PACking Them In

So, what does half-a-billion dollars buy you these days?

For the answer, I went on a tour of the soon-to-open performing arts center — two Cesar Pelli-designed megaliths divided by the expanse of Biscayne Boulevard's four lanes of traffic.

The weekday evening tour, geared toward volunteer usher wannabes, attracted more than 100 people. An even bigger crowd showed up for the next tour a few days later. Miami seems ready for the PAC. But is the PAC ready for Miami?

Access doors to the concert hall and opera theater (the two main venues) opened with a sound like giant Velcro strips tearing. In the elevators, floor signs didn't match up with tier numbers. In the theater, a slight slope from aisle to orchestra seats caused stumbles, while high heels echoed like gunshots in the uncarpeted concert hall. Two doors that looked like perfectly fine exits were actually direct routes backstage. Imagine some poor old guy ducking outside to fix his hearing aid; next thing he knows he's an extra in Il Trovatore.

Perhaps glitches are to be expected in an operation this grand. In fact, it would be suspicious — especially in Miami — if such a massive project went off without a hitch. The Carnival Center (might as well call it The House That Vacationing Midwestern Insurance Salesmen Built) is, truth be told, grand and gorgeous. The spaces are acoustically rich temples, from their sweeping atrium lobbies and beautiful wood surfaces to excellent sight lines and world-class set technology. Another good sign: plenty of non-gray hair could be spotted among the legions who showed up for the tour.

A few days later, the PAC's young and hip patrol, otherwise known as the Green Room Society, kicked off a soiree at the Setai. Green Room members, "social young professional Miamians who are sophisticated, diverse supporters and eager to shape the cultural landscape," contribute $250 or more in exchange for invites to cocktails parties, performances and special events. Thing is, many of the Chanel-toting, tapered shirt-wearing crowd of 30-somethings at the Setai had never heard of the Green Room Society. They had, however, heard of the open bar until 9:00.

Welcome to Miami.-Rob Jordan

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