in a theater, but for those who might've missed the following scenario in my recent review of "Our Town" in Bountiful, this bears repeating.
A patron on opening night brought in her cellular phone. During the first act, it beeped loudly and she proceeded to not only answer it, but carry on a conversation. My first thought was that Miss Manners would never condone such digustingly rude behavior. My second was that this person was very, very lucky that cellular phones are cordless. I was probably not the only one sitting nearby who would've loved to strangle her with it.
The experience certainly detracted from an otherwise pleasant evening. I don't think I'm alone in believing that when most people to out to the theater, they'd rather hear the dialogue on stage, not some boorish boob in the audience.
Please, performing arts patrons, check your pagers, phones and other such infuriating devices at the door.