September 27, 2004
Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Florida?
Compared with the battery of recent hurricanes and tropical storms there, Arizona’s summer heat doesn’t seem so bad to Will Prather, owner of the East Valley’s Broadway Palm West Dinner Theatre and a twin musical-and-meal house in Fort Myers, Fla.
While his Mesa playhouse is cleaning up after a successful summer run of "Forever Plaid" and gearing up for its 2004-05 season opener, "Miss Saigon," Prather expects to take a $200,000 hit in business for his Florida dinner theater’s run of the country revue "Always, Patsy Cline," thanks to the dastardly weather trio of Frances, Charley and Ivan.
"It’s unrelenting," Prather says from Florida. "Everyone here is bruised and battered."
He means that business-wise. His Fort Myers theater sustained minimal roof damage, but audiences have been too spooked by the weather to attend shows, Prather says.
A two-for-one ticket discount throughout the rest of the show’s run has helped bring crowds back, he says, and the company is donating $1 from every ticket sold to the American Red Cross.
"Basically," Prather says, "I had to do anything I could to get noise out there that I was back in business."
"Always" closes Saturday, after which a production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" will open. Prather is considering ways of discounting tickets to persuade residents dealing with property damage — and that’s most everyone, Prather says — to set aside some entertainment dollars to see his show.
First, though, he’ll work to hype his Mesa production of "Miss Saigon," a somewhat controversial show for a conservative dinner theater, what with "Saigon’s " mixed-race love story and Vietnam War setting.
Advance sales have been soft for "Saigon," compared with last year’s season-opening show of "West Side Story." Prather already sent his marketing folks out to leave promotional material in creative places — like among veterans’ groups and at nail salons. (Prather said the latter is a place to reach the attention of members of the Valley’s Asian community.)
" ‘Saigon’ is risky, but it is going to all three of my theaters," Prather says. "I’m basically married to the show for 24 weeks."
See ‘Miss Saigon’
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Ends Nov. 13.
Where: Broadway Palm West Dinner Theatre, 5247 E. Brown Road, Mesa
Cost: $25 to $50; most tickets include buffet
Information: (480) 325-6700 or