TOWN:Lots of cheer at the performing arts center


December 20, 2006|By STEVE SMITH

My wife and I have been in a rush of activity over the past few weeks. We heard a concert at the new Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, saw the St., Petersburg ballet perform "The Nutcracker" at the performing arts center, and caught "A Christmas Carol" at South Coast Repertory.

That combination was no doubt what the creators of the arts venues, particularly the Segerstrom family, had in mind. Sort of something-for-everyone places.

With the addition of the concert hall, the collection of theaters makes it very attractive.

Of the three evenings out, we most enjoyed "A Christmas Carol," starring Hal Landon Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge, a role he has played at the repertory since 1980. The spotlight has often found Landon recently.


Landon not only got a write-up in the Daily Pilot, but Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons wrote about him too, interviewing him just before one of his performances.

In his column, Parsons wondered how an actor can move from his regular personality to his stage character in so short a time.

I have seen this happen with my daughter, who has been studying drama for several years and even played one of the Cratchit children with Landon several years ago.

As with many other professions, actors learn ways to do their job well. They all have their own methods.

"A Christmas Carol" at the repertory is not to be missed. We usually get tickets in the preview week. Not only are they less expensive, but it also provides an earlier start to the holidays.

Speaking of less expensive, I would have liked to have seen some severely discounted tickets to "The Nutcracker," particularly on Dec. 12, the night we went.

That night, the performing arts center attendance was very light. Before, during and after the show, I wondered why some of those seats were not discounted to $10 to let more kids see the show — kids from parts of the county who would otherwise not have the exposure to a world-class ballet company performing a favorite children's show.

You see, I am not sure how the theater business works. Isn't it better to sell lots of "extra" tickets for something rather than let them go empty? And won't some of those patrons pay for parking and spend again on refreshments at intermission?

That strategy is not limited to the theater. Anyone who travels knows that airline tickets get higher in price as the flight approaches, not lower.

But it does work when Christmas shopping. In the last week before Christmas, many retailers are dropping prices on holiday merchandise that is less likely to sell before Dec. 25.

The Christmas shopping season presents another anomaly for it is routine to have big sales after the event. A theater cannot sell tickets after the performance, nor can an airline sell a ticket after the flight has left.

It's all rather complicated, but over time it does seem to work out.

One last comment on the performing arts center. I think it would be a nice idea to provide small folding chairs or jump seats for the ushers. The thought of them standing throughout each performance hurts my legs, so I can imagine how theirs feel.

  • STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Readers may leave a message for him on the Daily Pilot hotline at (714) 966-4664 or send story ideas to

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