Bryant leads Mountain Laurel Performing Arts Center comeback

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:13

    BUSHKILL - The Mountain Laurel Performing Arts Center has a new and proven chief executive officer guiding it to what he says will be a “huge success.” The $36 million performing arts center will attract many visitors to its 2,500-seat Tom Ridge Pavilion, said CEO Richard Bryant. “We had over 30,000 visitors during the 2005 season.” But the center was plagued by financial problems and an inability to get well known performers at the proper time for the 2006 season. “Now with everything in place to move forward, we will be ready for the November through February talent-buying period for 2007,” Bryant said. This season, the center features name performers like Hank Williams Jr. and the Boston Pops, as well as production shows such as “The Pirates of Penzance.” The center’s board of directors is planning 22 performances in 2007 and expanding to 40 in 2008. The center got off to a bad start back in August of 2003 and closed after just 20 performances. The center owed $24 million at the close of 2003. Bryant who took over the reins of the center in July of 2004 has an extensive background in the performing arts at a management level. He’s worked with superstars such as Placido Domingo and world-renowned venues such as Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center, In 2004, the season only started in September with B.B. King’s Blues Festival. It ended soon afterwards, but was successful according to Bryant. The 2005 season was an educational initiative with free concerts for Pike and Monroe students K-12. Jazz at Lincoln Center worked in a collaboration with Mountain Laurel and the program was funded by the federal Department of Education. Greystone Capital Partners took over 80 percent of the debt for the rights to develop the center’s 675 acres. This left 41 acres for the performing arts center which Greystone leased back to them for $1 per year for 30 years. Bryant said that after the sale to Greystone in March he hurriedly put together the current season. Four performances of “Dora The Explorer Live” started the 2006 season and drew over 6,000 people. Bryant came up with a new idea regarding admissions. When Waterloo, an ABBA tribute band played at the center in July, the admission charge was $20 a carload. The weeknight show was packed and more carload pricing is planned. On July 22, Hank Williams Jr. filled almost every seat in the place. “A performing arts center is defined by what goes on its stage. We intend to be a ‘blur’ between commercial radio broadcast music and fine art performances. We will be a diverse performing arts center that draws an audience from distances as great as 50 or 60 miles,” Bryant said. “A venue like this comes along once in 50 years and it can’t be done with borrowed money. Those in charge just didn’t know the business. They started off with a lot of flash and then burned out quickly,” he said. Bryant says with his 20 years of specialized knowledge and skill, he will make the Mountain Laurel Center successful. “The ship has been righted and we will continue to grow.” The center has attempted to keep admission prices reasonable, and provides extensive parking. Upcoming performances can be found on their Web site or by calling the box office at 570 426-2080.