Category Archives: Events

“May” we update you?

May 4, 2020

Hello Town Theatre members and ticket purchasers!

First – THANK YOU. Thanks for hanging in there with us as we continue to navigate the unknown. Of course, we have more questions than answers it seems, but we have been fortunate in so many ways. I wanted to update you on a few things with the information that I have available to me.

Midlands Gives
Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 5, is Midlands Gives. This is a community-wide day of giving. We know that everyone is in a different place right now, but we think it is important to seek support for the theatre from those who are able. We will host our “$20 for Town” campaign again inviting you to make a $20 gift through the Midlands Gives platform. Click here to make your gift. We received word on Friday that that we will receive a match of up to $3,000 from The Cheerful Giver – an anonymous donor. We feel so fortunate! (And if you so inclined and able to make a gift larger than $20, of course we would appreciate that too!)

Please know that this ask does not come without understanding of what a rough time this is for everyone. We sincerely want to find the balance between the tough situations that everyone is facing and making sure we can open the doors at 1012 Sumter Street after the pandemic is behind us. If this is not the right time for you to receive this request, no pressure at all. We simply present it as an opportunity.


The “State” of Town Theatre

So far, Town Theatre is hanging in there! The quarantine has created job loss and a great deal of financial instability for so many. Our heart aches for everyone who has faced a loss of any magnitude. Town went from a time of incredibly strong ticket sales in an amazing season of shows to an immediate halt. The theatre was fortunate to receive a PPP loan which is allowing us to retain our staff and not face layoffs at the moment.

Our job duties and descriptions have altered just a bit, but everyone is working as best they can. We are grateful for the time to tackle some of those “to do” list items that never seem to get done. We are hopeful that our Midlands Gives event will be fruitful and that we will be able to generate some revenue from virtual camps. We’re counting on the return of our shows and in-person camp activities.

But we have no crystal ball, so we are moving forward with great care and caution – doing our best to make decisions on a rolling basis. We continue to communicate with theatres and arts organizations locally and across the country to understand their best practices upon a return to the theatre. We constantly seek and apply for any relief funds that might be available to non-profits. We gently fundraise because we want to find the balance between the tough situations that everyone is facing and our own goal to stay in business.

101st Season
It is still our intention to complete our 101st season including our run of Mary Poppins and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. We must have details on what we can do, when we can do it as well as guidance on appropriate social distancing before any of those decisions can be set in stone. When they are – we promise to share our plans with you. As a reminder, if you had already made reservations for Mary Poppins, you will have the first opportunity to re-reserve your tickets for our new slate of performance dates. Once an appropriate amount of time has passed, we will open ticketing for others. We continue to appreciate your patience as we wait until that time to communicate about ticketing.

Classes

We are continuing our virtual youth theatre classes through May. In another month we believe we will have more information about how we can continue to serve our 150 students. Just like with the 101st main stage shows, it is still our intention to allow the students to perform when possible. We know that it won’t be exactly the same as we originally planned, but we will deal with that when details are provided from our state and local officials.

Summer Camps
Next week, we will outline summer camps for the first few weeks in June. These will be planned as virtual offerings with small groups of students. Classes will be held via Zoom and will vary in topic. This is a first for us and we welcome the opportunity to deliver arts education in a new way. If we need to continue to roll out virtual camps for a longer time frame, we will do so.

We appreciate your support as we all make this journey together.

Shannon Willis Scruggs
Executive Director
Town Theatre

Town Theatre happenings

April 7, 2020

Hello Town Theatre families, patrons, members ticket purchasers, volunteers and more!

It has been three weeks since we all had an abrupt change of pace. At the time, we had more questions than answers and while we still have some questions, we do have a little more clarity on how we will proceed. We also thought you might have an interest in reading about what we have been doing to keep things going as best we can.

The shows MUST go on!
We are very excited to let you know that we do intend to complete our 101st season including our run of Mary Poppins and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. When? Well, that is the million-dollar question it seems. But, once we can be together again safely, we will determine dates for these performances and will communicate with you about ticketing times. If you had already made reservations for Mary Poppins, you will have the first opportunity to re-reserve your tickets for our new slate of performance dates. Once an appropriate amount of time has passed, we will open ticketing for others. We appreciate your patience as we must wait until that time to communicate about ticketing.

