Tax Breaks Lure ‘White Noise’
More than 18 months after the governor signed a measure enabling lucrative tax breaks for live entertainment productions that debut in Louisiana, the law is not yet functioning. But a potential beneficiary of the act is waiting in the wings.
A provocative musical called “White Noise,” which follows the rise of a teenage white supremacist pop band, premiered in 2006 at the New York Musical Theater Festival. Entertainment company Sibling Theatricals Inc. later optioned the work for development as
a Broadway show by veteran producer Mitchell Maxwell.
This past December, Maxwell and his team brought “White Noise” to New Orleans for a theatrical reading at University of New Orleans. During a media briefing, they discussed their intention to premiere the re-developed musical here and apply for tax benefits under the new law.
“White Noise,” subtitled “A Cautionary Musical,” explores the dangers of extremism and its significant penetration into mainstream America. The producers are targeting an 18- to 34-year-old audience with a cast of hot young performers, including MacKenzie Mauzy, whose theater and TV credits range from Broadway’s “A Tale of Two Cities” to daytime soap “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Maxwell hopes the combination of dynamic talent, hip music and follow-up discussions with high school and college students will make the musical a
cornerstone for an educational campaign against racism.
Holly Way, the owner of a local marketing company who is co-producing the musical, says the area provides a good rehearsal and testing ground for the work. “I think that New Orleans is the perfect place for this dialogue to begin before it goes out to the rest of the world,” she says.
The producers intend to provide unique educational and professional development opportunities to local high school and college students by involving them in the development process and perhaps offering master classes and internships. They plan to rehearse the show at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and UNO, and present several performances at one of the schools before moving on to New York in September.
The Legislature has not yet approved rules for implementing the tax credit law. But the “White Noise” producers have met with state Economic Development Department officials, and Philip Mann, the department’s director of live performance development, attended the December 2008 preview.
Mann recently declined to estimate how much tax benefit might accrue to “White Noise” because the program rules are not yet in place. However, the law provides for a credit of up to 25 percent of performance costs and 100 percent of transportation costs. Mann pointed out that the producers cannot receive any credits until they actually spend money in Louisiana.
Sibling Theatricals has estimated it will spend about $2 million in the New Orleans area during several months leading up to the move to New York. Way says the biggest local spending will go toward creating sets for the musical, “doing the rehearsal process and doing previews of some sort here before going to Broadway.”
Assuming the state eventually certifies “White Noise” as eligible for the tax program, it appears the production could receive as much as $500,000 in credits, which under the law can be transferred or sold for cash.
Ballet Leaps for Joy
Since returning to the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in January, the New Orleans Ballet Association is poised to offer some of its most spectacular programming ever. The ballet hailed the grand re-opening of the theater with dancers from the San Francisco and New York City ballets. The organization now is preparing for a late-March presentation of Houston Ballet’s “Marie,” an extravagant program inspired by the notorious 18th century French queen, Marie Antoinette.
The production, overseen by artistic director Stanton Welch, features elaborate costumes and sets by London designer Kandis Cook and the music of Dimitri Shostakovich performed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. More than 70 dancers will grace the stage, including featured performers Christopher Coomer and Melody Herrera.
Closing the spring schedule will be a performance of what might be termed “extreme” ballet. The ensemble called Diavolo comes to town in May, with a breathtaking show of dare-devil stunts led by Jacques Heim, the Paris-born director and sometime choreographer for Cirque du Soleil. The dancers, gymnasts, rock climbers and actors of Diavolo perform thrilling of feats strength and beauty on a “playground” of giant architectural structures. Prepare to gasp.
Houston Ballet’s “Marie” | March 27-28, 8 p.m.
Diavolo | May 9, 8 p.m.
Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts
‘Carmen,’ ‘La Traviata’ on Tap
Following a triumphant homecoming concert that featured renowned tenor Plácido Domingo and stars from the Metropolitan Opera, the New Orleans Opera Association has two more grand events set for the Mahalia Jackson Theater. In March, the opera presents “Carmen,” featuring mezzo soprano Rinat Shaham, tenor Fernando de la Mora and soprano Sarah Jane McMahon.
Bizet’s tale of a beautiful, seductive gypsy and the men she conquers offers some of the most famous and popular music in all of opera. Choristers from L’Opéra de Bordeaux join the New Orleans Opera Chorus for the event.
A similarly popular opera comes to the local stage in April. “La Traviata” features soprano Georgia Jarman, tenor Leonardo Capalbo and baritone Stephen Powell. The opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi offers some of the composer’s most stirring duets and ensembles.
Carmen | March 20 and 22
La Traviata | April 17 and 19
Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts
Beethoven in Home Stretch
It’s full-steam ahead for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra this spring as it completes its presentation of all nine symphonies of Beethoven. Concerts scheduled from February to May will present Symphonies No. 6, 7, 8 and 9. In between, the orchestra offers a lineup of special performances that include Mariachi Cobre, jazz music of Terence Blanchard, a percussion spectacular and a concert of swing music. For details of the concerts and their locations, see www.lpomusic.com or call 504-523-6530. •