Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Tarzan" in San Jose in February 2009 - EPIC FAIL

So I've known since the beginning of the year that I will be going to San Jose in February of 2009 to see the revamped stage version of "Tarzan". I've had it on a post-it in my calendar to check monthly to see when single tickets will go on sale. Finally, the magical date was published - December 4, 2008. OK, great. Then, additional details were published - ticket sales start at 12:01 AM on December 4, 2008. OK, that means I have to stay up until midnight on Wednesday night to buy tickets. Fine.

So I talked to the husband about when would be the best time for us to go and first, second and third choices of show dates so that I could look for the best seats available.

At about 11:30pm Wednesday night, I went to the tickets page of American Musical Theatre of San Jose to make sure I had the right page up on my browser when tickets went on sale. I'd gone earlier in the week just to check it out, and it had all the right links for the "Tarzan" show. This time, I was confused because on the "buy tickets now" page, there was no listing for "Tarzan". Hmmm, that's odd.

I browsed around to their schedule, and they still had the information for "Tarzan" listed on the "on our stage" section.

OK. But that's still odd. So I had remembered that when I'd gone to the tickets page earlier in the week, it had sent me to Ticketmaster, so since I knew Ticketmaster was selling the tickets, I went there and did a search for "Tarzan". What I found was not what I expected to find.

The show was supposed to play in South Carolina and Atlanta before coming to San Jose, and all the South Carolina and Atlanta shows were listed as cancelled. Whiskey.Tango.Foxtrot. This was still before midnight, so the San Jose dates were still listed as going on sale at 12:01 AM on December 4, 2008. OK, so I clicked on one of those links. That would usually take you to the purchase page which would say that tickets aren't yet on sale, but it would have the show information and sale date up. Instead of going to that page, though, the link took me back to a page on American Musical Theatre's site that said there was no further information. Not good.

So I went to Google and looked for news. And boy, did I find news.

I had thought that the revamped version of "Tarzan" was being done by Disney, but from what I've read now, it looks like the property was licensed by Disney to outside vendors, and the financing for the show was shared among Atlanta's Theater of the Arts, American Musical Theatre of San Jose, and Dallas Summer Musicals, which was supposed to have gotten the show after its run in San Jose.

Somehow or other, the show didn't materialize. Monies were advanced from the San Jose and Dallas groups to the Atlanta group, but the Atlanta group seems to have unilaterally decided to shutter the show. Oh, sure, they're claiming that the show has been "postponed indefinitely", but that's like saying it's being put on "hiatus". The CEO for the San Jose group is claiming that the Atlanta group used the advances to pay for other underperforming productions, and if that's true, I can't imagine a theatre group doing that sort of thing. But if you're in a partnership with two other groups, how do you fire all the actors and show personnel without even consulting your partners, without letting them know that you've even considered taking the move of firing everyone, without going to them as soon as you knew something was wrong?

So I'm sad that I won't be seeing "Tarzan" after all. But I'm really sad about the further fallout from all this. With the loss of "Tarzan", the American Musical Theatre of San Jose is closing down.

This information from the article is what's most striking to me.

Tarzan was the tent pole for American Musical Theatre's season. By losing it, Miller said, his theatre lost its $225,000 down payment, $800,000 in advance ticket sales, and a projected $500,000-$600,000 in additional ticket sales.

Tickets for the show have already been available to subscribers, which is what I presume "advance ticket sales" means, and the "additional ticket sales" would be people like me who were waiting for single tickets to go on sale. A hit of more than $1.5 million would be hard for any organization, but for a smaller theatre company, that's devastating. And to me, it's all the more difficult to absorb because a partner theatre company is at fault.

Here's a story about how Atlanta's actions directly contributed to the demise of the American Musical Theatre.

Here's another article about American Musical Theatre's closing, but this article says they're filing Chapter 7, not Chapter 11 as the other articles say.

I love theatre, so to hear that a 73 year old theatre group is going out of business is sad indeed. American Musical Theater has posted a statement about the closure on their website. In case it's taken down in the future, I'm duplicating it below.

Dear Friends,

It's with a heavy heart that we inform you of the demise of American Musical Theatre of San Jose. We are sorry we were not able to talk to all of you personally but time does not permit us to at this time. It has truly been an honor and pleasure to work with all of you and we sincerely hope our paths cross again soon.

On behalf of all of us here at AMTSJ...warmest regards,

Michael Miller
CEO & Executive Producer

American Musical Theater of San Jose Ceases Operations, Effective Immediately

The American Musical Theatre of San Jose today announced that it is ceasing business operations, effective immediately. The theatre's upcoming productions of Tarzan and 42nd Street have been cancelled although the touring production of Chicago will be performing as scheduled, all tickets will be honored. We are currently in communication with the producers of Avenue Q, to achieve the same result as Chicago.

"We received a telephone call a few days ago from our co-producer for Tarzan, which was the Theater of the Stars in Atlanta, Georgia basically telling us that they used the funds that we had paid them towards the production for other things," said Michael Miller, CEO and Executive Producer of AMTSJ. "In essence, they cancelled the show without giving us any warning, and we discovered that the funds we had paid for Tarzan were spent on another production of theirs, which lost a significant amount of money," Miller continued.

Added Robert Nazarenus, AMTSJ's Chief Financial officer: "The cancellation of Tarzan meant nearly a two million dollar loss to us. The disappearance of the six figures that we paid to Atlanta's Theater of the Stars in good faith coupled with the huge loss of revenues we anticipated from Tarzan was just too much to overcome, particularly in these economic times." Nazarenus went on to say "Despite the harsh economic times, we were operating prudently, and had a solid strategic plan in place. We have always found a way to succeed, with quality productions, patron loyalty, and community support. This season was no different. But, when you in essence lose nearly two million dollars, it is impossible to recover. What makes this even more frustrating is the fact that this is caused by the wanton actions of another theater company."

AMTSJ's local attorneys, coupled with strong legal representation hired in Atlanta, are pursuing aggressive action against Atlanta's Theater of the Stars. Miller and Nazarenus indicate that they will pursue AMTSJ's claim to its successful conclusion. "We are devastated for this community, our staff, and most of all for our loyal patrons," Miller said. "It is especially frustrating because of how hard we have worked, how sound our plan going forward has been, and because of the history and heritage of the American Musical Theatre of San Jose. This is a sad moment for all of us. We will aggressively pursue our claim against the Theater of the Stars to recover whatever money we can to pay the City of San Jose, our vendors and our loyal patrons for their good faith investment in AMTSJ."

What a loss to the people of San Jose and anyone who has gone or has been considering going to a show there.


Sherry said...

That's really, really disappointing news, not only for you in your Tarzan fandom, but also to the San Jose community for losing their theater company. I hate when the arts go down because of financial woes.

Tim Castro said...

That totally sucks. So I assume the folks in Atlanta get a pass on this since they have no monies to pay penalties?

Cindy said...

Well, Atlanta isn't going under because of this, so I'm not sure what's going to happen. They're saying they're going to take care of their own patrons who had bought tickets to the show, but they seem to be completely non-chalant about the two other theatre groups that they screwed over. I think that's part of what bothers me.

I think what it will boil down to is what the contract among them said. If the contract specifically stated that the advances were to go only to the development of "Tarzan", and Atlanta used the monies for other stuff, that's going to be a problem. I think they are claiming that the pre-production costs exceeded the combined advances from the two groups, so it might be a matter of pulling out the books and taking a look.

San Jose's people are contemplating a lawsuit. I don't remember seeing if the Dallas folks had any plan of action yet.