In the interim, our casts have been making lemonade out of lemons. Check out the coverage of our Poppins Car Parade which was held at the end of March. We had a fantastic day as you can see from these photos. What a great time to come together (safely) and share the good with our community.

Youth Theatre
Our youth theatre classes were running full speed ahead when we were interrupted. Weekly classes for Mary Poppins Jr., Give and Take as well as Guys & Dolls Jr. came to an immediate halt. However, just as with our main stage shows, we are committed to holding these productions. Once dates and times are known, we will communicate with you about ticketing.

During this time of being at home, our youth theatre students have remained engaged. We have held rehearsals for small groups on Zoom and have provided weekly activities for our students including costume design challenges, dialect exercises and even props building activities. Members of our Town Teen Troupe created a COVID Containment Entertainment concert series which you can view on our YouTube channel. Stay tuned as we hope to share more while we go through this process together.

Summer Camps
We do intend to host camps once again this summer! We are holding off on enrollment until we have more confidence on what the end of the school year looks like for our students. Our list of camps as originally planned can be seen here. We are also considering several options with adjustable dates and will share those at the appropriate time. And we are developing a “May Minis” Series of lessons and classes that we will roll out when needed.

Town Theatre Staff
Town staff has committed to using this down time to grow. We’re working on some of those projects that have been on our “to do” lists. Technical Director Danny Harrington has created a fun demonstration on how to create a stage model for set design. Check it out! He is also working on set designs for the 102nd season so that we can “make up for lost time” once the quarantine is over. Assistant Technical Director Corey Langley was able to spend some time reorganizing areas of the theatre and our warehouse. He is also currently creating a scenic painting series to share with our students. Youth Theatre Director Megan Douthitt has become well versed in shifting in-person rehearsals and classes to online opportunities. Executive Director Shannon Scruggs has been exploring the ever-changing opportunities for funding in a time of little revenue as well as working with staff, licensing companies, casts and youth theatre families to keep the wheels on the bus turning.

What Can You Do Now?
Many of you have reached out asking how you might help. We would truly appreciate your continued support of our theatre during this challenging time. One easy way to do that is to purchase your 102nd Season Membership at the early bird rate. You can do that online here.

Once we have ticketing dates for the rest of our current season and all our youth theatre shows, be sure to get your ticket and bring a friend. Live theatre can and will be such a great part of our restoration process.  

If you are able and so inclined, we would appreciate your support as a donor. We were so very fortunate to renovate two of the three areas of our theatre before this crisis hit AND we did so without adding any debt. If you still have a portion of your pledge outstanding, are you able to make an early or an extra payment? Or, if you never got around to joining us as a donor and the time is right for you, we would welcome your support. You can mail your check to the theatre or make a gift online at this link. We do plan to participate in the community-wide Midlands Gives on May 5 with our popular “Give Town a Twenty” campaign.

We hope that you and your family are safe and well. Though this was certainly not a part of our plan, we will make the very best of it and, more than ever, are excited to see you at the theatre as soon as we possibly can. In the interim, if you have questions, please reach out to Shannon Scruggs at shannon@towntheatre.com.  

Until the next curtain call,

Mary Lynn Barnette                                                            
President                                                                                                           

Shannon Willis Scruggs
Executive Director

BE LIMITLESS with Matilda!

By Padgett Mozingo, APR

If you love theatre or children, or both, Town Theatre has a real treat in store for you. Its summer musical Matilda runs July 12-28, with a Be Limitless special event and show preview on Sunday, July 7 for all ages.

Town Theatre is partnering with Limitless Purpose ~ an organization that works to dispel the myths falsely associated with Down syndrome. Limitless Purpose was founded by Padgett Mozingo, whose 8-year-old daughter Lila was diagnosed with a heart defect and Down syndrome before birth. 

From that day in her pregnancy, Padgett found that people started underestimating their baby girl – including her doctor. She and her husband were told of all the things their daughter would not be able to do. Today, however, Lila is a thriving elementary school student who is happy, outgoing, sassy and so much more.


