North Shore Music Theatre Faces Closure

A half-century old theater still recovering from a devastating fire three years ago announced Monday that without increased ticket sales and donations it may shut its doors.

Officials at the Beverly, Mass.-based North Shore Music Theatre said the theater has been hit with lower-than-expected philanthropic support and slow ticket sales from its current production of “Disney High School Musical 2.” The theater is also trying to reduce its debt from the 2005 fire that ruined its auditorium.

Carol LaRosa, the theater’s manager of public relations, said the nonprofit organization also on Monday announced layoffs of 57 employees

LaRosa said the theater needs around $500,000 to stay open until late spring but will also need another $4 million to open for next season. If ticket sales don’t increase for the current performance, which ends Jan. 11, the theater will cease all performances and educational programing, she said. This year, the theater trimmed $1 million in expenses.

The announcement comes after the theater this holiday season opted out of producing its traditional performance of “A Christmas Carol” for the more lucrative “Disney High School Musical 2.” But as of Dec. 29 ticket sales for the musical were at 13,000 — a fourth of what theater officials had sought, said LaRosa. She said, however, that the theater did not suffer by not producing “A Christmas Carol” since ticket sales were on par with those from last year.

David Fellows, chairman of the North Shore Music Theatre board, said the theater was already in the mist of changing its business model and cutting costs.

“We had been making solid progress on all fronts, however, with the economic situation so dire, we’ve run out of time,” Fellows said in a statement.

The North Shore Music Theatre’s musicals, concerts and educational programming attract more than 300,000 annually, according to its Web site.