Record-breaking summer for Harbourfront Theatre

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Nancy MacPhee
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Fall, winter season busy for Summerside theatre

SUMMERSIDE — It was a record-breaking summer at Summerside’s Harbourfront Theatre with the hope that numbers will be just as good for the fall and winter seasons, says manager Kieran Keller.

Harbourfront Theatre general manager Kieran Keller is building on the momentum of what he called one of the most successful summers to date at the theatre.

Although it was a more scaled back summer at the theatre, profits and attendance were up, said Keller.

Most of the credit goes to Harbourfront’s newest production, “Nunsense”, which replaced “Anne & Gilbert.”

Rising costs and a limited budget prompted the theatre to opt out of producing “Anne & Gilbert”, a decision that wasn’t made until late in the spring.

Keller admitted that left staff scrambling to find a suitable replacement, which, he added, it did in the musical comedy and off-Broadway stable written by Dan Goggin.

“It was probably the most successful show that the theatre’s had for any summer show. We’re ecstatic,” said Harbourfront’s manager. “It ran for the month of August with three shows a week and 14 performances in total.”

The show was such a success that it will return for the summer of 2013.

“It wasn’t quite a sell out every night but pretty close. As a cost-saving measure we only had so many seats available per night at the beginning of the run,” said Keller. “Fairly quickly we realized we were selling that out and we realized the demand was going up. We ended up expanding and opening up all the seats and they filled up. At the end, we had to turn people away.”

Producing the show cost substantially less than “Anne & Gilbert”, which had a large cast and budget.

“If you are the producer, you either sink or swim on whether the show makes a profit or the show suffers a loss,” said Keller, adding “Nunsense” was much more cost-effective. “It packed a great punch and resonated with people. It played with religion but it did so with respect.”

Also a hit this summer was the return of the Harbourfront Players’ hit, “Whose Wives Are They Anyway,” which was first staged last spring and back on the stage for a weekend in July. That show was co-produced by Harbourfront Theatre.

Rounding out the summer was two performances by Thane Dunn and the Cadillac Kings, which was a rental and had near sold-out crowds.

So far this fall, the theatre has been hopping, with in-house productions and numerous rentals.

This weekend, the Bon Jovi Experience had a respectable crowd and Thursday night’s Stars of Coronation Street show, featuring stars Alan Halsall and Andy Whyment, who portray pals Tyrone Dobbs and Kirk Sutherland, almost sold out.

On Saturday, Dance Virtuosa has its Christmas recital, “Winter Danceland” and the theatre will be “overtaken” by Fandango Theatre Group, which will be staging “Beauty and the Beast” beginning Nov. 30.

“This is a massive production for them. It’s big no matter what,” said Keller. “They are going all out in this. We are doing everything we can to help them out, get them ready. People are going to be quite surprised by it.”

The Rocklands Group is bringing “An Amish Family Christmas” to the Harbourfront Theatre stage on Dec. 12. Summerside Intermediate School’s Christmas concert, always a sell out, is also being staged in December.

In the new year things are just as busy, with the Harbourfront Players returning to the stags for five nights in February with “Calendar Girls.”

“I am so glad this is being done. The rights to this show are only available for a short time, about a year and a half,” said Keller. “There are a lot of different theatre groups who are putting up the show in this time frame. They are going for a Guinness World Book record to see how many productions can be done in this time frame.”

Dean Brody’s one-night-only show, set for Feb. 22, is already sold out.

The Rocklands Group returns with “Oh, What a Night” on March 27 with the classical duo of Guy and Nadina taking the stage the following night.

Keller is happy with the direction of the theatre and hopes to continue on the momentum from this past summer.

“I just keep trying to make sure our calendar is full with strong shows. I think we are seeing the results,” he added. “We can always do better. Word of mouth is your most powerful advertising”

For more information about the theatre and its fall and winter lineup, visit www.harbourfronttheatre.com.

 

nmacphee@journalpioneer.com

 

 

Organizations: Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside theatre, Rocklands Group Cadillac Kings Fandango Theatre Group Summerside Intermediate School

Geographic location: Broadway, Coronation Street

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