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Ex-operators considering encore of Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

August 26, 2013

East Mesa’s beloved Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre could see an encore if its former operators can pull together the necessary funding to reopen the venue.
Tom Prather — patriarch of the Prather Entertainment Group, the family-owned company that ran the Broadway Palm and who owns similar venues in Fort Myers, Fla., and Lancaster, Pa. — began sending out surveys to former patrons and meeting with area performers last week to gauge interest.
Prather said the response has been overwhelmingly positive, but it would be “necessary to spend a considerable investment to reopen the theater due to licensing and repairs” were the Prathers to pursue the Broadway Palm’s return.
“The big question is: ‘If we build it, will they come?’ ” he said.
The Broadway Palm enjoyed success for years after its 2001 opening, producing family-friendly musicals at its 43,000-square-foot home near Higley and Brown roads and offering meals, desserts and drinks to accompany its shows.
Lackluster ticket sales, likely tied to increased competition after the arrival of venues such as the Mesa Arts Center, eventually forced its closure last summer.
The theater reopened as the Silver Star Playhouse in November under a sublease and new operators, who decided to offer original musical parodies in the style of old-time melodramas with cabaret-style table service.
About six months later, the Silver Star informed subscribers that ticket sales had not been strong enough to keep the playhouse operating through the summer.
The last official position of the Silver Star’s operators was that they were considering returning for a winter season, but the theater’s marquee has been taken down and a “space available” has gone up in the window since those comments were made. Repeated requests by The Republic for updates have gone unanswered.
“The most recent sublease operator of the space has walked out after one year of a two-year lease and has refused to honor lease financial responsibilities,” Prather said in a statement.
As the Prather family weighs whether to commit to a revamped Broadway Palm, the facility remains available for lease through Phoenix-based SRS Real Estate Partners. Alan Houston, first vice president with SRS, has said the space could be retrofitted for another type of use.
Former City Councilwoman Dina Higgins, who had overseen the district that includes the site, had fretted about the difficulties of filling the theater’s big-box footprint before her departure.
Local supporters for their part have taken to the Broadway Palm’s Facebook page to push for the theater’s return, with Prather’s initial, testing-the-waters post attracting nearly 100 likes and almost 50 comments. Patrons from as far as Tonopah and Payson say they would make the drive were the theater to reopen.
City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, who has lamented the loss of theater troupes in recent years as people turn to iPads and other technology for entertainment, said he believes the Broadway Palm “would have a reasonable chance of a successful reopening.”
“The economy continues its slow improvement, which typically means more discretionary funding,” Kavanaugh said.
“They had a pretty solid track record of performances in a nice venue and a large repeat customer base. ... Reputation matters, and their brand was and is good.”