Best of showbiz for Arena
Golden Ticket winners Jon Attrill and Joanne Baldam with Kristi Clarke, Steve Hevern and Terry Waldron. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Perth audiences should expect to see more theatrical spectacles such as Walking With Dinosaurs, Disney on Ice and orchestral concerts in the Perth Arena.

The new complex had broadened the scope for local producers and for international promoters to include Perth on the Australasian touring circuit, according to managers AEG Ogden and those likely to book the venue.

"Any cynicism people may have had about timing, appearance and cost just disappears when they go and have a look," Rosita Stangl, the Perth representative of such companies as Cirque du Soleil and Disney, said.

"All is forgiven and forgotten."

Ms Stangl said Perth could expect return visits from Disney on Ice, which has not played Perth since the Entertainment Centre closed 10 years ago because of the difficulty in darkening the Burswood Dome for matinees.

Cirque du Soleil also would look to bring more of its indoor arena shows to Perth, alternating with their Grand Chapiteau tours, she said. "Cirque du Soleil in the bowl of the Perth Arena will be sensational," she said.

The handful of non-rock show and sports bookings range from Russell Brand to Yanni and The Wiggles but Arena interim manager Steve Hevern said more would follow soon.

Hirers faced operating costs of between $25,000 and $75,000 a day plus 17.5 per cent of ticket sales. Perth International Arts Festival artistic director Jonathan Holloway said the Arena would give him more programming options as he tried to squeeze dozens of shows into a few venues over just three weeks each year.

The Festival still favoured quintessential summer venues such as Belvoir, Red Hill and Kings Park for its bigger shows but Perth was a major step closer to a full pack of world-class venues, Mr Holloway said.

"It would be great if there was a smaller classical recital hall and a lyric theatre but until we are filling the venues we have for 40 weeks a year, we should pause and start looking at more content rather than more infrastructure," he said.

Had the Arena been available earlier in the year, the Festival would have used it for the Ennio Morricone symphonic concert, which was switched from Sandalford winery to Burswood Theatre.

The WA Symphony Orchestra considered using the Arena for two big movie nights next year featuring the music from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings, but had not resolved some venue-use uncertainties before finalising its annual program.

WASO chief executive Craig Whitehead said the Arena would give the orchestra more flexibility for its Contempo pop concerts with international stars touring outside the summer concert calendar at Kings Park.

"It costs about $200,000 just to set up Kings Park as a venue," Mr Whitehead said. "If you put aside the extraordinary cost of the arena, Perth is really good at getting by with substandard facilities. I think it is fantastic that the State Government has invested the money in getting a world-class venue."

The venue was opened to the public yesterday as part of the inaugural Open House Perth event, attracting an estimated 25,000 people.

The first two Perth Arena tickets printed were presented to Joanne Baldam, of Victoria Park, who won the Statewide Golden Ticket raffle, entitling her to two tickets to every event at the Arena for the next 12 months.

The raffle raised $50,000, which was donated to international children's charity Radio Lollipop.

'Any cynicism people may have had about cost just disappears when they go and have a look'" *Rosita Stangl *

The West Australian

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