British theatre producer David King has spoken about how one of his US theatres was partially destroyed when a tornado swept through the resort of Branson in Missouri.
King, who is best known as producer of touring show Spirit of the Dance but who also owns and manages two theatres in the US, estimated that the damage to the Branson Variety Theatre will cost at least £1 million to fix, but could even result in the 1,500-seat venue having to be pulled down.
He said: “The minimum amount of damage caused is around the £1 million mark. But if the building’s metal frame is twisted, then who knows – the whole thing may have to come down. I paid over £3 million for it, but at today’s prices I think it will cost a bit more than that to replace – we’ll have to see what the insurance people and engineers out here say.
“At the end of the day, my theatre can be repaired or replaced. Having seen the levels of devastation at first hand is a terrifying experience and I am just so relieved that all the people who work for me at the theatre are safe and sound.”
King bought the venue eight years ago and also owns the Palace Theatre at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. He was staying in a hotel across the road from the Branson theatre when the storm struck last week, having visited the venue earlier in the evening to see the first night performance of a new production – The Songs of the Four Seasons and The Beach Boys.
Almost 40 people were injured in Branson but 30 Britons employed by King at his theatre escaped unhurt. Other theatres in Branson also suffered significant damage, including the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.
According to local reports, the tornado had winds of 120 to 130 miles per hour, was 400 yards wide and was on the ground for about 20 miles.
King added: “The front of the building had been ripped off. It looked like a giant hand had come down and torn it apart. You have got to see the levels of destruction here to believe it.”