Goodspeed Musicals is expected to be a three-venue complex in and around East Haddam, CT, in the next few years as the Tony Award-honored musical theatre company explores building a $35 million new theatre.
A spokesman for Goodspeed Musicals, which gave Annie, Man of La Mancha and Shenandoah early productions before Broadway, told Playbill On-Line the hoped for site of the new 700-seat theatre is a car dealership two doors down from the historic Goodspeed Opera House. The new building would also house the staff of the theatre (and possibly its extensive musical theatre library) and complement the Goodspeed season.
One of the reasons for the new building is to help make new shows ready for moving to commercial runs elsewhere. Works first staged in the tiny opera house now have to be redesigned and rebuilt if they are to move on. The new theatre would not only have a larger auditorium (allowing more people to see shows), it would have a larger stage house to accommodate Broadway-sized physical productions.
"The whole motivation behind it is that we're selling out [and] we need more seats," said spokesman Dan McMahon. "There's also the idea of improving the stagehouse area, so technically we can improve our product and have it move on..." There is no talk of shutting down the opera house space. Goodspeed's developmental new-works venue in nearby Chester, CT, The Norma Terris Theatre, would also continue to operate.
Although the plans are now called "exploratory," a capitalization plan is being put together to be announced within the next few months and architects have been engaged for the project. Environmental impact studies are complete. The new theatre and the idea of a year-round resident theatre community "will also create more economic development" for the city of East Haddam, McMahon said. The sleepy town on the Connecticut River would become an even more important theatre destination than it already is if there is product in all three houses.
If all goes well, the new theatre would open "at least three years from now," McMahon said.
The State of Connecticut has already committed at least $7 million in matching funds toward the ambitious project.
The Toronto firm Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna, Blumberg Architects, designers of the new Goodman Theatre in Chicago, are the architects on board for Goodspeed.
— By Kenneth Jones