THEATER NOTES : 'Miss Saigon' Sales Away

Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

You've been warned--repeatedly--in an onslaught of broadcast and print ads: "Miss Saigon" closes Saturday at the Ahmanson Theatre.

The warnings have been accompanied by a reduced-price offer on the remaining seats.

But isn't ticket demand supposed to be sky-high for the last few weeks of a big show's limited run?

Many people might assume that, judging from the last big show that occupied the Ahmanson, "The Phantom of the Opera." Phantomania raged not only over tickets to the last few performances, but also over the tickets to the first of two "final" performances by Michael Crawford--when someone bid $27,500 for a pair in a charity auction.

"Miss Saigon" is a very different story. First there was a late summer sale on tickets (late summer is considered the off-season in L.A.), now there is an end-of-the-run sale.

No, producer Cameron Mackintosh hasn't started panhandling on the Music Center plaza. The anticipated final gross for the 39 weeks and 312 performances of "Miss Saigon" will be approximately $25.8 million, according to the show's general manager Alan Wasser: "All in all, we've done very well."

The summer sale on tickets was a big success--the box-office take went from $44,000 the day before the sale to $115,000 the day after it began, and the sale ended up selling $1.5 million of tickets, easily topping a similar off-season "Miss Saigon" sale that the producers offered for the Broadway production last winter.

Forget the comparisons to "The Phantom of the Opera," Wasser advised: " 'Phantom' is a case unto itself. Everywhere it has done massively better business than anything else."

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