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Long Beach Civic Light Opera Director Doubts a Comeback

October 24, 1995|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Long Beach Civic Light Opera, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday, has been given a grim prognosis by its erstwhile producing artistic director Luke Yankee.

"I don't see how it can come back unless a major donor gives it a million dollars," Yankee said Monday.

He said the organization, which focuses on star-studded revivals of musical theater classics, has an ongoing debt of approximately $275,000. Its monthly operating expenses are $100,000, and its next scheduled production, "Pippin" (planned for Feb. 29-March 17), has a budget of $500,000.

Yankee's assessment contradicts the official stance of the organization; callers to LBCLO on Monday were told that the current season of shows will continue, despite the reorganization of the company.

However, Yankee said that when the permanent employees, numbering about 20 full-timers plus a few more part-time telemarketers, were laid off Friday, they received only 40% of their final paychecks and were advised to cash them immediately. He said the musicians were not paid at all for the final week of the recent run of "Nite Club Confidential."

"Nite Club" was not a hit. Yankee said it brought in only $27,000 in single-ticket sales, though budget figures had projected that it would yield what Yankee called "in the unrealistic vicinity" of $80,000 in single-ticket sales.

An unfamiliar show to most of the Long Beach patrons, "Nite Club" was substituted for the previously scheduled "Brigadoon," partially because its costs were $150,000 less than those projected for "Brigadoon," Yankee said. He had been assured that there was enough money to pay for "Nite Club" and he now feels "betrayed" that there wasn't, Yankee said.

J. Phillip Keene, executive director of LBCLO, responded that he is "disappointed" by Yankee's remarks. "Everyone worked diligently to make sure we could finish the show," he said. "But the cash flow wasn't there."

Yankee, who held his job for less than a year, deflected the blame for the bankruptcy away from "Nite Club." The organization's problems were "a long time coming," he said. "A company like this doesn't go under overnight."

In 1994 the Long Beach City Council rescued the financially ailing organization by arranging a $490,000 funding package. LBCLO was required to match the package with its own fund-raising and did so by the end of 1994.

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