Struggling Prince Music Theater in Philly Plans Full Season in 2009-10

News   Struggling Prince Music Theater in Philly Plans Full Season in 2009-10
Rumors of the death of Prince Music Theater — the Philadelphia not-for-profit devoted to the production of musicals — are not true, artistic director Marjorie Samoff told on July 21.

Though saddled with debt, the organization is moving ahead with plans for 2009-10 season. In the past year, only two Prince-produced productions were offered: the Kander & Ebb revue The World Goes 'Round and a radio-play version of "It's a Wonderful Life."

A statement made from the Prince stage at a film event in recent days indicated that the building was closing, and the unfiltered comment made it onto internet message boards and internet news sites.

The Prince announced on July 21 that it will offer a 2009-10 season of "original productions, Morgans Cabaret [shows], co-productions, plus performances, film festivals, and film programs by resident companies from September 2009 to July 2010."

Program details will be announced in the next few weeks. It's not all sunshine and show tunes, however.

"Since July of 2008, the Prince has been in an ongoing conflict leading to litigation with the theatre's mortgage-holder, TD Bank," according to the July 21 statement. "In the current environment, the Prince is not alone in its struggle to refinance and resolve issues with a large financial institution. Throughout this tough struggle, the creative spirit, ingenuity, and tenacity of the Prince artists, educators, young people, Board, and staff have remained strong, providing a remarkable renewable resource of resilience and perseverance. It is the people of the Prince who have given so much and enabled us to continue to produce and present from September to July." It was pointed out that the popular Morgans Cabaret series had its most successful season ever in 2008-09. Some 43,000 people attended Prince events in the past year, though the guiding core mission — the production of musical theatre — was curtailed.

The July 21 statement continued, "We see light at the end of the tunnel. Although we cannot comment on the pending litigation, we can report ongoing positive negotiations with TD Bank. We are optimistic that an amicable resolution will be completed very shortly."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in May the Prince on Chestnut Street was listed as available for a sheriff's sale. That listing was taken down as negotiations with the mortgage-holding bank continued.

"We are definitely not closing nor being sold at auction," Samoff wrote in an e-mail to July 21.

The 2009-10 program will include:

  • Prince Morgans Cabaret series, starting in October with five artists; details of artists and scheduling to be announced in the next two weeks.
  • Three Prince Music Theater Mainstage Productions, beginning in December 2009 with a holiday show, plus two world premieres in the spring-summer of 2010. "We expect to announce our Mainstage productions in August."
  • Enchantment Theatre's world premiere of Harold & the Purple Crayon, music by Charlie Gilbert, in December, produced by Enchantment in association with the Prince Music Theater like last season's Snow Queen. Plus a second Enchantment production to be announced.
  • Prince Youth Arts in Action: "our award-winning performance-based education program for at-risk youth, with a fall tour to schools in West Philadelphia, and a fall-winter after-school and full-day program leading to a winter youth production. This program serves middle-school and high school students in Philadelphia public schools and will add in 09-10 a training program for youth from 17-24, out of school and unemployed, including graduates of the foster care system."
  • Resident Companies' Productions including Curtis Opera (three operas at the Prince); Philadelphia Cinema Alliance with two film festivals; First Glance Film Festival; Greater Philadelphia Film Office productions; Rebecca Davis Dance Company; Gay Men's Chorus; and others. *

    Founded in 1984 as the American Music Theater Festival, the company spent its first 15 years without a home of its own. During that time, AMTF performed in different venues throughout Philadelphia.

    By the late 1990s, the city began to undertake the transformation of Broad Street into the Avenue of the Arts. Under the leadership of Marjorie Samoff, the American Music Theater Festival set its eyes on building itself a new home. They found it in the historic former Midtown Theater. AMTF converted the run-down relic into a two-venue complex.

    In March 1999, under the new name Prince Music Theater, named in honor of legendary Broadway producer and director Hal Prince, a Philly native, the company opened its new home.

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