“Lila’s diagnosis doesn’t define her, and we won’t let it limit her, either,” says Padgett. “We might have to fight a little harder to make sure others don’t limit her, but we know she’s giving it her all, so we will, too.”

Matilda’s story is similar to Lila’s and that of many children. Once Matilda finds someone who believes in her, she too is LIMITLESS. We know that every child can be limitless when loved, accepted and included. 

We’re shouting that message from the rooftops and we want YOU to join us! Here’s how you can be a part of this awesome adventure…

·         Come to the show prepared to buy a Token of Hope handmade by Lila and other special items!

·         Bid on one of our awesome silent auction packages, available before each performance.

·         Come BE LIMITLESS on Sunday, July 7. (Fun details below!)


Limitless Purpose will receive a portion of the proceeds from these summer events. Come enjoy a great show and join us to prove that all children are limitless!

Be Limitless with Matilda, the cast and Lila too.
Sunday, July 7 will be a fun-filled day at Town as we host Be Limitless ~ an interactive day with Matilda and her friends. Be one of the firsts to see a special preview of the show, and that’s not all! Learn to salsa with Mrs. Wormwood, decorate your own chocolate cake with Bruce and have a dance party with the other Revolting Children. And, while you’re here, learn how to be LIMITLESS with LILA. Throw in some photo ops with our cast and maybe even win a ticket to see the full show. It’s sure to be limitless fun!

Be Limitless tickets for participants ages 12 and under are $10. ALL activities and photos (e-mailed after the event) included. Tickets for chaperones (ages 13 and up) are $5. After all, it is a GREAT cause! Choose between a 2 PM or 3:15 PM start time. (The first tour runs 2:00 PM to 3:30 pm and the second tour runs 3:15 PMto 4:45 PM.

Tickets are available at towntheatre.com anytime OR by phone at 803-799-2510. The box office is open 12 noon to 5 PM Monday through Friday. Tickets MUST be purchased by Friday, July 5 and will NOT be available at the door.

Tip of the Hat

Tip-of-the-HatTip of the Hat – limited number of tickets for sale!

Please join us on Sunday, August 12 at 3 PM. We will officially “kick-off” our Centennial with a special Tip of the Hat celebration. Plans include the unveiling of our historical marker and a production of the first play ever produced by Town, Alice Brown’s one-act comedy Joint Owners in Spain. The show stars some of Town’s favorite performers ~ Kathy Hartzog, Leah McNeely Tudor, Gayle Stewart and Bill DeWitt ~ and is under the direction of Allison McNeely.

We are excited to welcome as our special guest, Penelope Reed, the granddaughter of Town’s first director, Daniel A. Reed. A reception will follow the event.

A limited number of tickets is now available for $10 each. Visit towntheatre.com to purchase OR call 803-799-2510 from 12 noon to 5 PM through Friday.

MIXED EMOTIONS…

MIXED EMOTIONS…

It is with both sadness and excitement that we share the news that Jamie Harrington, Town’s long-time Youth Theatre Director, will be departing at the end of the summer. Jamie has accepted a job with Dutch Fork High School as a theatre educator. Jamie has been with Town for more than a decade instructing our youth as well as assisting our Technical Director and directing/performing in some of our main stage shows. We are truly happy that Jamie is off on another adventure and are grateful for her service to Town. While we will miss having her here, we are excited about the opportunity to partner with yet another theatre educator in the school system. We also are excited that she plans to be back as a main stage show director.

While we announce this departure, we welcome the arrival of Scott Vaughan who will take on the role of Youth Theatre Director. Scott currently serves as the theatre instructor at Satchel Ford Elementary School and, in this capacity, brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and talent to the table. Scott has performed on the Town stage as well as throughout our local community and the country.

Our youth theatre program will continue to be served this year by Megan Douthitt, Assistant Director, and Jeremy Reasoner, Musical Director. We are excited to have this team together. Details for our fall 2018-2019 program may be found here.

In honor of Jamie, Town is establishing a scholarship fund that will allow students to participate in our youth theatre programs who financially may not be able to do so. If you would like to contribute to the fund in Jamie’s honor, you may donate here. Simply note your contribution is in honor of Jamie Harrington. Or, send your donation to Town Theatre, 1012 Sumter Street, Columbia, SC 29201 with an indication that your gift is for the scholarship fund.

