Count Basie Theatre CEO Numa Saisselin.

Hoping to appease Steve Winwood fans who couldn’t make the musician’s concert because of  Wednesday’s blizzard, officials at the  Count Basie Theatre are offering them free seats to one of four upcoming performances by other artists.

They’re also attempting to clarify the position the theater found itself in as weather forecasts grew ominous in the days leading up to the show. Canceling the concert would have meant a “crippling financial loss” approaching $100,000, Basie CEO Numa Saisselin says in a letter to ticketholders posted overnight on the theater’s website.

The decision to go on with the show in spite of weather-related travel warnings generated more than 100 comments on the theater’s Facebook page (registration required) and almost two dozen more here on redbankgreen, many of them critical of theater for not rescheduling the show or offering refunds.

Some posters said they would not buy tickets to winter events again, and others threatened to stop donating to the non-profit performance space.

Sample Facebook post, from Dave Siebenheller:

This is a ridiculous decision even for healthy people. Some people like me walk with difficulty, and a cane. This decision means I will not get to see the show and just wasted $160.

And this one, from David Brunt:

Bottom line is that this is a bad business decision by CTB and the artist. There is a lot of competition for venues like this one now, and they are losing customers, whose lifetime value is way more than the cost of one show. At minimum, there should be credit towards a future show, to demonstrate good will. Dont take a page from Toyota, and ignore your customers, because they will find altenatives.

But the theater faced a conundrum, according to Saisselin.

“Many ticket holders believe that the decision to proceed with a show is the theatre’s alone,” he says in his open letter. “It is important to understand that the two guiding principles are that inclement weather is not a cause for cancellation, and if the artist is on site and ready to play, we are obligated to pay the artist.”

Winwood traveled overnight Tuesday from North Carolina, and was ready to play last night, and did. But before he arrived, Saisselin writes. “we explored re-scheduling options with the artist’s management,” but no replacement date could be found because the show returns to Winwood’s native England on Monday.

The offer of free tickets applies to all Winwood ticketholders, whether or not they attended the show.

Here’s the letter:


Hello Steve Winwood Show Ticket Holder,

As you know, the Steve Winwood show at the Count Basie Theatre took place tonight as planned. I write to address the many phone calls and emails that we received throughout the day today expressing surprise that the show was still taking place, to tell you why the show took place, and whether you attended the show or not, to offer all ticket holders complimentary tickets to a set of future performances as a way of responding to any inconvenience you were caused today.

Many ticket holders believe that the decision to proceed with a show is the theatre’s alone. It is important to understand that the two guiding principles are that inclement weather is not a cause for cancellation, and if the artist is on site and ready to play, we are obligated to pay the artist. In the latter case, our choices are to proceed with the show, or to pay the artist not to play and then refund the ticket holder’s money, in which case the theatre sustains a crippling financial loss.

In the case of tonight’s show, on Tuesday we explored re-scheduling options with the artist’s management. However, the tour returns home to England next Monday, and the only day we have available before that is this Friday, when they already have a show. So, the performers traveled over night Tuesday night from North Carolina to arrive here Wednesday morning, and the show went on.

Still, we recognize that many customers faced difficulty getting to the theatre, and we wish to make it up to you. Whether you attended the show or not, we invite you to be our complimentary guest for one or all four of these upcoming shows at the Count Basie Theatre:

Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour
Thursday, February 18, 2010, 8:00 PM
Featuring nine-time Grammy nominee and NEA Jazz Master pianist Kenny Barron; Grammy nominee violinist Regina Carter; Grammy winning guitarist Russell Malone; nine-time Grammy nominee vocalist Kurt Elling; bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, and Grammy nominated drummer Johnathan Blake.

The Spencers: Magic of Illusion
Friday, March 05, 2010, 7:30 PM
Combining original theatrical elements with cutting-edge illusions, audience interaction, dramatic lighting, special effects, music, movement and stage magic, the world of Kevin and Cindy Spencer is a place where intellect and amazement collide.

The Three Irish Tenors starring in “Druid”
Saturday, March 06, 2010, 8:00 PM
Featuring the Three Irish Tenors, known to Basie audiences for many years from their “Christmas from Dublin” performances, “Druid” is a unique concert experience, celebrating the essence of the Irish spirit in music and dance.

An Evening of Bluegrass with Cherryholmes and special guests Up & Runnin’
Friday, March 12, 2010, 8:00 PM
Since winning the 2005 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award, the family band Cherryholmes has taken the music world by storm with a unique mix of bluegrass, Celtic, and jazz. Their first, second, and third releases were all Grammy nominees. Their trademark is shared vocals around a single microphone, with nostalgic arrangements, tight harmonies, and energetic choreography.

We selected the Monterey Jazz Festival Tour and the Cherryholmes show because they’re real “music lover” shows which we thought would appeal to the Steve Winwood audience. The Spencers and the Irish Tenors shows are variety shows, but are excellent, and we included them here to give you a different set of options.

To arrange tickets for one or all four of these shows, all you have to do is contact the Box Office at 732-842-9000, identify yourself as a Steve Winwood ticket holder, give them your name, and let them know what show(s) you wish to see. They’ll take care of everything else.

The Count Basie Theatre, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation that exists solely to serve the community. There are no owners or shareholders. The volunteer Board of Trustees and the professional staff hold this theatre and its activities in trust for the entire community. A crippling financial loss approaching ($100,000) would mean the loss of many other performances and educational activities this year.

However, whether you attended the show or not, we apologize for the inconvenience, and hope that in some small way this makes it up to you.


Numa Saisselin
CEO, Count Basie Theatre, Inc.