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Lancaster theater group cuts 'Evita' performance short, citing complaint from rights holder

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Prima, a nonprofit theater group based in downtown Lancaster, is cutting short its production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita" after it says it received a complaint from the people who hold the rights to the musical.

The theater group was scheduled to hold the third of five planned performances Thursday before Prima announced the cancellation Wednesday afternoon. 

"The process to stage a show like EVITA starts over a year out, when we purchased the rights to present the show," Prima co-founder Mitch Nugent said in a news release. "In the case of EVITA, our creative decisions in presenting the material created significant concerns with the rights holders of the show."

In a phone interview Thursday, Nugent declined to elaborate on the specifics of those creative decisions but said Prima often tries to freshen up aging stories.

Theater groups have to follow certain guidelines when it comes to how they produce a work to make sure they stay true to the rights holder's vision, but those guidelines usually contain room for creative liberties.

"We're trying to do material that speaks to the next generation in what is known as a dying art field," Nugent said. 

That approach "backfired" with "Evita," Nugent said, adding he takes full responsibility for what happened.

Prima's leadership realized early this week that it needed to either makes major changes to the performance or cancel the remaining shows. Nugent opted to cancel out of concern that the small theater group could not make the needed changes in such a short amount of time without compromising the quality of the show.

"Our team is grieving, as you can imagine," he said. "It's a big hit, and these folks, the cast and the production team, put months of work into this."

Ticket holders for the canceled performances can request a refund or a credit toward a future show, or they can donate the cost of the ticket toward the theater's youth initiative.

Prima's "Evita" cast is also offering a free cabaret Saturday evening. More information is available on the theater's website.

"Evita" tells the story of Eva Perón, wife of Argentine president Juan Perón during his first term in office from 1946 to 1952. The show was scheduled to take place Sept. 7, 8, 14, 15 and 16 at the Willow Valley Communities Cultural Center in West Lampeter Township, Lancaster County.

With tickets priced between $24 and $50 a piece, Prima expects to take a financial hit from the cancellations. Nugent declined to offer an exact estimate of the losses but said the community has been generally supportive since yesterday's cancellation announcement.

Nugent and his wife, Diana, founded Prima in 2010. The nonprofit has an annual budget around $300,000 and has performed concerts, cabarets and theatrical productions like "Big Fish" and "Elton John's Aida."

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Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @jenni_wentz.

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Linda PetersS September 18, 2017 4:07 pm

Hellow,
We're trying to make an element that will talk to the next generation which is known as a dyeing art field," says Nugent.. The theater group was scheduled to hold the third of five planned performances Thursday before Prima announced the cancellation Wednesday afternoon. A different religious group has been mentioned in your post and it is a great post for us so that we can see these relationships.Wellcome,for your postů
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Linda PetersS September 18, 2017 4:05 pm

Hellow,
We're trying to make an element that will talk to the next generation which is known as a dyeing art field," says Nugent.. The theater group was scheduled to hold the third of five planned performances Thursday before Prima announced the cancellation Wednesday afternoon. A different religious group has been mentioned in your post and it is a great post for us so that we can see these relationships.Wellcome,for your postů
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Mike September 18, 2017 12:16 am

"Prima often tries to freshen up aging stories" THEN WHY DO A WAR HORSE.?! What's next? Hello, Dolly, with pasties and g strings? If you cannot do a show as written, don't do the damn thing. When directors and producers become so arrogant that they believe themselves to be better than the author, they need to get the hell out of the business.

Dave September 17, 2017 9:36 pm

Oh boo friggin' hoo... If Prima wants to avoid trouble like this in the future, maybe they ought to learn the meaning of the phrase "Copyright Protection." Here's an idea, Mr. Nugent: Write your own damn show. Then you can do whatever you want, instead of hacking someone else's show up. As a theatrical pro, I'm getting damned sick of reading about yet another podunk theatre group violating the playwright's copyrighted works every other goddam week. I hope the next time you try this stunt, the rights holder sues you back into the Stone Age. It would serve you right.

Michael Dale September 17, 2017 2:15 pm

You put months of work into it? Too bad. The authors put years of work into it.

Holly Kominsky September 15, 2017 8:36 am

I have to disagree with Prima's comment that live musical theatre is a "dying art field." From where I stand, in York, PA, nothing could be farther from the truth! I know from personal experience that both the Belmont and Dreamwrights attract hundreds of auditionees for each of their shows and ticket sales are robust for musicals.

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