Join Wonka as we Feed Children Everywhere

FCE_Logos_Masterfile_FCE_Logo_Horiz-1If you have been around Town during a summer show, you know that one of our favorite things to do is to give back! We are proud to partner with Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE). FCE’s mission is to activate people for a hunger-free world. Since inception, FCE has distributed 73 million meals across 50 countries using the help of
485,000 volunteers.

Willy Wonka and the gang will work to support FCE in several ways, but we need YOUR help. Grab a Wonka bar when you come to the show and be sure to bid on one of our awesome silent auction items.

All proceeds will benefit Feeding Children Everywhere.

Christmas in the Carolinas ~  Nutcracker basket courtesy of
Carolina Ballet
Family pass (2 adults, 4 children) to 2017 The Nutcracker ($150 value); Nutcracker ornaments and pencils

Dinner and a show! Opening night tickets to Million Dollar Quartet (revival show Aug. 18) and $20 to Pasta Fresca ~ seats Left N1 & N2

Tech Free Zone Basket ~ courtesy of Ms. Teavee
Paperback copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder; 8 DVD set of 101 classic TV show episodes; Bag of assorted snack size chocolate; Chewy Gobstoppers; Nerds candy; Box of Crunch-n-Munch

Kids’ candy delight basket courtesy of Mrs. Gloop (and a Romanian etched glass candy dish courtesy of Three Rivers Antiques for the grownups!)
All of your favorite Wonka candies! Wonkabars, Gobstoppers, Whirly pops, candy buttons ~ and MORE! Plus, a beautiful tall Romanian etched glass candy dish.

Guaranteed Spot in Fall 2017 Town Youth Theatre Class ~
Annie Jr. (production Nov. 10-12; classes begin week of Aug. 28) Does not include class tuition.

Bid before the show on the patio OR email your bid to town@towntheatre.com. We’ll notify you if you are outbid and check to see if you would like to make another offer. Auction closes on August 6th — you do not need to be present to win!

 

Thanks SCTA!

On May 20, we were honored to be named a 2016 Theatre of Distinction Award by the South Carolina Theatre Association. Board member Donna Saleeby accepted the award on behalf of the theatre. 

SCTA award 2017

“On behalf of the Board of Town Theatre, we express our sincerest thanks. Our Executive Director, Town is so grateful to be recognized and it is particularly pleasing that this award is presented to us by Carol Baker. Carol grew up on the stage and is now working in the arts – devoting her life to helping others achieve their best as artists. We also are delighted that Carol’s mother, Anita, is here tonight as well. Anita has been a long time fixture at Town – first starting off as a volunteer and then joining the box office staff. Though she keeps trying to retire, we just cannot let her go! She assists us today by working with our volunteers – engaging them in a way that we could not do without her expertise. And, it is worth noting that Anita’s daughter, whom we refer to fondly as little Anita and her late husband, Charlie, also spent significant time on the Town stage.

Stories like the Baker family are the primary reason that we have such a strong and proud history. The very people that have come in and out of our front doors for the last 98 years – making our productions possible from front of house to curtain call – on stage and off – are certainly how we define ourselves as a theatre. To the South Carolina Theatre Association and to all of you who are involved in the arts to make our world just a little bit brighter – we thank you.”

Backstage… adding our talented cast

Guest blog by Charlie Goodrich

With the discovery of so many rich musical pieces, I now had the building blocks to fully construct my narrative.  Coming up with character names was a cinch because I could use the names of the characters that originated the songs in the original productions, and then apply these names to my newly created dramatis personae.  However, my next step was the most important of all: developing and adapting the characters storylines so that everything worked together in one show.

