LOS ANGELES -- The three people behind the successful production of the musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at the Coronet Theatre are out to change the perception of Los Angeles as a "bad theatre" town. As if that notion were not provocative enough, the trio are upstarts who have crossed over from the field of television.
As profiled in a recent Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times, Barbara Corday, Michael Filerman and Roger Lowenstein have taken on the challenge of finding a local audience large enough to support a medium sized musical in a mid-sized theatre (the Coronet has 254 seats) for long enough to pay back the investors.
As the Times story said, "The show, which cost $400,000 to produce, is supported primarily by the trio's relatives and friends in the entertainment industry. Their hope is that the healthy presence of such shows could improve the climate for all types of theatre here."
Corday, Filerman and Lowenstein are no strangers to the challenges of producing. Among their TV credits are such series as "Cagney & Lacey," "Dallas," "Knots Landing" and "L.A. Law." Corday is also a former vice president of prime-time programs for CBS, as well as former president and chief operating officer of Columbia Pictures Television.
While the trio did not originate the musical -- it still plays in New York and has had several regional mountings, including Laguna Beach -- they saw in it something they felt could have mass appeal, not only with theatre regulars but with those who don't normally go to the theatre. Filerman said it was his experience with hit TV shows that made him believe I Love You would have mass appeal, despite mixed reviews from critics in New York and California. "I think TV helped me appreciate not only what is commercial, but what one can bring to an audience that is entertaining. I believe in entertainment."
As the Times article said, even with their television experience, the three are "finding that figuring out what motivates a typical Angeleno to muster the energy, the money, the babysitter and the commute required to go out for an evening of theatre is more difficult than, say, targeting a TV show to men ages 18 to 34."
"This is a very strange theatre town," Filerman said. "The first thing people ask me is, 'Is there parking?'"
There is a strong need for shows like I Love You, Corday added. This town needs "what we would call Off-Broadway in New York, the nice, mid-sized affordable shows where actors are getting paid -- there is so little of that here."
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent