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Shea's shines during 'Finding Neverland' launch

Shea's Performing Arts Center is getting rave reviews for its role in launching the national tour of "Finding Neverland," which swept through town earlier this month and left an estimated $1.2 million of local spending in its wake.

"We had a really great time there, from the presenter to the local crew, all very good and talented people," said "Finding Neverland" executive producer Trinity Wheeler. "It’s a great space. The venue has plenty of backstage space and all the support system you need to mount a major national tour."

The tour held technical rehearsals here because of a New York State tax credit designed to draw Broadway productions to upstate theaters. In addition to the launch of "Finding Neverland" in Buffalo, historic theaters in Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Schenectady also held tech rehearsals for new tours that might otherwise have launched in Rhode Island or Louisiana.

Those productions also got great reviews from producers, Shea's Broadway series producer Albert Nocciolino said.

"It was nothing less than spectacular. The producers can’t wait to come back," said Nocciolino, who already has booked another tour launch into the theater for next fall that he would not name. "They loved being in downtown Buffalo with all the various restaurants and hotels. Everything was in walking distance. They were thrilled with everything."

Former Shea's President and CEO Anthony Conte pegged the show's economic impact at about $1.2 million, including more than 1,700 hotel room nights, 141 tour staff and cast staying in Buffalo and dozens of local crew hired to work on the production.

And the show's effect on the local economy ranged from money spent in Theater District restaurants and bars to a more direct infusion of cash into the pockets of locally hired stagehands.

Kevin J. Faulhaber, president of the local stagehands union, IATSE Local 10, said the tour provided 22 stagehands with work during about four weeks of rehearsal and production.

"As long as New York is an attractive place to tech shows then we will continue doing them for long as it lasts," Faulhaber said. Because of Shea's proximity to New York City, he added, "Buffalo should be a prime spot, which is great for our guys."


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