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California Music Theatre Faces a Shortage of Cash : Stage: The nonprofit Pasadena group needs $250,000 to open ‘My Fair Lady’ on March 6 and another $250,000 by March 30.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pasadena-based California Music Theatre must raise $250,000 by the end of February to open its season with “My Fair Lady” on March 6--and another $250,000 by March 30 in order to complete the season as scheduled, theater officials say.

A long-running dispute with the Musicians Union and an unexpected pay raise for stage crews at Pasadena Civic Auditorium, which California Music Theatre rents for its productions, were cited as the reasons for a $186,000 shortfall from the planned budget.

Contributed income also fell $200,000 short of expectations last season, and last summer’s “Clothespins and Dreams,” the first new musical the group has produced, was the lowest-grossing show since the group’s first season four years ago.

California Music Theatre interim managing director Laura Zucker said the group faces a long-term $1-million debt, as well as the immediate accounts payable crisis that prompted the latest appeal.

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At the same time, the subscription campaign, which has eight weeks to go, has netted 11,000 renewals, more than last year’s total of 10,600, she said. Single-ticket sales for 1990 were the highest ever for the group, she added.

About 90% of the group’s $2.4-million budget was earned at the box office and other revenue sources, said Zucker. However, many people don’t realize that the organization is nonprofit and also “needs a high level of (contributed) support,” she said.

“People get confused. They think of musicals as Broadway theater and they say, ‘That’s commercial.’ ” The original stated mission of the group was to produce seldom-seen musicals from the repertoire and brand-new shows, instead of recent hits. “Keeping the repertoire alive and producing unknown works is a different problem,” Zucker said. Continuing financial problems could cause the organization to “play it safer . . . (and) become budget-driven rather than mission-driven,” she added.

If “My Fair Lady” is postponed in Pasadena, a planned move of the show to Palm Springs for March 26 and 27 performances could also be affected.

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