EP Award Promo

‘Triple Espresso’ expected to perk up downtown business


Funny Business  “Triple Espresso,” a comedy about the once-promising comedy team of Maxwell, Butternut & Bean, who have reluctantly reunited for a 25th anniversary performance, will debut in Des Moines this week at the Temple for Performing Arts. The show originated in Minneapolis in 1996 and has now played more than 120 weeks in multiple runs over five years.

As it has in Dublin, Ireland, and in numerous cities across the United States, including Chicago and Seattle, the show is expected to make local audiences of all ages laugh. More important to downtown businesses, it is expected to draw thousands of people to restaurants, brew pubs and hotels.  The show could prove to be a boon for the newly renovated Temple and its tenants, as well as establishments in the immediate area.

A jolt of comedy should help energize the downtown economy and brew interest in the new Temple for the Performing Arts as the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines presents an extended run of “Triple Espresso” through Jan. 5, 2003, at the Temple. The long-awaited production opens Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Jeff Chelesvig, president of the Civic Center, said he is optimistic about the show’s impact on the downtown area, including coffeehouses, restaurants and brew pubs. Opening night will mark the first time in the Civic Center’s 23-year history that it will present a show off-site. Because the show is part of the Civic Center’s Broadway Series season ticket package, Chelesvig predicts more than 1,000 theater-goers will attend the show each week and patronize nearby businesses before and after the performances.

“Based on what we’ve seen with shows at the Civic Center, we know restaurants benefit greatly from activity here,” he said. “Even though there will be a smaller number of people coming out each night [compared with the Broadway series at the Civic Center] I get the sense that people will still make a night out of it and go to restaurants and bars before and after the show.”

Businesses located on the Temple’s ground floor, including Starbucks, Centro and South Union Bread Café, stand to gain from theater-going crowds at the Temple. So, too, do neighboring establishments, including the 43 Restaurant & Bar, Raccoon River Brewing Co. and the Hotel Fort Des Moines, which is offering special room rates for groups attending “Triple Espresso.”

Tim Wilcox, a manager for Raccoon River Brewing Co., said he expects customer traffic to pick up during the run of the show, so the restaurant will add additional staff to handle the workload. He said the brew pub sees an increase in business during the Civic Center’s Broadway productions and he expects more of the same from “Triple Espresso.”

“It’s good for us any time there’s something happening downtown,” Wilcox said. “During the fall and winter months, we see business pick up when there are concerts and plays happening downtown.”

Chelesvig said the timing of the production is ideal as restaurants in the Temple begin to open.

“It’s an exciting situation,” he said. “The Temple’s partners and Harry Bookey have been extremely accommodating, and they recognize the great opportunity for them and for us.”

The Civic Center leased the 280-seat Temple Theatre on the second floor in May. Chelesvig said bringing the show to the Temple allows the Civic Center to co-produce an extended-performance run without creating scheduling conflicts with other shows in the main auditorium or Stoner Studio Theater.

“It allows us to do more programming without impacting programming here,” he said. “We have community theater groups that use Stoner Theater and we didn’t want to affect their schedules.”

One potential obstacle could be the risk of converting a building that previously wasn’t a theater into a professional theater, Chelesvig said. The Temple becomes only the second venue in Des Moines to host professional live theater.

“There’s a little learning curve there,” he said. But the Civic Center has an option to extend the production after the first 10 weeks.

“We’ll take a look at ticket sales at that point,” Chelesvig said.

In addition to Broadway Series season ticket holders, the show will appeal to large groups, Chelesvig said. Companies are beginning to purchase blocks of tickets.

“We’ve had a couple of businesses already secure tickets for holiday parties,” he said. “It’s a terrific opportunity for companies to see a first-class show in a first-class place.”

Chelesvig said he is relying on word of mouth from season ticket holders and companies to spur day-of-show ticket sales.

“The No. 1 reason shows are successful is because of word of mouth,” Chelesvig said. “I’m excited about the potential of this show.”

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