New Civic Center supervisor launches bold plan for performing arts venues
Randy West confident residents will respond to new offerings
FARMINGTON — Randy West, the new supervisor of the Farmington Civic Center, knows that his plan is an ambitious one — to greatly increase the number of theater and musical offerings at the facility this season while simultaneously launching a professional musical theater company.
But he has faith it will work.
"I do," he said. "I've been lucky enough to get to build programs, and it's a combination, quite honestly, of luck and training."
West, a veteran of both the creative and administrative sides of show business, figures he has the training. Now he's just hoping for a bit of luck.
But that doesn't mean he'll be relying largely on the latter. As the son of a California high school baseball coaching legend, West said he has a natural inclination to rely on sports metaphors even when discussing the performing arts world.
"Somebody has to give you the ball, and once they had you the ball, you can't fumble it," he said. "You have to have done the prep work."
A native of the Golden State, West has made career stops in Phoenix, Iowa, Houston and Kansas while also spending plenty of time working on productions in New York, Florida and California. Along the way, he's built relationships with dozens of heavy hitters in the Broadway and opera realms, including musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim, and he plans on using those connections to greatly enhance the quality, quantity and breadth of the programming at the city's two performing arts venues, the Civic Center and the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater.
The Civic Center launched its new season July 21 with a performance by the ELO tribute band A New World Record. Over the next year, the Civic Center at the amphitheater will play host to all manner of performances, including the new Intimate Broadway series featuring Broadway veteran and Tony Award nominee Liz Callaway, and Metropolitan Opera veteran David Malis; a lineup of musical offerings that includes country, rock, blues and Celtic performers; a family and children's entertainment series, and the debut season of the Four Corners Musical Theatre Company.
In all, nearly 30 shows are planned — a substantial increase over the past couple of years, when much of the Civic Center was out of commission because of an extensive renovation.
The challenge of coming to Farmington and overseeing a relaunch of the facility is a big part of what lured West here from his last stop in Abilene, Kansas, where he had engineered the rebirth of the Great Plains Theatre, an Equity company that had seen its facility burn down. Since graduating from the University of Redlands in California in 1976, West has worn a variety of hats, including working as a college instructor, an artistic director for various theater companies, a creative director for an advertising agency, and an executive director of theater companies and performing arts venues, giving him a rare mix of skills.
"I had a combination of running buildings and running programs," West said. "They don't always go together. But my career has always been a little different."
Upon arriving in Farmington several months ago, West began compiling his vision for the Civic Center and the amphitheater. He understood that city officials likely would want to start slowly and most likely would grant him permission to proceed on only a handful of projects.
He was stunned when they gave their blessing to virtually everything he envisioned.
"I felt a little like the dog who's chasing the car, and I caught the car," West said, smiling. "What do I do now?"
The next year will be a very busy one for West, but he'll have some help. He has been joined in Farmington by his wife Margaret Clair, another performing arts professional, and their two adult sons. West views his move to Farmington as an opportunity for his entire family and is especially excited about San Juan County's effort to position itself as a center of film and TV production activity, something he views as complementary to his efforts to ramp up the cultural quotient here.
Perhaps the biggest challenge West will face over the next year is the launch of the musical theater company, which will employ a mix of national, regional and local performers across three shows, beginning with "Musical of Musicals, The Musical" Sept. 25-29. That season will be followed by a beefed-up summer musical season at the amphitheater that features three shows, highlighted by "Mama Mia" July 1-19, 2020, a production that will star Brad Little, who has performed the title role in the national touring company of "The Phantom of the Opera."
West's vision for that facility includes a bold plan to take advantage of the natural distinctive surroundings of sandstone boulders, rather than obscuring them with large sets.
"I want to let that landscape become its own character," he said.
West wants to give new life to well-known productions by changing the visuals.
"You may have seen 'Pirates of Penzance,' but you haven't seen it at (Lions Wilderness Park)," he said. "What we want to create is a setting that enhances the whole performing experience."
Call the Civic Center at 505-599-1145 for season or individual ticket information.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.