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Patrons pay big bucks for Show Palace acts

By BARBARA FREDRICKSEN
Published April 14, 2007


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It was early October 1996, a week or so before the Show Palace Dinner Theatre first opened its doors, when I wondered in a column, "Will (people) come to Hudson and pay $25 to $36 to see the shows (the producers) plan to bring to the theater?"

We had all been spoiled by $8 and $10 tickets to community theater, and I wasn't sure the professional theater could collect four times that much for any show, even with a big buffet dinner thrown in.

The theater did, but things were tough at first, when the shows were one-time-only, once-in-a-while things with people like F Troop's Larry Storch and crooner Al Martino and nostalgia groups like the Four Aces (Love Is a Many Splendored Thing). People came, but not often enough to support such a large theater in the long run.

It wasn't until the Show Palace began producing its own Broadway shows in-house 18 months later that the place really took off. Since then, it's gone from doing three shows a weekend to doing up to seven shows a week - and a $42.50 ticket price, which tens of thousands of people pay without complaint (well, mostly).

The Show Palace's success and consistent high quality encouraged the prestigious Ruth Eckerd Hall to name it a satellite venue and start sending bigger name shows: Joe Piscopo, Tony Danza and Debbie Reynolds, for starters.

These are expensive acts (we saw the show that Piscopo was taking to the Las Vegas Hilton the next month), and the Show Palace had to charge its patrons higher prices. The owners timidly popped the price for the Piscopo show up to $46.50 and immediately got a great crowd.

The price for the Danza show zoomed to $69.95, and his two shows sold out before the ink could dry on the contract. (Of course, Danza was winding up a stint on Broadway as the lead in the blockbuster musical The Producers, which probably helped. Besides, the area's large Italian-American population adores the hunky boxer-turned-actor.)

Ms. Reynolds' shows, which are also $69.95, aren't until May 8 and 9, but they are already filling up. I happily sprung for $69.95 to see my childhood idol in person.

As more acts are booked through the Eckerd agreement, the Show Palace is coming up with innovative pricing so that the shows will be more than prestige pieces and actually show a little profit.

The first with the new pricing is the evening of Jan. 28, when the Village People (YMCA, Macho Man) stop by during their 30th Anniversary Tour (now, that makes me feel ancient). The act includes four of the six members from the band's hit-making years.

For that show, the premium seats on the floor immediately in front of the stage and the highly coveted four-seat tables along the rail (40-44) are going for an unprecedented $75.95, with the rest going for $65.95.

Of course, my first reaction was, "Will people come to Hudson and pay $75.95 to see this show?"

Then I called for tickets and learned that most of those pricey premium tickets had already been sold.

Coming after that act is singer-actor Lynda Carter, television's Wonder Woman, the evening of Feb. 4, with premium seats at $69.95 and the rest at $54.95. Her opening act is longtime comedian-impressionist John Byner, who made his TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show impersonating, of all people, Sullivan himself.

I sort of winced when I ordered my $76 Village People ticket, until I realized that a couple of weeks ago, I'd spent $91.06 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center to sit in the third row in the mezzanine to see a cute little show with no big names, eat a rather lame buffet lunch and pay for a parking spot.

And that didn't count the gas or toll road charges.

[Last modified April 13, 2007, 23:00:35]


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