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Press Telegram: Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach welcomes several new performing arts companies

With live performances that included musical theater, choral, opera and baroque numbers, arts leaders and city officials on [May 9] offered a glimpse of what’s to come when the Beverly O’Neill Theater becomes the venue for several local performing companies next season.

By Rich Guzman, Long Beach Press Telegram
POSTED: 05/09/16, 5:45 PM PD

With live performances that included musical theater, choral, opera and baroque numbers, arts leaders and city officials on Monday offered a glimpse of what’s to come when theBeverly O’Neill Theater becomes the venue for several local performing companies next season.

“You saw here today what happens when you bring creative professionals together, they begin to collaborate, they begin to raise awareness about each other’s groups and mix audiences,” said Greg Parkin, director of entertainment for the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, shortly after the announcement that new companies would be added to the roster next season.

“So we’re very excited to be able to welcome four new seasons of local groups,” he added.

The event included short performances in the O’Neill Theater lobby by Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, Musical Theatre West, the Long Beach Camerata Singers and the Long Beach Opera.

The latter three companies will join International City Theatre, the venue’s principal resident company, and Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, which moved its headquarters to Long Beach and began staging concerts there last year, as the five major companies using the venue for their 2016/2017 seasons.

“We’re now in the company of other wonderful arts organizations which speaks to our credibility,” said Jan Hower, president of the Board of Directors for the Camerata Singers, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Throughout its history of performing choral music, the group has used churches to stage its shows, and more recently the Long Beach City College Auditorium.

The move “also makes us part of the Long Beach performing arts center, and being downtown I think this whole area gets more visibility than the Long Beach City College Auditorium or any church,” Hower said.

With the new agreement, the Singers, who also stage a holiday concert and run the Long Beach Bach Festival, will stage their main three-show concert season at the O’Neill Theater, starting with their season opener on Oct. 2, “The Music of Downtown Abbey.”

Musical Theatre West meanwhile will continue to use the Carpenter Center at Cal State Long Beach for its Mainstage productions.

But the company will move its Reiner Staged Reading Series, a one-night concert performance of lesser known Broadway shows, from the 300-seat University Theatre on the campus of Cal State Long Beach to the 825-seat O’Neill Theater.

“We’re not leaving the Carpenter Center in any way shape of form, this is just an enhancement of what we’re doing,” said Paul Garman, executive director of MTW.

“We’ve kind of outgrown that space, so it just seemed like a logical move for us and it just seemed like a wonderful opportunity for us to move downtown,” he said.

The Reiner Series kicks off at the O’Neill on Nov. 13 with “The Boys From Syracuse.”

The company also will produce a new Broadway in Concert Series at the downtown venue that consists of performers singing songs from Broadway shows.

That series launches on Oct. 1 with a performance by David Gaines.

While the Long Beach Opera has used the downtown theater in the past, including this season’s opener “Candide” in January, the company is known and celebrated for holding operas in unusual venues, like this season’s “Fallujah,” a performance at the Army National Guard in Long Beach.

This tradition will continue next season, assured Andreas Mitisek, artistic and general director for the Long Beach Opera.

“We’re not using (O’Neill) for all of our production because LBO as you know is famous for moving around. But it is one our favorite venues, and we like to use it and we’re planning on using it next year twice,” he said.

The LBO is planning a collaboration on Jan. 22 and Jan. 28 with Musica Angelica and Culture Clash as its season opener at the O’Neill followed by a May 13, 2017, collaboration with the Chicago Opera Theater. Both shows are yet-to-be named.

For about two decades ICT has been the only continuing company using the theater, so the additional companies will create a cultural art center in downtown and also offer more chances for the groups to collaborate, which in the end could bring more people to downtown Long Beach, officials say.

“The more people we get to learn about this space, learn about what all the groups we bring, including ICT, every single entity will gain more exposure,” Parkin said.