The Theatre Company is the center of a lot of activity and news this week as it prepares to open Hello, Dolly!, prepares for its exciting new season and announces a couple of personnel changes.
We’ll take those in order.
The beloved American musical Hello, Dolly! opens a three-week run Friday night at The Theatre Company behind JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Bryan’s Tejas Center. Guest director Rob Gretta has been hard at work for several weeks putting the cast and crew through its paces, honing every step and every song by the cast of Theatre Company favorites and newcomers.
Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 20. Tickets range from $7 to $20 and are available at the theater box office one hour prior to each performance. Hello, Dolly! is sure to sell out many if not all of its 12 shows, so to be sure you aren’t left out of this grand production, go on line today and get tickets at theatrecompany.com.
Of course, the inimitable Carol Channing was the original Dolly Levi in 1964 in a tour de force performance, one she recreated on Broadway in 1978 and 1995 revivals. Pearl Bailey was Dolly in a successful all-black version of the musical in 1968. And, this year, Bette Middler, who was born to play Dolly, is starring in a smash new version.
The extremely talented Adrienne Rowell stars in The Theatre Company’s latest version of Hello, Dolly! Opposite her as the curmudgeon Horace Vandergelder is area favorite J. Paul Teel.
Gretta, who heads the musical theater program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said, “Rehearsals have been going well. Structuring the schedule with music first, then choreography and now blocking, really allows for the cast to learn their lines and lyrics quickly and efficiently in order to tell this story as truthfully as possible.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot to do in less than 1 week. But everyone [on and off stage] is working extremely hard to make this a wonderful production.”
Gretta has acted in Dolly! twice and this is his second time directing.
“With every show I direct, I never want to take away from the storytelling aspect,” he said. “‘Less is more’ has always been my directing philosophy.
“When I work on a production that has some age to it, or, as in this case, one that I have done three times before, I take several things into account: the theater space itself, designers and design elements, and the talent.
“Hello, Dolly! can be highly produced as in the recent Broadway revival or minimally produced with a strong impact, as we are doing.
“Reimagining a classic is more fun for me than simply rehashing the original again and again.”
Others in the cast include Paul Early as Cornelius Hackl, Dominick Oliver as Barnaby Tucker, Armineh Davis as Irene Molloy, Hannah Ferguson as Minnie Fay, and Hannah Reynosa as Ermengarde.
Also, Tyler Bruffet, Charles Gray, Gigi Greene, Jonathan Marner, Brittney Green, Shiloh Bartee, JoBeth Eddings, Caleb Elliott, Jacki Kilgore, Tiffany Klein, Max Lampo, Landon Lipscomb, John McMullen, Weston Russell and Taylor Williams.
Chris Hoffman is musical director and then, after the first weekend, will hand off the duties to Nanette Pope.
John Greene and Beth Creel are sharing producer duties, Beth Akin is stage manager and Ellen Wilcox is choreographer. Others in the crew are Kathy Oelze, costume designer; Woody Lee, light designer; Chaz Macklin, set design; Grace Manuel, sound board; Skye Finley, light board; Lucas Dickson and Anna Hale, assistant stage managers; Kathryn Morgan, assistant choreographer; Skye Finley, assistant set designer; Emma White, spotlight; Katie Svatek, properties; and Jessie Desilva, hair and makeup.
The company extends special thanks to Harrison Bradford, Rich Bradford, Amy Pope, Chris Benner, Cody Arn, Kathryn Morgan, James Cho, Adrienne Dobson, Bryan Pope, David Manuel, Roger Pine, Jamie Kerr, Melissa Reynosa, Kathryn Gray.
Gretta said, “Hello, Dolly! is a wholesome look at life and love in America circa 1898. Kathy Oelze and Chaz Macklin are doing remarkable jobs designing the costumes and sets, respectively, that reflect the time period and multiple locations.
“The show has a short but funny book, wonderfully hummable songs, and a lot of dancing — a lot more than most cast members might have done before.