At the forefront of the “drama” section of my story are 2 female leading characters: Margo (the mature, worldly, yet insecure star) and Eve (a young ingenue Production Assistant that is seemingly sincere).  Here were my two ladies that had been inspired by all of the works mentioned at the beginning of this writing.  It seemed appropriate to choose the names from the most famous work, All About Eve.  Finding two actresses to portray these complex women was actually the easiest part of casting, believe it or not.  For Margo, I had to look no further than my own sister, Dell Goodrich (Stand By Your Man). For Eve, I spotted what I was looking for immediately in Mary Joy Williams (Nice Work if You Can Get It). Other characters I included are a playwriting couple, inspired by Karen and Lloyd Richards in All About Eve, Maggie and Bert in42nd Street, and Georgia and Aaron Fox in Curtains (whose names I chose to use). These roles were perfect fits for Megan Douthitt (Mary Poppins) and Corey Langley (The Addams Family).  I now needed to select an actor to portray the director of the “show within a show” and love interest to Margo, Mack Sanders, inspired by Bill Sampson from All About Eve and of course Mack Sennett from Mack & Mabel. After a wide search, I finally found the ideal actor for the role: Bill LaLima (Les Mis), who’s warmth and humor shine throughout the story. One more major character needed to be cast: the acerbic, witty, and pantomath critic influenced by Daryl Grady from Curtains, Feldman from The Magic Show and Addison DeWitt from All About Eve, who’s name I knew I had to use. Bob Blencowe (Spamalot) agreed to join the cast.

With these theatrical stock characters in place, I knew I could easily develop my narrative.  But, I needed additional characters, of course. To approach these personalities, I first looked at what songs needed soloists, and constructed from there.  To sing the beautiful “Lion Tamer” from The Magic Show, I immediately thought of Town newcomer Robin Saviola.  Her character, who is also inspired by Maggie from 42nd Street as well as Birdie from All About Eve would be named Cal, after the soloist from Magic Show.  To sing the quintessential title song from Applause,  the lovely and talented Allison Allgood (Sugar) came to mind.  This character became a combination of the original soloist form Applause, Bonnie (who was portrayed by Bonnie Franklin.  In like-fashion, all of the ensemble members of the original production went by their own names as a cheeky homage to their real-life gypsy status); and Gittel from Seesaw, who originated the hilarious “Nobody Does It Like Me.”  To give credit to Applause, I named the character “Allison” after its actress and made her the bartender/owner of Backstage Bar.  To be the soloist in the big dance number in the show: “It’s Not Where You Start” from Seesaw, Anthony Matrejek (Nice Work If You Can Get It) was a natural choice. His character, David, would be a combination of Duane from Applause and most importantly, David from Seesaw (a Tony Winning Role for Tommy Tune).  To play the tap dancing bartender, Phoebe, Samantha Livoti, was selected. This character is partly inspired by a minor character from All About Eve, but will be featured much more prevalently in  Backstage.  A new addition to the utilized classic theatrical keynote is the character of the leading lady’s mother, Belle, whom is being portrayed by the great Kathy Hartzog (Driving Miss Daisy).  Belle arrives a few times throughout the course of action in Backstage to keep her daughter, Margo, in check and administer to her a healthy dose of reality.

The remaining actors and actresses in the show include Nate Stern (The Addams Family) as Christopher, an aspiring director and member of the ensemble of the show within a show. Emily Northrop (Sugar) will portray Cathy, a struggling actress that gets to amuse and move the audience. Josh Kern (Grease) is back as Jerry, the leading man of the show within a show. Lisa Akly (The Little Mermaid), Tracy Davenport (White Christmas) and Town newcomer Rachel Rizzuti, play Broadway performers Wanda, Angela, and Jill, respectively. Rebecca Goodrich Seezen (Spamalot) will join Jennifer Davis (Spamalot) will bring to life the roles of Donna and Dina, two Broadway singers and dancers that get to “sparkle” with their soulful and upbeat songs. William Ellis (The Little Mermaid) will join Jalil Bonds and John Dixon (in their Town debuts), as ensemble members Herbie, Brick, and Oscar, respectively.  These three gentlemen are clever and witty throughout the show. Town veterans Kristy O’Keefe (Peter Pan), Emily Clelland (The Little Mermaid), Roxanne Livingston (Nice Work if You Can Get It), and my lovely cousin Agnes Babb (Mary Poppins) will take the stage as featured dancers Arlene, Bambi, Nicki, and Marjorie, respectively.

