Flat Rock Playhouse: from OVER to UNDER-rated

Sometimes cynically regarded as overrated, Flat Rock Playhouse – “The State Theatre of North Carolina”, has changed.

Massive financial problems came to a head in 2012, and would have meant the end of the theater if not for a huge public and private fundraising campaign. The campaign saw plenty of public opinion, both pro and con. One proposed 1% county-wide room tax hike to benefit the non-profit caused the biggest public outrage and was ultimately withdrawn at the theaters request.

Some funding came with the fiat that Flat Rock’s Board had to hire a “Finance Director”. Hillary Hart won the position. Hendersonville Lightening’s thorough article, “A Hart for the theater: Playhouse finance chief watches budget” does an excellent job explaining the situation and what’s being done to fix it.

“To say Hart had big shoes to fill would be wrong. She had no shoes to fill, really. Donors, elected officials and no small number of Flat Rock Playhouse critics said the problem with the nonprofit theater is that it had no one who really knew how to read a profit-and-loss spreadsheet.

Creative artistic director Vincent Marini had big ideas, they said, big expensive ideas. A perfect storm of the recession, capital investment and plunging ticket sales led to a $1.4 million loss in 2010 that almost put the theater under. What some people called a bailout and others called a worthy rescue of an important heritage and tourism engine saved the Playhouse last December.”

The Playhouse is still here, and so far it is in the black for the 2013 season. Hart’s job is to keep it there.

Vincent Marini’s big ideas mentioned above included bringing in higher-end talent from New York and other places at a cost that just couldn’t be sustained at then current ticket prices and audience numbers.

Ticket prices have gone up and we’ve been reluctant to go, expecting an expensive evening at a cute, local community theater.


PIC and I saw Evita (one of our favorite shows – we sing along with the soundtrack at home) this past Thursday night. Our opinion of the the Playhouse and ticket prices has taken an about-face.[stextbox id=”attention” float=”true” align=”right” width=”300″]The cast was excellent, many of whom I’d consider “Triple Threats” – they can act, sing AND dance.[/stextbox]

I was prepared to be disappointed after having seen the Broadway production. You know that feeling when performers hit the wrong note or deliver flat lines? Makes me cringe. Visiting small productions around the country, I sometimes get so embarrassed for the performers, I want to disappear into my seat or run away.

Flat Rock’s production was “professional” in every sense of the word. Set, wardrobe/costumes, sound, lighting were all spot-on.

If you haven’t gone yet, get your tickets ($30/students to $40) and GO! Evita runs through June 30th.

The Making of Evita at Flat Rock Playhouse (trouble viewing video? Click here):
25 minute video

What’s Next

Coming up next at the Playhouse is an ambitious production of Les Misérables from July 10th to August 18th. A friend in the know told me he’s met the cast and theater-goers are in for a fantastic experience.

“I truly believe we have probably the best collection of singers we’ve every had for any show that I’ve been involved with at the Playhouse for this production of Les Misérables.” ~ Vincent Marini

Vincent Marini on Les Mis at Flat Rock Playhouse (trouble viewing video? Click here):

 More Changes

Concessions are now catered by Tracy Bridges, co-owner of Flat Rock’s Just Vino. He’s reduced wait time to under one minute per person (important at the theater), notched up food and drink quality and variety, brought in products from local companies such as Van’s Chocolates, and is currently in negotiations with other local food producers, everyone of which you’ll be happy to see.

Also in the works: more outdoor seating, expanded drink offerings, and new ways to place and pick up orders.

Until word spreads, Flat Rock Playhouse will be underrated. Tickets are $40 for adults, $38 for seniors. These prices are in line with similar theaters in other parts of the country. Get them while you can!