The Cascade Theatre has felt the pinch of the recession over the past two years, yet somehow managed to remain barely in the black. North State residents (like people all over the country) seemed to be getting pretty picky about what they’d spend their hard-earned extra dollars on.
But along comes the current season, and suddenly the downtown Redding venue is on a roll.
Recession? What recession?
“We’re having a great season, one of the best we’ve had,” says theater manager Jeff Darling.
Starting in the late summer and running through fall, the theater found a nice groove with different types of events, from big-name artists to community events and area performers who drew well.
In terms of major artists, the winter/early spring of 2011 is looking like one of the most robust periods the Cascade has experienced since it re-opened as a performing arts venue in the summer of 2004. Theaters in cities much larger than Redding would be thrilled by this stretch -- Merle Haggard (Jan. 21), two shows by Bill Cosby (Feb. 11), Bonnie Raitt (Feb. 17) and Buddy Guy (April 21).
Cascade officials were biting their nails on Cosby (who doesn’t come cheap), but shows at 7 and 9 p.m. are both nearly sold out. Tickets range from $65-$75 for the show and the theater had to sell a house and half just to break even.
Queen of the blues Bonnie Raitt sold out in a week with tickets ranging from $62 to $75.
“This year we seem to be turning the corner and establishing a real stable thing,” Darling said. “We’ve kind of proven to ourselves that we can support certain types of artists and the big agencies are now looking at the Cascade. They like intimate feel and artists like playing in a building like this.”
The Cascade is being viewed as a solid small market venue, which can support major names.
Independent promoters from outside the area found success and strong audiences with shows like Wynonna Judd in August, and Brian Adams and Gordon Lightfoot in September.
And while not everyone can afford to spend $150 for two tickets to see Bill Cosby, the Cascade has been filling up for less expensive events as well.
The Afghanistan war film “Restrepo” was a success, as was a showing of “The Big Lebowsky” and films from the Telluride Film Festival. The latter two film events were sponsored by the Catalyst group in Redding, which promotes the shows and donates proceeds to the Cascade to help the theater purchase a new high-definition film projector.
The Catalyst group focuses on events for young professionals in Redding and Darling said it’s the type of partnership that’s working well for the Cascade. The next Catalyst evening at the Cascade is a showing of “Spinal Tap” on Feb. 2. Attendees are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters from the well-loved “mockumentary.”
Other home-spun successes for the Cascade include another successful run of “A Cascade Christmas,” a recent Christmas concert event by Garrett Viggers, and a harp concert by Candace Li Volsi.
“There are a lot of fun things that don’t cost a fortune,” Darling said. “We’re seeing an increase on every level (of show).”
Over the next four months the theater will also host the Peking Acrobats (Jan. 16), the State of Jefferson Blues Jam with Earl Thomas, the Karen Lovely Band, and the Blues Rollers (Jan. 29), Forever Plaid (Feb. 5), the North State Symphony (Feb. 19), Johnny Lang (Feb. 25), A Touch of Classical Piano (March 12), Great Big Sea (March 16), Motown Idols (March 17) and the Dance Project’s “Sound of Music” (April 8-9, 15-16).
Darling said the Cascade is also close to signing a major reggae act in the coming months as well as a major folk-rock act. For the 2011-12 season, Darling said there will likely be some artists that will “blow people’s minds” once they’re announced.
“I’m feeling really positive right now and we’re having fun,” said Darling.
In terms of Haggard, Cosby, Raitt and Guy, each stands out in terms of the huge impact they’ve had:
• Haggard has influenced practically everyone who came after him in country music with his songwriting and singular voice. Bob Dylan, who almost never does interviews, raved about him in Rolling Stone magazine. Dylan’s recent tune “Workingman’s Blues No. 2” was no doubt influenced by the Icon. And speaking of Rolling Stone, none other than Keith Richards was also quoted in the article.
• Cosby’s “The Cosby Show” was one of the defining sitcoms of the 1980s and it’s just a sliver of his career. He was revered by children for his “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” television cartoon in the previous decade and he’s made more than 20 comedy albums, many which reveal his prowess as stand-up comedian.
• As for Raitt, when it comes to major blues and rock names, it would easier to list the people she hasn’t collaborated with rather than the ones she has. The nine-time Grammy winner has managed to capture huge commercial success while retaining the respect of practically every blues player alive during her era (she’s played with Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker if that tells you anything). Her list of album credits is literally staggering.
• Influenced by Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy himself became a huge definer of the Chicago Blues sound and is a figure that no modern blues guitarist can ignore. Guy is also known for his showmanship in live concerts, playing his guitar with drumsticks and strolling the audience (which he did in his last appearance at the Cascade, even wandering up into the balcony).
To see the entire calendar of events at the Cascade, visit the theater’s Website.
Note: The original version of this post listed the wrong date for the Bill Cosby show.
Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight's D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at [email protected].
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.