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STAGE WATCH

Patrons Criticize Clo, Music Center Policies

July 31, 1986|SYLVIE DRAKE | Times Theater Writer

Now that word is out that the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera won't be occupying space at the Music Center after 1987, some public anger has been registered--not all of it having to do with the CLO leaving.

A number of patrons have been incensed with Civic Light Opera's failure to clearly inform the audience that Natalia Makarova is not--repeat, not-- playing matinees of "On Your Toes," now at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Many who bought matinee tickets through agencies other than the pavilion box office (where the information is posted) believe they've been deliberately slighted.

"What arrogance!" writes Jeanette Cowan of Santa Monica who, with her husband, had attended the original 1936 production with Ray Bolger. "We were eager to see Natalia Makarova. We bought seats (top price) for last Wednesday's matinee at a Ticketron but nothing was said about an understudy. . . . Several people in back of us had driven in from Palm Springs and were furious. . . . How dare that organization put down the Los Angeles theatergoing public!"

"Purchased the most expensive tickets for a matinee," writes Lillian Davies of L. A., and "inadvertently we discovered that Makarova does not dance. . . . This is not in their ad and it should be!"

In fact, the display ads have been running the matinee information but in such microscopic type that readers understandably fail to notice it. Nor is any announcement made before the matinee curtain goes up that Rebecca Wright (a distinguished dancer and performer) is substituting for Makarova--a serious omission, also insulting to Wright. And is it fair to call Wright an understudy when, as someone who regularly plays specific performances each week, she should in fact be called an alternate?

Queried about all this, the Civic Light Opera's Stan Seiden promised to investigate, asserting that the matinee information in the ad at least is about to be changed--to larger type. He said also that CLO is prepared to accommodate matinee subscribers who want to see Makarova at some of the evening performances, which is only a partial solution. Why not mix it up a bit and let Makarova play some matinees and Wright some evenings for patrons who would rather not drive at night?

"We're trying to do that," Seiden said. "We've presented the idea to her (Makarova)."

And. . . ?

Such handling of its audience is not helping the image of the Nederlander Organization in this town. The Nederlanders run the CLO and James T. Nederlander (with Lewis Friedman) produced "On Your Toes."

The Nederlanders also have aroused animosity with their failure (a) to deliver a second Playgoers Series at the Henry Fonda Theatre last spring; (b) to notify subscribers of that delay; (c) to offer to refund subscriber money held since February, and (d) to refund monies for other canceled shows at other Nederlander theaters, such as the Wilshire.

"We write checks every day," said Seiden. "We try to get them out within 48 hours of requests. . . . "

And yet:

"I've been waiting for a couple of months for my refund for the canceled 'Chorus Line,' " writes Rollins Brook of Tarzana about a production that was to have played the Wilshire in June. "I recently spent half a morning calling a long trail of numbers trying to find someone at Nederlander to ask. . . . Everyone I talked to was nice but unable to help. Trying to get an informed answer (from them) is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

"After this experience there is no way I would buy another subscription from them. In fact, I'll not buy another Nederlander ticket until after the show opens."

Zileta (Lolly) Bennett of Beverly Hills wrote to the Nederlanders' Playgoers Series (with a copy to The Times) to insist on an immediate refund. "By now," she wrote, "I have seen 'Rappaport' and 'Benefactors' (shows considered for the series) in New York and I am tired of having you hold my $154.50 for six months. In a regular passbook account I could have earned $8.50 (not compounded) on my money. It would have paid for the parking!"

On the other hand, some theatergoers are just as miffed at the Music Center Operating Co. for virtually forcing the Civic Light Opera out of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion by lowering the number of playing weeks annually allotted it to unacceptable levels (from 16 in 1986 and 1987 to 12 in 1988).

Ruth Geisler thinks that Music Center Operating Co. Chairman Eaton Ballard "needs to consider an obligation to the highly diversified audience, including children who will be future subscribers. . . . "

Herbert N. Peters of Santa Barbara, a CLO subscriber and guarantor since the organization's pre-Music Center days (and a regular contributor to the Music Center since), wants his latest donation to the Music Center Unified Fund returned.

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