|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD CityStage has a new look, new features and tickets sales are doing much better than last year.
In a tour around the downtown theater on Oct. 11, Cindy Anzalotti, president of CityStage and Symphony Hall, told Reminder Publications that single ticket sales are up 258% compared to this time last year.
Anzalotti said the bad publicity concerning public safety in the downtown contributed to a "rough year," but advance sales indicate audiences not only like what is on this year's schedule, but also they feel better about downtown Springfield.
The first show in the 2006-2007 season, "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish and I'm in Therapy" opened that evening to almost a sell-out crowd.
Thanks to $150,000 from a state economic stimulus package, CityStage received new carpeting and received a fresh coat of paint, something that hasn't happened in many years, Anzalotti explained. She credited State Senator Brian Lees (R-Wilbraham) as the person instrumental in securing the funding.
The theater's technical side is also receiving an updating with $15,000 to $18,000 being spent on new lighting and audio equipment.
"What we have works," Anzalotti said. "It just takes longer to set up a show and longer to do the [lighting and audio] cues."
Also new this year is a function room that can accommodate over 100 people for meetings and parties. Anzalotti explained the room had once been a rehearsal area, but had been used for storage for many years.
In collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) and the Springfield Falcons, ticket holders for CityStage and Symphony Hall events and Falcons games can ride the bus free of charge from Oct. 20 to Dec. 30 on the following routes: G1 (Chicopee Center, Chicopee Big Y/ Sumner-Allen); G2 (Carew, East Springfield/Belmont, Dwight Road); B6 (Ludlow via Bay Street); G7 (State, Boston Rd, Wal0Mart, Eastfield Mall); and the P20 (Holyoke/Springfield via thee Holyoke Mall).
Anzalotti said that audience members have commented to her they would attend more events if they had bus service. These routes will be open to transport people both to and from the events. Para transit service can also be arranged for seniors and the disabled to attend events.
Booking the theater and Symphony Hall is a challenge, Anzalotti explained, due to the competition from The Bushnell in Hartford, Conn., and the two Connecticut casinos. She said the biggest hit from last season was "Pink Floyd: The Experience," which had a very wide appeal drawing people from age 18 through 45.
Taking note of that success, Anzalotti will be presenting "The Fab Four," a Beatles tribute, on Feb. 24, 2007 at Symphony Hall and "Bjorn Again: The Abba Experience" on March 22 at Symphony Hall.
She said she has also made sure there are more family events this year at reduced ticket prices, including The Golden Dragon Acrobats on Nov. 12, and "A Christmas Carol" on Nov. 30 at Symphony Hall.
More information on the CityStage and Symphony Hall season can be found at www.symphonyhall.com.