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Reprise Theatre Company goes on hiatus, cites financial hardship

February 17, 2012 | 12:36 pm


Reprise Theatre Company has canceled its upcoming April production of "The Apple Tree" and is suspending all mainstage productions for the foreseeable future, the organization said Friday. The company has suffered from weak projected ticket sales and lackluster fundraising.

The company, which produces revivals of classic and recent musical theater titles at UCLA's Freud Playhouse, said it will go on hiatus in order to determine what business model it will adopt for the future.

Reprise won't be suspending all operations. The company will continue to produce one-night-only special events, such as "Seth Rudetsky's Deconstructing Broadway" on Feb. 23. But the company said its mainstage productions have been put on indefinite hold.

Jason Alexander, the "Seinfeld" actor and the company's artistic director since 2007, said Reprise has been unable to reconcile the need to expand its audience base while also staying true to its artistic mission, which includes productions of quirky, lesser-known musical titles.

"I can't tell you that we've ever grown our audience," Alexander said in a phone interview. "What does attract an audience in L.A.? Our entire model broke six or seven years ago. We kept bandaging it rather than addressing it. This hiatus is going to force us to reinvent the wheel."

Reprise, founded in 1997, normally produces three musicals each season. In the past, it has staged well-known titles, such as "Cabaret" and "Gigi," but part of its mission of late has also been to delve into less populist waters with revivals that appeal to diehard musical theater fans.

The company has an operating budget of approximately $2.5 million, with about $1 million coming from fundraising and the rest from ticket sales, according to Christine Bernardi Weil, the company's managing director.

Weil said that projected audience numbers of "The Apple Tree" were low and that fundraising would not have been able to make up for the shortfall. She said the decision to go on hiatus was made by the company's board of directors in order to avoid a financial crisis.

She said Reprise "doesn't owe money to creditors that we won't be able to pay back in a reasonable time period."

The company's recent production of "Cabaret" in September was a hit, with audience capacity usually hitting more than 80%. "But we needed it to do even better," she said.

In November, Reprise pulled the plug on its revival of "The Baker's Wife," citing weak projected box-office results.

It remains unclear what form Reprise will take in the future. Alexander said that Reprise could be exploring partnerships with other organizations that aren't necessarily arts-focused and have more to do with the larger L.A. community. He declined to elaborate further on those plans.

Reprise said that ticket holders for "The Apple Tree" will be refunded in full.


Reprise Theatre Company cancels production of 'The Baker’s Wife'

Theater review: 'Cabaret' at UCLA's Freud Playhouse

'Cabaret' and 'The Baker's Wife' set for Reprise Theatre Company's 2011-12 season

-- David Ng

Photos: Lisa O'Hare and Jeff McLean in Reprise's September production of "Cabaret." Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times