Cheapo version of Performing Arts Centre won't cut it

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
October 26, 2017 - 5:00am Updated: October 26, 2017 - 3:31pm

KAMLOOPS — Did you see Million Dollar Quartet at the Sagebrush Theatre last week?

If you didn’t, you missed a great show. Everybody is still talking about it. It’s based on an actual December day in 1956 when Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins got together at Sun Records in Memphis for a jam session.

The play is a couple of hours of rocking music with a good story line that has people describing it as “amazing” and “fantastic.” Young people clearly enjoyed it just as much as those of my generation.

This production could have sold out audiences twice the size of the Sagebrush Theatre. It and others like it put the lie to those who insist that a new performing arts centre is for snobs, that most of the public would never use it.

Whether it’s Western Canada Theatre, which produced Million Dollar Quartet, or the Kamloops Symphony, with its highly popular Jeans ‘n Classics concerts, its Christmas with the KSO and upcoming Symphonic Rock, local arts groups have come to realize that the arts have to be for everybody.

This epiphany isn’t recent — it came almost 15 years ago and it wasn’t by accident. The City, which heavily subsidizes such groups, began insisting that they better start putting bums in seats instead of focusing too much on Shakespeare and Mozart.

Originally envisaged as a Kamloops Arts and Heritage Centre, a performing arts centre has been the cornerstone of the City’s consultation-driven cultural strategic plan since 2003.

It’s also identified in the City’s current overall strategic plan that comes due for renewal in 2018.

But it will never succeed if it’s left up to City Hall, or to the arts community. It needs a broad-based coalition that believes in it as a place for all, and believes strongly enough not to accept some scaled-down Cheapo, bargain-basement, cut-rate shadow of the original vision like some people are talking about.

This is not a job for the timid. It’s a time for a bold new vision, not a half-hearted one.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.