In between times
Broadway Sacramento’s Peter Pan will keep the stage busy the week between holidays
Sacramento Community Center Theater1301 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is an oddity on the local theater scene. The region’s community theaters almost all take a break, and at the Actors’ Equity level, the Sacramento Theatre Company closed A Christmas Carol on December 23, and Capital Stage wrapped up its “radio play” version of It’s a Wonderful Life on December 24. The B Street Theatre’s two holiday shows will linger a bit longer—through December 30—but that’s about it. The area’s musical presenters (the Mondavi Center and Three Stages at Folsom Lake College) and large-venue downtown arts producers (Sacramento Ballet, Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, Sacramento Opera) also take holiday. Except for the Broadway Sacramento series, that is, which is bringing back the redoubtable Cathy Rigby in a touring production of Peter Pan for a run December 26-30. The show is in the cavernous Sacramento Community Center Theater, a venue that offers plenty of room for the show’s trademark indoor flying.
Broadway Sacramento, which operates under the wing of parent organization California Musical Theatre (which also produces the summer Music Circus series) has historically done very well when bringing in a touring production during the in-between holiday week, when there is relatively little competition locally in terms of live theatrical entertainment. In fact, Richard Lewis, executive director of California Musical Theatre, was a little surprised when informed that most other local theater companies take a pass on the late December dates.
“The week between the holidays is traditionally a very big week on Broadway,” Lewis said. “So when we booked our first show in that slot back in 1989—Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express—we were relatively confident that we could sell a show in that time slot. And that’s exactly what happened.”
“It’s best if a show that goes in the holiday slot is an option to the season,” Lewis added—meaning a freestanding show that ticket buyers can purchase independently, without a season subscription. “That’s what Peter Pan is.” The holiday crowd, after all, is a breed apart. There are people who will go to a musical over the holidays who are unlikely to darken the door of a theater at any other time of year.
And the fact that Rigby has flown through Sacramento before doesn’t seem to deter people. Tours of Peter Pan starring Rigby have visited here in 1990, 1997 and 2004—the last one billed as a “retirement tour.” But Rigby apparently reconsidered, and is giving the role one more try, even though she recently turned 60. She’s told reporters in other cities that the physical aspects of flying through theaters on wires is much less intimidating at a personal level than the prospect of opening up her mouth and singing in front of 2,400 people.
While Broadway Sacramento tends to favor musicals in the holiday slot, it has also gone with a drama on occasion. Lewis said, “There was one year  when we had a play called Proof”—a serious Pulitzer and Tony-winning script about a father-daughter relationship, both of whom were preoccupied with a particularly convoluted mathematical proof involving prime numbers.
“Traditionally, for us, plays tend to do 15 to 20 percent less attendance than a musical. But Proof sold very well—and in that holiday slot. It wasn’t holiday oriented, but it was a terrific play.”
“We’re never entirely certain what will be a hit with the folks who buy the tickets,” Lewis said. “We do the best we can, look at all of our options [in terms of touring productions available at the end of December], and bring in the shows that have the best possible chance for success—financially and artistically.”