For the past six years, Goodspeed's board of trustees for the Goodspeed Opera House Foundation has wanted "to build a larger, more comfortable theatre" than its historic flagship East Haddam home, the Goodspeed Opera House.
At a meeting on June 19, Goodspeed's board met to consider a revised proposal from the City of Middletown and to review the likelihood of being able to build and expand in East Haddam.
Middletown recently presented an offer to build the new theatre and to provide land for an administration and production center. Assistance with building actor housing has also been offered.
The move up the Connecticut River is contingent on Middletown building a multimillion dollar theatre for the troupe and handing over the land and the title. Goodspeed would find the money for the construction of a nearby administration, production and library facility.
Goodspeed hasn't completely had it with East Haddam: The Tony Award-honored company will continue operating the Opera House in East Haddam, producing a tourist-friendly annual summer show there. The Norma Terris Theatre, Goodspeed's lab space for developing works, is expected to continue. "A new theatre will allow Goodspeed to provide more modern comforts for its patrons, including better seating and visibility; produce in a facility that is specifically designed for staging musicals; produce on a larger stage that will allow Goodspeed to send shows on tour to other cities; and allow more flexibility in the Goodspeed's programming and creative endeavors," according to the announcement.
"After thorough discussion, the trustees voted overwhelmingly to select Middletown as the location for its new theatre subject to the following conditions: The City of Middletown constructing a theatre on the Main Street site that satisfies Goodspeed's needs and plans at no cost to Goodspeed; title to the land and theatre will be given to Goodspeed Musicals; and The deKoven Drive site will be given to Goodspeed for construction of its support facilities."
The aim is to open the new Middletown theatre by spring 2008, but as of now "details of the Middletown financial package for building the theatre are still pending." The Goodspeed board has made it clear that the project must be fully funded before it will proceed.
The theatre would invigorate the Middletown economy with an influx of hundreds of thousands of theatregoers annually. It is not known if East Haddam will now make a grand offer to keep Goodspeed in its backyard.
Goodspeed estimates that it needs to raise an additional $20 million for construction of offices, production shops, a new library and other facilities so that its entire staff will work within steps of the new theatre.
The new theatre is projected to open in spring 2008. "As the planning for Goodspeed's new Middletown theatre has only just begun additional details are not available at this time," according to the announcement.
"As we look to the future, I hope our audiences are as excited as we are to know that Goodspeed's future will be secure as we plan and move into a new facility created specifically for producing musicals," Michael Price, executive director of Goodspeed Musicals, said in a statement. "We are so appreciative of Middletown's vote of confidence in our work and the value they place on Goodspeed Musicals as an economic catalyst for Main Street. Imagine all of the possibilities when Goodspeed opens on Main Street among an assortment of trendy and international restaurants and boutiques. It will be a delightful new Goodspeed experience. We look forward to working with Mayor Thornton and her team, the Middletown City Council, the State of Connecticut and Wesleyan University to create an even more vibrant and exciting Main Street in Middletown."
On June 18, 1963 the Goodspeed Opera House was reopened, rededicated and began its now 41-year commitment to the preservation and development of musical theatre in America. Since that time Goodspeed has produced more than 183 musicals, 16 of which moved to Broadway and 43 that were world-premiere productions. Michael P. Price has guided the theatre since 1968.
Visit www.goodspeed.org .