I love musical theater. I knew all the songs in “Company” and “Cabaret” before I was 12 as a result of my mom performing in those and other musicals. I dabbled a little in school plays myself before realizing I wasn’t especially talented. “Phantom of the Opera” overwhelmed me the first time I saw it, and I laughed my way through “Spamalot” on Broadway.
The first time I saw a show at Segerstrom Center for the Arts was during the 1991-92 holiday season, when Raul Julia starred in a two-week run of “Man of La Mancha.” I recall being impressed by the venue and Julia, and I was grateful such top-notch shows were being produced in a lovely setting here. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to the center since, but it’s always something I look forward to. I get concerned, however, when I look at the audience and don’t see many folks younger than 35. Performing arts groups have struggled with attracting younger audiences for many years. A 1991 article in Orange Coast says “It can take 15 years or more to turn a youngster into a paying devotee, but arts organizations have learned to think more in terms of long-range, generational planning.”
Now Segerstrom Center for the Arts is going further in planning its future, as senior editor Laura Bleiberg writes in this month’s Next Chapter, “Theater Without Walls” (Page 72). By partnering with nonprofit groups across the county, the center aims to expand its reach and become a centerpiece in the community. I’m eager to see if the renovated plaza will be a welcoming, warm meeting place for people to eat, listen to music, or just hang out, whether or not they’re headed to a show. I hope expanded events such as free concerts will touch residents across our county. And I’m giddy with excitement for “Hamilton” to arrive (2018) so we can get in on that cultural craze. “Ah yes, it’s all about ‘Hamilton,’ ” one center official remarked. It looks like there are many reasons to be optimistic about the arts community here in Orange County.