Archive for Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Saying so long to favorite entertainments hard to do

April 17, 2013

Last week was a bit frustrating and saddening for me. No, it had nothing to do with the NCAA tournament, the Royals blowing a game or the elections. What irritated and bothered me is that two of my favorite entertainment entities are going away. NBC is cancelling the contract with Jay Leno for the “Tonight” show and the American Heartland Theatre is closing at the end of this season.

It will be 2014 when Leno leaves the air and the American Heartland will be darkened following the final performance this season. I will really miss both because I have long enjoyed their quality entertainment.

I really can’t understand NBC’s logic in dropping Leno because according to everything I have read, his ratings are excellent. It seems to me that this is the logic and planning that has dropped NBC to fifth place, even trailing the Spanish language network. Apparently, NBC is seeking a younger audience at the expense of mature viewers and apparently doesn’t care about those over 60. One unhappy person referred to NBC as the “Nobody Cares Network.” Actually, about NBC’s only smart move was adding “Sunday Night Football” which has a tremendous following.

Jay Leno has been host of the program since 1992 and I look forward to his humor and his special segments. As a former newspaper publisher, I enjoy his “headlines” segment where he reads fouled up or badly written headlines submitted by viewers. It is a “Monday night must” for me. I also enjoy his “police blotter” and “dumb criminals” offerings. I’ll miss his pleasant humor at bedtime, it just seemed to be a nice way to end the day. I sincerely hope he turns up on another network. If he does, you can bet I’ll be among his viewers.

What really blew my mind was the announcement that the American Heartland Theatre in Crown Center was closing at the end of the present season during the fall. The closing left about 7,000 season ticket holders and countless other fans in shock and disbelief. The theatre opened on April 1, 1987, and Jean and I have missed very few productions. It is definitely one of our entertainment “musts.”

The American Heartland is an excellent facility that seats 450 persons. They really worked hard to make the experience enjoyable for theater-goers. You could bring your refreshments into the theatre, which for me, was a cup of coffee. It was always a pleasant way to spend an afternoon or evening. We enjoyed going to Crown Center visiting the shops before the productions started. This was particularly true at Christmas when the area was ablaze with lights from the Mayor’s Christmas tree.

I really don’t believe we ever saw a bad production at the American Heartland. Normally, they presented off-Broadway type comedies or musicals. Audiences were introduced to the “Greater Tuna, Texas” and the “Nun-Sense” series among other great comedy offerings. They were just plain fun to attend.

A lot of senior citizen groups, including Bonner Springs, attended the matinee presentations. Unfortunately, I didn’t see many young people. I suppose live theatre isn’t high on their entertainment list. Although going back to the early days at the Heartland, a lot of us were middle aged or younger. For some reason they didn’t seem to attract younger audiences.

Personally, I will take a live production any day over a movie. There is something special about seeing actors bringing a story to life.

Yes, there are other outstanding venues available in the city and I’m sure we’ll find a new favorite. However, we will miss the Heartland and I hope the theater will reopen in another location.

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