LOS ANGELES --Compared to New York, Los Angeles is a tough theatre town, according to Peter Schneider, head of Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, whose first two productions, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King , have been critical and financial Broadway hits.
In a Jan. 2 interview with Laurie Winer of the Los Angeles Times, Schneider pinpointed the difference between the two cities: "In New York, you have this huge theatre system," he said, "...but the whole system is driven by a desire to be on Broadway. The pinnacle of success in Los Angeles is being in a movie. Theatre is always secondary. So therefore you have Gordon Davidson, who has been doing great work for over 30 years, always losing his best people to the movie business."
Schneider also pointed to the problems Ragtime has had in Los Angeles. "The numbers have been bad," he said. "The show could be bringing in a million a week; it's bringing in $500,000. It needed to go to New York first, then come to L.A. What does that say about us? That we can't embrace something until after it comes from New York? Well, that is the truth, it defines who we are."
Schneider, who began his career working Off-Broadway in the 70s and produced theatre in Los Angeles as an associate producer with the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, also feels "it's not as much fun to go to the theatre here. Going to Broadway is fun," he said. "Walking down Times Square...now...ooh, baby, it's great. Have you been lately? It's great."
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent