I am grieved to report that Masquerade Theatre, Houston's pre-eminent producer of musicals using only homegrown talent, has closed its doors.
As of last Tuesday evening, rumors were flying about its demise. Its current Web site simply states, "Dear Masquerade Patrons, It is with deep regret that, due to the inability to meet our current financial obligations, The Masquerade Theatre, including The Tribble School, is suspending all operations effective immediately. The Board deeply appreciates your work and your patronage. Please pray for a theatre angel."
We're on our knees!
TMT has been in financial trouble for a while, but this terrible news comes as an utter surprise. Obviously, the move a few years ago to the expensive-to-rent Hobby Center laid the foundation, and losing five of their stalwart company members, including the radiant Rebekah Dahl, a Houston theater treasure, to form their own venture, Music Box Theater, added another glitch. I suppose that their subscriber base wasn't sufficient to cover costly overruns.
As any theater patron knows, producing a play doesn't come cheap, and putting on a musical (with added expense for live orchestra, usually with bigger sets and splashier costumes than a straight play) is a labor to rival any of Hercules'. That TMT did so with such unparalleled, outstanding product for so many years, it's a wonder, I suppose, they lasted this long.
I've reviewed their shows for a decade and a half, and many remain indelibly fixed as some of the best work I've ever seen on any stage anywhere. Where will their deep-dish talent pool go? There's no other company that does, or did, what TMT does. It was unique and very special, and home to exceptional talent.
I've yet to hear from founder, artistic director, father confessor Phillip Duggins to tell his tale, but I'm certain he's in distressful mourning at the loss of his child. We all are.
Farewell and adieu, incomparable Masquerade. You made musical theater come alive. You will be sorely missed, and always remembered with love. Let's all pray that your guardian angel appears quickly and you return to do what only you can do so well.