Theatre producer Aubrey Dan hopeful he'll return after 2013 hiatus - InfoNews

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Theatre producer Aubrey Dan hopeful he'll return after 2013 hiatus

The cast of Dancap Productions' "Jersey Boys," performs on stage in this undated handot photo. As Tony Award-winning theatre producer Aubrey Dan prepares to bow out of Toronto's stage scene, he's hopeful there will be another act in his showbiz saga here. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Dancap
July 09, 2012 - 12:44 PM

TORONTO - As Tony Award-winning theatre producer Aubrey Dan prepares to bow out of Toronto's stage scene, he's hopeful there will be another act in his showbiz saga here.

In April, the fedora-wearing founder and president of Dancap Productions announced he will not be presenting a 2013 subscription season, citing a lack of "enough quality shows." He also announced he will be re-evaluating his involvement in the theatre business and will no longer be the lead producer of the upcoming "Prince of Broadway."

Now, as Dan presents his final 2012 shows ("The Beauty and the Beast," "Million Dollar Quartet" and the touring "Jersey Boys") and gets ready to move his company out of a glass tower in Toronto's north end, he assures his theatre patrons:

"I'm really hibernating, I'm not extinct."

"To me it's not a sad moment. It's to celebrate what has occurred," Dan, 48, said in a recent interview in the sunny 17th-floor office space he's leaving at the end of August, when his lease is up.

"It's not the end of an era — it's a point in time."

An entrepreneur and philanthropist who's invested in everything from real estate to pharmaceuticals and power plants, the Toronto-raised Dan has been passionate about theatre since he saw a production of "Hair" at age 13.

"But I was never the acting kind," said the founder of Dancap Private Equity Inc., a private investment firm.

"I was the kind to organize things, but nowhere did I ever dream that I ... would be in the producing business, nowhere did I think I'd be in the theatre business."

Yet in fall 2007 he launched his own major theatre company that rivalled that of the formidable Mirvish Productions in Toronto.

His first presentation here was a North American tour of the Tony Award-winning "The Drowsy Chaperone" at the Elgin Theatre. Dancap has since mounted many other Tony-winning hits here, including "Jersey Boys," "Avenue Q," "Wicked," "Memphis," "American Idiot" and "South Pacific."

As Dan put it, his theatre company has become the sizzle to his steak.

"The measurement of theatre is just not about the economics. If it was about the economics only then I wouldn't be in the theatre business," he said.

"The theatre business is about passion, love, it's about making a difference, it's about feeding the soul, making a positive difference in people's lives. You go in the theatre, you start on Earth, you end in the heavens. That's the objective to theatre."

Dan acknowledged that producing theatre is "not the best investment for a return on the dollar," and that he's lost money on some shows.

His said recent challenges have included the current economic climate, a drop in the number of American tourists to Toronto and a surplus of theatre shows in the city this past season.

With "Prince of Broadway," Dan said he put up the front money but eventually backed out as a lead producer because he was having a hard time finding other investors in New York.

Still, some shows also "packed the houses," noted Dan, who has staged many of his productions at the north-end Toronto Centre for the Arts. In recent years he also occasionally used the downtown Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Dan said he has no regrets about the shows he's presented over the years, calling them "absolutely first-class."

By contrast, the shows he sees in the Broadway and West End pipeline aren't up to his standard and that's why he's not presenting a 2013 season.

"Frankly, the content's not there," he said.

But it may be there around 2014-2015, added Dan, who predicts that's the economy "will swing back in a big way" and "there probably will be more great shows."

Until then, he's moving his business to a smaller building he bought. He's also changing Dancap Productions from what he called a "vertically integrated" institution (with all aspects of his team in-house) to a contract-based one. When his 2012 season is over, his current staff of 25 will be out of work.

Dancap's production of "Beauty and the Beast" runs through July 22 at the Four Seasons Centre. "Million Dollar Quartet" finishes on July 29 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

The company's 2012 season officially ends on Oct. 13, when "Jersey Boys" ends its Canadian tour in Saskatoon.

Dan said there will be "no funeral, no wake, no goodbyes" for the end of the season.

"I'm not gone. It's waiting for that next moment, and it will come."

In the meantime, Dan plans to continue to catch shows in New York to keep on top of what's out there. And he isn't ruling out the idea of pairing up with another theatre producer in Toronto one day: "Who knows. I'm opportunistic."

He doesn't expect another producer to take his place during his hiatus, though.

"Do I think that there's somebody else behind me? No, there's nobody else there," said Dan. "There will be a hole, there will be a vacuum created, because to go into the business is a very high-risk proposition and most people's appetite and risk tolerance and ability to invest is not there. It just isn't.

"You either have to be born into the business or you have to be able to have the risk tolerance to be able to support it."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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