Brigham’s Playhouse to close doors after ‘A Christmas Carol’; future of theater remains uncertain

Brigham’s Playhouse theater, Washington City, Utah, July 10, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After six years of providing entertainment in Washington County, Brigham’s Playhouse is closing its doors following its final show of the season. The intimate theater, which is billed as a “dessert theater,” complete with signature desserts designed around each production, has seen its share of successes – but also setbacks.

Scenes from Brigham’s Playhouse’s 2019 production of “A Christmas Carol,” Washington City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Brigham’s Playhouse, St. George News

Owners of the playhouse said they are taking a sabbatical to raise much-needed operational funds and get official nonprofit recognition. Executive producer and co-owner Jamie Young told St. George News they hope to reopen – though likely in a new location – in the near future.

The sabbatical will begin after the final performance of the theater’s current production of “A Christmas Carol,” which runs Wednesdays through Saturdays until Dec. 28.

Brigham’s Playhouse opened Feb. 14, 2014, and audiences have been steadily growing since. In the beginning, attendance averaged around 79 patrons per night; this year the 200-seat theater has seen an average of 134 patrons per night, Young said.

“We’ve seen a steady increase throughout the years,” he said, “but there were some unexpected surprises in our first couple of years that really set us back, and we’ve always been trying to play catch up.”

One of the more recent set backs came in July when the playhouse was granted only half of the RAP tax funds it applied for with Washington City.

City Council members approved $26,600 of the $53,000 requested by Young. Council members cited concerns over the future of the playhouse after Young said at a work meeting with the City Council that he could only commit to keeping Brigham’s Playhouse open through the end of 2019.

“Part of the concern is the possibility that Brigham’s Playhouse may not be here,” Councilman Jeff Turek said in July. “One of the thoughts I had is that we fund $25,000 through January, and they come back and say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be here another six months.’ We’ll fund the rest at that point.”

Though Young told St. George News he remains grateful for the funding he did receive in July and for the community’s support, the funds were only enough to last until the end of this year.

Scenes from Brigham’s Playhouse’s 2019 production of “A Christmas Carol,” Washington City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Brigham’s Playhouse, St. George News

“We just finally ran out of money, and our fundraising wasn’t keeping up with our needs,” Young said.

During the sabbatical, Young said they will be working to raise $600,000, which will go toward operational costs as well as marketing and increasing ticket sales.

“It takes money to make money,” Young said.

Owners and operators will also be working toward receiving official 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, something that the groups has been lacking and has been a road block in the past to receiving both RAP tax funds as well as private donations.

Young said they have started a not-for-profit company, but without the official recognition they are unable to guarantee a tax deduction to would-be supporters. He hopes to have that in place sooner rather than later, adding that they will only be collecting pledges and not actual money until they have secured enought pledges to meet their financial goal.

If they meet their fundraising goals, they will be looking to relocate from their current location in Cottontown Village next door to Rowley’s Red Barn, Young said.

“We feel like our home is Washington City, and we don’t want to leave,” he said.

The rent on the property where the playhouse is located has increased in recent years, Young said, and the playhouse’s growth has not managed to keep up. But, Young said, he wanted to clarify that they are not relocating because of the price of rent, adding that the owners of the property have been very gracious to him and the playhouse. Rather, they are closing down and leaving the building because they can’t expect the owners to hold onto the space for them for however long it is going to take to meet their goals and reopen.

“A Christmas Carol”

Based on the classic novella written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843, the story of miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge has endured the ages. It has also been a staple production at Brigham’s Playhouse throughout the years. In Brigham’s Playhouse’s production, Young and Taylor Williams have revamped the tale and given it a modern setting.

Scenes from Brigham’s Playhouse’s 2019 production of “A Christmas Carol,” Washington City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Brigham’s Playhouse, St. George News

Though some of the names of the classic characters have changed in this adaption (Scrooge is now Everett “Rett” B. Blithe), Young said they tried to remain true to the source material while updating the story for a new audience.

One of the adaptation they made to the story, he said, was to give the Scrooge character a more intrinsic motivation for change rather than being scared into change by ghosts.

Audiences will still see Blithe (played on alternating nights by Tj Dick or Jason Buck) travel through Christmases past, present and future with his former business partner – now Ms. Marley (Jasmine Anderson) – but they will be given more opportunity to learn what shaped Blithe into the crotchety penny hoarder he becomes and what drives him to change his ways.

The production has some very touching moments, and Young said he believes that audiences will be able to relate to at least one of the characters in the story.

The show is double cast, so some of the lead characters will alternate nights.

“A Christmas Carol” runs Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. until Dec. 28. Tickets are $23 for adults, $21 for seniors and $17 for children 5-17 and students with valid ID. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office located at Brigham’s Playhouse, 25 N. 300 West, Washington City. Box office hours are Tuesday-Friday, 2-7 p.m, and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m.

“It’s a very moving story,” Young said. “We love this show and hope that we’ll be able to keep doing it for years in the future.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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