IMG_8799
The cast and crew of Backstage! Photo credit: William Refo

We hope these three blog entries have given you a little insight into how this show was conceived, constructed and put together. It’s been fun and we look forward to seeing you tonight! Visit www.towntheatre.com or call 803-799-2510 for tickets.

And don’t forget the pre-show reception at 7:15 PM!

Backstage… putting it together

Guest blog by Charlie Goodrich
Part Two

Now came the task of determining which songs to include in this revue. Obviously, Applause’s entire score could be utilized. However, I wanted to select just the right songs to aid in the construction of the plot. I decided: “Applause,” “Welcome to the Theatre,” and “One Halloween” were the most stringent and pertinent tools to use. The title song from the show is a brilliantly written piece exploring the motivation that drives performers to perform. (Perfect, right?) Originated by the late, great Bonnie Franklin, “Applause,” cleverly asks, “What is it that we [performers] are living for?” “Welcome to the Theatre,” first introduced to audiences by Lauren Bacall, presents a means for a seasoned star to educate a new one about what working in the theatre is REALLY like. (Again, spot on for Backstage.) “One Halloween” is a harrowing soliloquy in which the young ingenue gets to let her guard down and explore a multitude of suppressed emotions dating back to childhood. (I could tell you in what context I am using this song in the show, but that would spoil the plot too much. ) 

Seesaw was another Broadway musical that I wanted to include in Backstage. The show, originally presented by Michael Bennett in 1973, tells the story of Gittel, a struggling dancer that works odd jobs to earn a buck until she gets her big break. Her stress is increased when she falls in love with a young man that has just arrived in New York, looking for a fresh start. The numbers in Seesaw deal less with performing, but with life in the city. While some of these descriptive songs obviously exhibit some character emotion (“Nobody Does It Like Me), others are better utilized as

Michele Lee in Seesaw.
Michele Lee in Seesaw.

a chance for the characters to workshop some performance ideas (“My City” and “It’s Not Where You Start”). I wasn’t even aware of Seesaw until I became a fan of the television series, Knots Landing, and learned that its leading lady, Michele Lee, had received critical raves for her performance as Gittel. Upon hearing one of Ms. Lee’s solos, I was hooked, and downloaded the entire cast recording.

Seesaw and Applause are both seldom-done, not oft-remembered musicals that were highly successful when they premiered in the 1970’s, but have not seen much action since. Keeping with that time frame and theme, I found many shows that were show business related. Several, like The Magic ShowThe Act, and Barnum were largely prosperous. Some, like Mack & MabelSo Long 174th Street, and Rachael Lily Rosenbloom…And Don’t You Ever Forget It, were considered flops, but contained some well-written, memorable tunes. I chose to use some songs from each of these shows except Rachael Lily Rosenbloom. Its score was never recorded ~ it closed before it opened ~ yikes!  

I still needed a few more great selections so I expanded my search. From the 1950’s, I found Me and Juliet, a lesser-known Rodgers and Hammerstein gem about a Broadway troupe. From the 1960’s, Little Me, the brilliant screwball musical about Hollywood in which Sid Caesar played multiple characters. The 2000’s brought forth a resurgence of show business musicals, including: the murder mystery, Curtains; the relationship centered The Last 5 Years; and the biographical A Class Act and The Boy from Oz. Still seeking two heartfelt confession pieces for my two leading females, I found such songs in Evita and Grey Gardens. While neither of these is based on show business on the surface, they feature characters that either worked in the entertainment industry or dreamed about it.

With the exception of Evita and The Last 5 Years (both of which have been done in recent years in Columbia); and Grey Gardens (which will be presented this season at Trustus), all of the musicals from which I have chosen songs either have never been produced in Columbia or haven’t been produced in several years. To boot, several of the aforementioned shows are largely forgotten, but I believe that their songs and stories are simply too good to be banished to theatre oblivion.

More to come from Charlie — but don’t delay! Get your tickets for Backstage at www.towntheatre.com. A complementary reception will be held beginning at 7:15 PM. Curtain time is 8:00 PM!

