The Roundabout Theatre Company will open the American Airlines theatre on June 30 as previously announced, although certain work remains to be done on the theatre's new penthouse or "sky lobby." The final budget for the restoration and new construction of the venue will now reach $25 million, Roundabout sources said.
The lobby work is not structural in nature and is limited to a last-minute design change, according to Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes. Haimes said the lobby should be available for use by mid-July. For sound proofing reasons, the lobby was constructed on a steel support system that bridges the roof of the American Airlines theatre without touching it. Haimes said the lobby represents a major naming opportunity as well, with an estimated price of over $1 million.
Unhappy with the original design, Haimes brought in restaurant designer David Rockwell (of Nobu and Grand Central Dining Concourse fame) who has been working on the project for the past few weeks. Rockwell has made substantial progress on a large mural which runs the length of the lobby's northern wall along W. 43rd Street.
Typical of large projects like these, Haimes reports that the budget for the restoration and new construction for the American Airlines theatre (which the Roundabout abbreviates as "AA") has now reached the $25 million mark, which is up from $21 million in March. The budget was reported at $17 million last fall. The redesign of the lobby is only a "drop in the bucket," and will run somewhere in the low six figures, Haimes said. Meanwhile, Roundabout has also reached a subscriber base level of 46,000, up from roughly 42,000 at the beginning of the year.
As reported earlier, the Roundabout removed some seating at the Selwyn, re-raked the orchestra, added 15 feet of space along the W. 42nd Street facade for backstage, dressing room and support areas, and specified a huge heating/air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) system that provides separate and distinct climate control for the stage, orchestra, pit, backstage and lobby areas. "The Roundabout is about producing great theatre," said the company's fundraiser, Julia C. Levy last December, "but we're also about making the experience as inviting, as educational and as pleasant as possible for our subscribers." The Roundabout has focused on improving theatre amenities as part of a comprehensive subscriber solicitation effort. Levy also said that at the Selwyn the seats are larger and "there are not only more rest rooms for women -- but for men as well."
"It's all part of Todd's philosophy," Levy said, "but in short, our mission is to serve both the subscribers and the artists. Customer service has always been a top priority. For instance, when subscribers buy tickets to a show, and they discover that they've lost their babysitter, they can call up until 4 PM on the day of the show and someone will be there to take that call, graciously accept a cancellation and make another date."
"It's no longer enough to do great theatre," Levy suggested. "You have to reach out and look at what the needs are for the audience and bring some added value to the theatre experience. We send out study guides, and there is always some kind of material on hand covering an educational aspect of the theatre so that people can read about it. We try and listen to our potential audience and figure out what they need to come see our theatre."
Another aspect of Roundabout's program of "added values" is a comprehensive series aimed at providing for the specific needs of various segments of the audience. Designed to accommodate several groups, there is a Roundabout series available for families who want ticket prices structured so that parents can include their children in the theatre; for singles who may appreciate a social event attached to the theatre experience; for teachers and educators who attend discussions; and even "early birds" who enjoy the novel 7 PM curtain so they can eat a late dinner or commute to the suburbs and still watch the late news.
For further information on the Roundabout Theatre call (212) 719 9393.
-- By Murdoch McBride