Chanhassen Artistic Director and Partners Will Take Over Popular MN Dinner Theatre

News   Chanhassen Artistic Director and Partners Will Take Over Popular MN Dinner Theatre
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres owner Thomas K. Scallen, who has sought a buyer for his popular Minnesota complex for more than a year, has now found one — and he's a member of the family.

Michael Brindisi, Chanhassen's resident artistic director and vice president, and Steven L. Peters, owner and president of VenuWorks, are leading a local group of investors who hope to close the deal to buy the operation by the end of February 2010. A letter of intent has been executed for the purchase of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

"It's extremely meaningful to know that my artistic colleague Michael Brindisi, and my good friend and long-time colleague Steve Peters, will uphold the legacy we've worked diligently to preserve for this community," Scallen said in a statement. "We know Chanhassen Dinner Theatres will be in capable hands and will continue to thrive."

Brindisi, a native Philadelphian, arrived at Chanhassen, in suburban Minneapolis, in 1971 to perform in The Matchmaker. He subsequently performed in multiple Chanhassen productions while intermittently appearing on the Broadway stage. Among multiple acting and directorial projects, he co-founded Minnesota Festival Theatre in Albert Lea. In 1989, Brindisi became resident artistic director at Chanhassen. Since that time, he's directed more than 60 productions on all four Chanhassen stages while leading his in-house artistic team.

Chanhassen is nationally known as one in a handful of commercial Equity dinner theatres operating in the U.S. Chanhassen has four theatres (three of which serve meals right in the auditorium). It serves 230,000 guests annually. About one-third of its audience comes from group sales. Its populist fare has included a 22-year continuous run of the musical I Do! I Do! (1971-93, with its original cast); the world premiere of five chapters in the Nunsense musical franchise (including the current Nunset Boulevard: The Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show); and the world premiere musical Easter Parade in 2007. More than 200 production have played Chanhassen in 40 years.

Brindisi stated, "I've witnessed the resolute commitment of the Bloomberg family who founded Chanhassen and ran it for 20 years before passing the torch to Tom Scallen, who likewise has carried on the same traditions for the past 21 years. At this juncture, I'm looking forward to our future. Our goals are the same as our predecessors, to be profitable, to maintain the quality experience, to improve upon it, and to have fun. The best days of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres are before us." Founded in 1968, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is the nation's largest Equity dinner theatre in the nation with multiple theatres under one roof. Over the years, over 200 productions have played the stages at Chanhassen, and more than 10,000,000 guests have been entertained.

Peters founded his company VenuWorks in 1996 to provide management services for theatres, arenas and convention centers. With headquarters in Ames, IA, VenuWorks manages over 30 venues in 17 states across the country.

The first order of business, according to the new buyers, will be to determine the future production schedule. "This will be happening quickly as audiences are eager to know what's next so they can make their plans," said Brindisi.

Peters and Chanhassen owner Scallen have been friends for over 20 years.

"We developed our friendship during the years when Tom's renowned entertainment companies, Ice Capades and Harlem Globetrotters, appeared year after year in our venues," said Peters. "It's a friendship I've valued greatly and we've managed to steadily maintain it despite the fact that we live in different cities. Over the years Tom has graciously hosted us for nearly every Chanhassen opening since he's owned the theatre. It is an honor to be following in Tom's footsteps at the Chanhassen."

Among goals for the new partnership, according to a Jan. 8 statement, is "to create new profit centers for the theatre."

Peters stated, "Chanhassen's on-site scenic and costume design shops could be further utilized to build touring productions, and we're interested in marketing Chanhassen's successful student theatre camp concept to other communities. There is a great deal of future potential."

The new company will continue to honor all advance ticket sales and all gift certificates purchased prior to the sale. "All guest purchases are completely safe with us," he said.

Shows currently on sale include Oklahoma! in the Main Dinner Theatre (to Jan. 23) and Nunset Boulevard in the Fireside Theatre (through the spring). Coming to the Playhouse for three performances only will be The Perfect Couple, featuring Dominic Castino and Cheryl Morrissey, with Ron Seaman on piano (Feb. 12-14).

Chanhassen will open a new production of the musical Footloose on Jan. 29.

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The cast of <i>Nunset Boulevard</i>: Bonnie Lee, Deborah Del Mastro, Stephanie Wahl, Jeanne Tinker and Bambi Jones
The cast of Nunset Boulevard: Bonnie Lee, Deborah Del Mastro, Stephanie Wahl, Jeanne Tinker and Bambi Jones
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