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Hill's 'Phantom' production at Broadmoor a nightmare for venue officials, promoter

January 25th 1993. Broadmoor
Written for BPI Communications by Susan Ray




Producer Ken Hill; Phantom of the Opera; Broadmoor World Arena.

Summary:
Ken Hill's production of 'Phantom of the Opera' at Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, CO, was marred by problems and mutual accusations of bad faith by venue officials and the promoter. The audience had complaints about almost every aspect of the show. Broadmoor officials stated that they had earlier expressed concerns regarding seating arrangements and other difficulties as the venue was an ice arena and not a performing arts center.



A production of "Phantom of the Opera" at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo., has garnered more attention than the promoter and facility officials would have ever thought.

While the venue management and the promoter trade accusations, it is clear that the audiences were the losers when the production went wrong.

The problems that plagued the production of Ken Hill's "Phantom of the Opera," a musical comedy version of the classic, included a late opening, a large number of obstructed view seats and complaints of a poor performance. Stephen Bartolin Jr., president of the Broadmoor, feels that the promoter, Starshow Presents of Appleton, Wis., is to blame.

"We have a facility here, the World Arena, that is a big ice arena and seats about 4,000," explained Bartolin. "Dan Liebhauser of Starshow Presents leased the facility to put on a production of the 'Phantom of the Opera.'

"I had some concerns up-front," said Bartolin. "We're not a performing arts center, we're an ice arena. I also worried that people would be deceived by the title of the production, and I was concerned about the overall quality of the play."

The performance had played successfully at other venues, and Liebhauser "did a very good job of alleviating our people's concerns," Bartolin told AB. Tickets sold well, and after the first show sold out, a second was added.

Bartolin said he was told that with the lighting and enormous sets used by the production, the facility would look fine, and that the advertisements clearly spelled out the difference between this production and the Andrew Lloyd Webber production. "I should have scoped them out better," Bartolin said.

THE PROBLEMS BEGIN

Because the sets weren't ready by the 7 p.m. showtime for the Saturday Nov. 28 performance, the sellout crowd was forced to wait outside of the World Arena in sub-freezing weather for about 45 minutes. Once inside, many found that their seats had obstructed views. "After that first show, I knew there was a problem," said Bartolin.

Liebhauser doesn't deny that the performance started late or that a number of people purchased seats without being notified that their view would be obstructed. He even agrees that there was definitely a problem with that first show.

"I sent technical managers to the Broadmoor weeks in advance just to be certain that there wouldn't be any boogiemen once we got there," said Liebhauser. "We identified some areas that needed attention and spent $6,000 in staging, trussing and ground support. We thought we had nailed down all the potential problems that the old facility could muster, but that was not the case."

Liebhauser said that when his crew arrived to set up the sets and lighting they found that the ceiling-to-floor measurements they had been given by the Broadmoor were incorrect. "They had to remodel the sets, rigging, everything," he noted. The reworking of the sets, he maintains, was the cause of the delay.

"The hockey scoreboard had not been taken down, as the Broadmoor said it would, and that resulted in some poor sightlines," Liebhauser continued. He also said that the obstructed view seating charts that he sent to the Broadmoor box office were never used and the obstructed view seats were sold mistakenly. "They received it but they didn't act on it," Liebhauser said of the charts. "They called us later to apologize for that."

Bartolin stated, however, that the seating charts were used, but that they weren't correct. "The diagram they gave us to sell by just wasn't down right." He said that people in an estimated 800 seats complained of poor sightlines.

COMPLAINTS

Bartolin told AB that he approached Liebhauser about the number of complaints after Saturday's performance. "I pulled him aside and asked him, 'How are you going to handle them?' He promised me and the World Arena manager that each complaint would be personally handled, fairly and individually. We took him at his word."

The venue personnel took information on each complaint and forwarded it to Liebhauser. "We've had over 500 and we've done exactly as he asked. To my knowledge, not one has been responded to. His handling of people's complaints has been pathetic," said Bartolin.

Liebhauser denies that he has ignored complaints. "I have refunded many ticket holders that I don't feel it was my obligation to refund," he said. "I value my reputation very much. I can't just walk away from this problem."

Liebhauser said that several hundred complaining audience members have been reached, and that several thousand refunds have been given despite a no-exchange/no-refund policy that was clearly stated on the tickets.

Liebhauser acknowledges, however, that there are still a large number of complaints to deal with. "We're trying to address the problem without the help of the Broadmoor," he said.

Many of the grievances, said Liebhauser, are not about the performance, but about problems with the facility and its personnel. "Many of the letters complained bitterly about it being not only cold outside while they were waiting, but of the temperature inside the facility during the performance," he maintained. "I have several on file that berate the courtesy and professionalism of the staff. I just wish that the Broadmoor would address those complaints that deal with their facility and staff."

Liebhauser had worked in the Broadmoor World Arena before, bringing in successful performances by Bob Hope and Red Skelton. "The problems then were minor and what you would expect," he said. The difference this time, Liebhauser maintains, was that the staff at the Broadmoor was "inadequate and untrained."

Prior to the Broadmoor performances, Ken Hill's "Phantom of the Opera" played at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan. General Manager Philip Chamoff told AB that the production got rave reviews. "We're an arena and their stage crew came in and brought in curtains and everything. It worked and it was slick," said Chamoff. "People have been asking when we'll be getting another production like it."

DAMAGE CONTROL

After the Broadmoor performances, after complaints started pouring in, Bartolin turned to the local press to explain his side of the story. Liebhauser feels that this added to the problem, and that a large number of complaints were made after a story ran in the Gazette Telegraph by people who simply saw an opportunity to get some money.

"They've allowed the problem to grow by keeping it in the press," said Liebhauser, adding, "They've created a PR nightmare and they feel that Starshow Presents should deal with it."

Bartolin, on the other hand, feels that on top of all of the problems, the production simply wasn't very good and that has angered audience members the most. "A premium price was charged and people didn't feel it was worth it," he said. Ticket prices ranged from $25 to $39 dollars.

Bartolin has been unable to refund ticket prices because the ticket monies went to Liebhauser.