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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New old faces for Arts Center

Our editorial Monday about the need for more variety in the PNC Bank Arts Center programming noted that the first concert at the Holmdel amphitheater 39 years ago featured the Philadelphia Orchestra. Back in the day, the stage hosted top singers and comics, Broadway-caliber shows, opera, ballet and classical performers. Yes, that was then and this is now, with the schedule dominated by groups who will attract younger crowds that have made the Arts Center synonymous with partying.

But why exclude a significant portion of the potential audience? People who will gladly spend their money to enjoy good music along with some food and a brew or two. That's what's on display at the mecca of all summer festival sites: Tanglewood in the Massachusetts Berkshires. On our visit Sunday, the lawn was filled with people of all ages eating and drinking. Security is not an issue. The programming is almost exclusively classical, which makes sense since it is run by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. But the July 4 concert brought back the music of Journey, the Boston Pops put on a concert version of "Carousel'' later that month and James Taylor sold out the enclosed and lawn seating areas Friday evening. The rest of the weekend brought back the Pops for Film Night (with Lynn Redgrave narrating for Harry Potter film music), followed by an all-Gershwin program Sunday.

I'm not saying our Arts Center should become Tanglewood. We're not New England and don't have the relaxed elegance of the Berkshires and the crowds it attracts. But why not borrow some of its winning elements? We have a New Jersey Symphony that can put on Pops concerts. Line up corporate heavyweights to sponsor specific programs or even the whole season, in exchange for a booth to display their wares. Apply their big bucks to attract high-quality entertainers. Reach out to the AARP or the state's many retirement communities for Sunday afternoon programs. Give the many regional theaters or even Paper Mill Playhouse the stage once a week. I'd be surprised if that all-Gershwin program I watched at Tanglewood wouldn't bring 10,000 or more to the Arts Center.

This approach, even on a limited basis, would restore some class to New Jersey's arts center. Our state needs all the good publicity it can garner. Right now, the bad news from the Arts Center outweighs the good.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I saw Liberace there, many plays for children (our whole school would go there for Alice Iin Wondrland, or 1776), Captain & Tennille, Pat & Debbie Boone, and my mom saw Frank Sinatra.

There needs to be more variety.


6:44 AM, August 29, 2007  

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