Monday, January 17, 2011

MB Theater Opens-- In Trouble

January 1967
  Meadow Brook Theatre no sooner lifted the curtain on its premier performance last week when it was in trouble. Not with the critics who generally liked the initial offering. Not with the audience who loudly applauded what they saw. The trouble came from another theater group that charged the Meadow Brook Theatre people with using false advertising by claiming that it is “Michigan’s only resident professional theatre company.”
  According to the Milan Theatre Co., which has filed a $250,000 damage suit in Wayne County Circuit Court, it has been a Michigan-based resident professional theater company for 10 years. It claims that the advertising of the John Fernald Co. at Meadow Brook tends to demean the Milan group in the eyes of the public. A hearing has been set for this Friday to block the advertising.
  I don’t think it made one bit of difference to those attending the plays if the Fernald company is “Michigan’s only.” At least I didn’t hear any mention of it at last week’s Premiere Night festivities where the audience shelled out $100 a couple. Well, not quite all the audience paid that tab. Those of us in the news writing business are allergic to paying out hard cash for tickets on this scale. But nevertheless, we had to don the black ties and best formal wear to mingle with the illustrious group.
  LOCAL FOLKS scanned the metropolitan dailies to find pictures or names of Rochester people who attended the premiere. They found OU Chancellor and Mrs. Varner, Mrs. Alfred G. Wilson and the Walter Reuthers. And I also noted Mr. and Mrs. Fred Houghten, co-chairmen of the local ticket drive; Mr. And Mrs. Bud Shelton, the Ronald Featherstones, the William Chapmans, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Travis, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Williamson, the Donald O’Dowds, the Charles Seeds and Mr. and Mrs. John (Bud) Taylor, along with my own wife.
  (The Houghtons report that over 400 season tickets have been sold to Rochester people so far.)
  The automakers were well represented with C. S. Mott of Flint; Ford Vice-presidents Ben Mills and William Gossett; GM Vice-Presidents Semon Knudsen and Roger Keys; Chrysler’s Board Chairman Lynn Townsend, President Virgil Boyd and Vice-President Reinhart Bright; and AMC President Roy Abernethy, and their wives.
  The play lasted until 11:45 p.m., which in my book is past bedtime for a Tuesday night. But most of the 608 play-goers didn’t complain as they boarded a dozen buses for the nearby baronial Meadow Brook Hall where Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. George Romney were co-hostesses for an after-glow. (Governor Romney, having an early-morning appointment, left the play at half-time.)
  While the Milan Theatre Co. doesn’t seem to relish its new competition, Detroit’s first family of the theater doesn’t appear to mind. Among the Premiere Night guests were Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Z. Nederlander, who with the family, own the Fisher and five other big theaters. They also took out a full-page “congratulations” ad in the play’s program.
  Facing a $250,000 judgment, the John Fernald Co. perhaps might decide to claim it’s the second professional resident theater in Michigan. It can then change its slogan to, “We try harder.” Whoops… Let's not have another lawsuit. That slogan belongs to Avis.