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Shea’s benefits as theater tax credit attracts rehearsals for touring shows

A lot of hard work and imagination has gone into creating Buffalo’s Theater District, with Shea’s Performing Arts Center and its Broadway shows as the centerpiece. In addition to the usual stunning lineup for the 2016-17 season, the season-opening “Finding Neverland” brings a new element to town that is worth a song and a dance.

Buffalo is the first stop on the first national tour of the show, and thanks to a new tax credit, weeks of preproduction rehearsals will take place here leading up to the Oct. 11 premiere.

The rehearsal activity is expected to mean at least $1 million for the local economy, with similar arrangements in the future. And Buffalo won’t be alone. Other upstate theaters are expected to be home to preproduction rehearsals for national tours of Broadway shows.

Plenty of players contributed to the effort, including Shea’s series producer Albert Nocciolino and outgoing Shea’s president and CEO Anthony Conte. They joined members of the Broadway League and producers and theater officials across the state in persuading state legislators to approve a 25 percent Empire State Music and Theatrical Production Tax Credit. As News arts critic Colin Dabkowski recently wrote, the credit goes to companies that mount technical rehearsals of new national tours in upstate New York theaters.

New York’s 40 percent film tax credit is a powerful enticement for film and TV producers who shoot in the state each year. This theatrical production tax credit promises to do the same, although on a smaller scale. It was passed in 2014 and is capped at $4 million a year in total.

The credit became necessary to allow New York theaters to compete with states that already have theatrical tax credits, including Rhode Island, Louisiana and Illinois.

Besides bringing New York City-based producers to Western New York – with its lower costs and easy air access to New York City – the tax credits will sprinkle economic fairy dust on other cities rehearsing and opening Broadway shows this fall: Rochester, Syracuse, Schenectady, Elmira and Utica.

Millions of dollars will be spent. As Dabkowski reported, the “Finding Neverland” tour is expected to remain at Shea’s somewhere between three and five weeks prior to its opening in October. Producers are expected to spend between $1 million and $2 million on the production and bring in 40 to 50 people in the process, while hiring another 50 to 70 local laborers.

As State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, indicated, this is an investment in growing culture in the state that will pay dividends for Western New York.

It’s worth a Broadway-scale celebration.