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Stars keeps shining: New season, new life

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Louise Seger (Brenda Baldwin, right) introduces herself to Patsy Cline (Amy Adams) in the Stars production "Always ... Patsy Cline."

Stars Theatre Restaurant, which has struggled with debt and uncertainty for some time, has a new lease on life — in the form of a new lease — at the Chester Avenue venue it has occupied for nearly two decades.

Randy Jelmini, who sits on the board, said Monday a “friend of the theater” has stepped up to buy the theater/restaurant portion of the building, which is being sold by Bakersfield insurance executive Wes Bradford. Jelmini would not name the prospective buyer or say whether the deal is in escrow yet. He said the term of the lease is five years. The building is being split into two parcels, consisting of the theater/kitchen/basement, and a section of mostly office space that is still on the market.

“The business arrangement between us and the new landlord is exactly the same; we’re not getting a better deal,” Jelmini said. “But at least someone had enough confidence to go and buy it for us.”

Bradford had made assurances to the theater recently that the troupe would have a home at least for the current season, whose slate of shows Stars had delayed announcing until now. The theater is currently soliciting patrons to purchase season tickets.

“Everything is staying the same,” Jelmini said. “We’re hoping to do better job of management. Ticket prices are the same and we’re still having lunch and still having dinner. Though you can buy a ticket for the show only, pretty close to 85 percent of people come for dinner and the show.”

The first show of the season is “Ragtime,” premiering April 21, following the run of the current production, “Always … Patsy Cline,” which wraps April 1.

“We’re fortunate in that we’ve had couple of good shows,” Jelmini said. “‘Patsy’s’ good so far.”

That’s a good sign for the theater, which put out a distress call in September, jolting some in the theater community with the news that Stars was having difficulty paying its rent. Jelmini noted the theater’s biggest creditor is Bradford, the longtime owner of the building.

But Jelmini pointed to several positive developments for at Stars, which also runs a youth workshop out of a smaller theater in Rosedale. The children’s summer productions will be held, for the first time, at the Masonic Temple downtown for “close to rent-free,” said Jelmini, who also noted that the theater has secured rehearsal space at JC’s Place on the corner of 19th and Chester.

“The headline is the building is secure we have this building for the next season,” he said. “Now it’s incumbent on us to keep raising money and keep going.”

To that end, the board is targeting its 300 to 350 loyal subscribers with a slate of eight shows during the upcoming season.

Jelmini’s pitch to season ticket holders? A better price on shows, the opportunity to reserve a good spot and the flexibility to reschedule attendance during the run of the show. If you can’t make the production at all, he said, a credit usually is available.

2017-18 Stars season

“Ragtime,” April 21-May 13

“Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits,” June 2-17

“Shout! The Mod Musical,” July 7-29

“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” Aug. 18-Sept. 9

“Hello, Dolly!,” Sept. 29-Oct. 21

“Promises, Promises,” Nov. 3-18

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” Dec. 1-23

“Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I,” Jan. 19-Feb. 10

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