"The Phantom of the Opera" may be coming to San Diego.
But it won't be Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom," which is still happily ensconced in the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Nor will it be Ken Hill's "Phantom," which has already passed through town twice, in 1989 and 1990.
But it could be Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's "The Phantom of the Opera."
Don and Bonnie Ward, co-artistic directors of Starlight Musical Theatre, are considering the show for the 1992 Starlight season.
The show had its world premiere at Houston's Theatre Under the Stars on Jan. 31, 1991. The production cost $1.5 million for a three-week run. With that overhead, the Theatre Under the Stars management anticipated losing money. But the show turned a profit and became the highest grossing show in the company's 24-year history.
Still, a Starlight production of the show is anything but a done deal. Frank M. Young, founder and executive director of Theatre Under the Stars, is willing, but Don Ward is still trying to figure out if there would be a demand for such a show in San Diego.
"This 'Phantom' is big and broad and very dramatic," he said. "We could do our own production with Theatre Under the Stars sets and costumes. But we keep wondering. Ken Hill has been here twice. Would we look stupid doing another 'Phantom'?"
Kopit and Yeston actually began working on their "Phantom" in 1983, but Lloyd Webber got his "Phantom" to Broadway first. And when Lloyd Webber's "Phantom" became a smash hit, funding for the Broadway production of the Yeston/Kopit version fell through.
The show lay dormant until Young persuaded Kopit and Yeston that this show could have an independent life on the regional theater circuit.
"I had learned that (Lloyd Webber's) 'Phantom' was not going to tour and Houston needed a 'Phantom,' " Young said from his Houston office. "This is a grand musical in the Rodgers and Hammerstein style. It is the old-fashioned book musical with dialogue, scenes and musical numbers, as opposed to the concept musical with music sung straight through. It's opulent but it concentrates on the people as opposed to the spectacle."
"Phantom" will play Seattle at the 5th Avenue Theatre (of which Young is also the artistic director) from Oct. 17-27, the San Bernardino Civic Light Opera from Nov. 1-17 and the Candlelight Theatre in Chicago in January.
Whether it comes to the Starlight, however, remains to be seen.
Craig Noel, executive producer of the Old Globe Theatre, makes light of his being named to receive one of nine 1991 Governors Awards on Nov. 22 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Each award is for a different area of contribution. Noel's is for "Visionary Leadership."
He credits local patron Darlene Shiley with nominating him for the honor.
"She was sitting on a committee for the California Arts Council, and she placed my name in nomination because she thought it was time for someone from San Diego to be recognized," he said.
Of course the fact that the 76-year-old Noel is known in San Diego for spending the last 54 years of his life transforming the Old Globe Theatre from a fledgling community theater (in 1937) to the nationally recognized and admired professional organization it is today may just have had a teensy bit to do with getting the award too.
"I'm a person who has never had to work for a living. I've just had fun," he said.
And he intends to continue having fun--"for as long as they let me," he said with a laugh. He's currently directing "the Scottish play" (as "Macbeth" is called by theater people) for the students in the Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA class; co-directing "La Pastorale," a Christmas play with Teatro Mascara Magica producing director William Virchis in December, and developing "Death and the Blacksmith," a new musical for the Old Globe.
The La Jolla Stage Company is trying to move away from community theater status in its 12th season. With "Diviners," by Jim Leonard Jr., opening Oct. 11 at Parker Auditorium, the entire staff is on salary. It's the fulfillment of a dream for Linus Weiss, production director and one of the company's co-founders.
"It really has been the charter of the theater from the beginning to bridge community theater with the professional world," he said.
Part of the impetus comes from the theater's link to La Jolla High School. La Jolla Stage uses the high school's 450-seat theater on 750 Nautilus St. to produce its work. The company's artistic director, Walt Stewart, is the drama teacher there. While the school and the theater are independent, Stewart gets help from students in building scenery, and the students get the opportunity to audition when there are appropriate parts.
The theater is also beginning to use guest Equity artists. Weiss is an Equity director for "Diviners."