Backstage… under construction

Guest blog by Charlie Goodrich

In 2014, I had the pleasure of directing a concert presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies as a fundraiser for Town Theatre. It was an exhilarating, rewarding, creative and, above all else lucrative experience, that not only showcased over 30 of Columbia’s most talented singers and dancers, but exposed audiences to a number of Sondheim’s seldom heard (in Columbia) masterpieces.

In the Spring of 2016, I approached Town’s Executive Director, Shannon Willis Scruggs, about another potential project for the Summer. I was itching to not only direct something again, but to also again reap the numerous benefits for both Town and the community that I had with Follies. I had a few specific musicals in mind, but Shannon suggested a more artistically stimulating idea: what if I found a common theme among several different musicals and crafted a story of my own, using the characters and motifs from these shows as a starting point. An idea dawned on me: show business! There are so many entertainment industry musicals with similar themes, characters and story lines. I had a plot constructed in my head in minutes. I would take the standard, often-used keynote of an older actress threatened by a younger one and place it in a context that would allow other performers to present entertaining and humorous anecdotes about life in the entertainment world.

Ruby-Keeler-George-Brent-and-Bebe-Daniels-in-42nd-Street-1933
Ruby Keeler, George Brent and Bebe Daniels in 42nd-Street (1933)

The aforementioned keynote plot had been utilized in any number of plays, musicals, screenplays, and stories. Early movie musical star, Bebe Daniels, at the tender age of 32, was the “older” actress made to feel insecure upon the arrival of the pert, younger Ruby Keeler in 42nd Street. Vocally untalented Jean Hagen was green with envy toward the lovely Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain. On a totally different level, the seasoned Susan Hayward fought tooth and nail against the rising star of Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls. But perhaps the most famous story line that falls into this common motif can be found in both a motion picture and later a Broadway musical, both based on the same short story: “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr.

anne-baxter-bette-davis-all-about-e
Anne Baxter and Bette Davis ~ All About Eve

The movie is of course All About Eve and the musical is Applause. In both adaptations, the fabulous Margo Channing struggles to maintain her dignity, sanity and career when the young Eve Harrington infiltrates her world. The 1950 film deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and featured exquisite performances by Bette Davis as Margo and Anne Baxter as Eve. The 1970 musical won the Tony Award for Best Musical and allowed the usually dramatic actress, Lauren Bacall, a chance to sing, dance, and hold her own as a new Musical Star. Even more impressive, in my humble opinion, was the performance of the brilliant Penny Fuller, who seemed to take the character of Eve to a multitude of additional levels. When Bacall had decided her time with the successful musical had come to a close, she was replaced by none other than Anne Baxter, who was eager to portray Margo this time.

annebaxterpennyfullerapplause
Anne Baxter and Penny Fuller ~ Applause

 

These musicals and films rank among my favorites, and for good reason: they each narrate a similar show business fable characterized by age, jealousy, revenge and envy. As a performer, how many times had I been an eyewitness to backstage drama. Obviously, such drama would be a cornerstone in the plot that I began to construct. But, there’s more to show business than just drama: there’s passion. Performers, as all artists do, create because they are driven by a force that they cannot control. Rue McClanahan described the call to act on stage or film “a religious experience.” Rightly so, if you ask most artists, they’ll usually explain that they put in the time, work and endurance simply because they must. Their lives aren’t complete without fulfilling that urge to express themselves. As the original cast of A Chorus Line stated: “can’t regret what I did for love.”  It was then that the second part of my plot dawned on me: allow my characters the chance to share stories, experiences, anecdotes, and general feelings about their lives in “the biz.”  More than just recollecting, I also wanted to give my characters an opportunity to have some fun: workshop ideas, sing songs that they’ve always dreamed of singing. Where else would be the perfect place for my characters to accomplish these tasks other than a bar? More specifically, a bar owned by, run by, and catered towards actors. A bar that was constructed on the stage of an abandoned theatre in Brooklyn. A bar with a simple name, like “Backstage.”  And why not make the name of this bar the title of the show? Most of the action will occur there anyways, and doesn’t that word bring to mind everything I am hoping to convey through my story? So there you have it: the show will be entitled Backstage: A New Musical Revue.

Get your tickets here… www.towntheatre.com!

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of Charlie’s blog which discusses more of the song selection for his show!