“I can’t wait to see how it comes together once all of the elements appear — lights, costumes, orchestra, etc.”
Gretta recommends the show for ages 8 and older, depending on maturity level.
Underwriters are the lifeblood of any arts organization and The Theatre Company is blessed to have a host of them. For Hello, Dolly!, Lynn Holleran and Charles Bowman are show underwriters, Mary Kaye Moore is orchestra underwriter, Alan Bryant and Pure Energy Dance Productions and Ellen Wilcox are set underwriters, and Matt and Sunni Walker and Jeff and Traci Phillips are marketing underwriters. By sure to thank them for supporting The Theatre Company.
Gretta the first director from outside The Theatre Company family in many years.
Asked what he liked best about this experience, Gretta said, “Well, it is difficult to separate, but I would say, the people. I have never felt so welcomed and appreciated as I have with this experience — long before I even arrived in Bryan, which is definitely a reflection on Adrienne [Dobson] and the rest of The Theatre Company.
Asked what he liked least, he said, “Nothing comes to mind that I dislike — well, perhaps the weather, but that’s why AC was invented, right?”
A week ago, The Theatre Company announced its upcoming 30th season, Don’t Stop Believing: A Tribute to the Legacy of Randy Wilson. The 2017-2018 season will be the last designed by Randy Wilson, The Theatre Company’s artistic director for 23 years until his death last November.
Perhaps Wilson was aware of his mortality when he assembled a new season earlier than usual. Five of the six shows were chosen by Wilson. The sixth, Big, the Musical, was selected after Wilson’s first choice didn’t work out.
Here is The Theatre Company’s 2017-2018 season:
• Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Oct. 6-22. Auditions Aug. 27 and 28.
• She Loves Me, Dec. 1-17. Auditions Oct. 29 and 30.
• Camelot, Feb. 23-March 4, 2018. Auditions 21 and 22, 2018.
• Big, the Musical. April 20-May 6, 2018. Auditions March 118 and 19, 2018.
• The Threepenny Opera, June 15-24, 2018. Auditions May 13 and 14, 2018.
• Rock of Ages, Aug. 3-19, 2018. Auditions July 1-2.
As always, it is a strong lineup, with something for everyone.
Earlier this year, the amazing Adrienne Dobson was tasked by The Theatre Company board to prepare the new season, following Wilson’s outline. More big news about her in a bit.
“This season is both exciting and diverse,” Dobson said. “Two of the shows are ones that we’ve done before, but the other four are all brand new for us.
“It’s always great to bring new shows to the area that our audiences haven’t seen before.”
Last October, The Theatre Company opened the current season with Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It was an enchanting story of a mermaid who longs to live on land, but learns you should be careful for what you wish. It was a huge success, so it is natural to open the new season this October with another Disney favorite: Beauty and the Beast.
“Beauty and the Beast truly is a favorite, and we’ve been waiting to bring it back to our stage,” Dobson said. “It’s been 13 years since The Theatre Company performed Beauty and the Beast for the first time.
“With the success of the recent live action Disney movie, it just felt like the right time.”
Beauty and the Beast debuted in 1993 at the old Music Hall in Downtown Houston before moving to Broadway the following year. Of course, it is based on the 1991 Disney movie of the same name.
The musical features music by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Howard Ashman and longtime Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborator Tim Rice, signed on after Ashman died during production of the film. Book is by Linda Woolverton, who wrote the film’s screenplay.
Beauty and the Beast ran 5,461 performances on Broadway before closing in 2007, making it the 10th longest-running production in Broadway history.
Beauty and the Beast is sure to sell out, so get your tickets early.
Local audiences may not be familiar with She Loves Me, but they no doubt are familiar with the movies that inspired it and the movie it inspired. The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime tell the story that became She Loves Me. In turn, the stage musical inspired the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film You’ve Got Mail.
She Loves Me is a 1963 musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joe Masteroff. Bock and Harnick followed up in 1964 with one of Broadway’s iconic musicals: Fiddler on the Roof, which was a sell-out smash for The Theatre Company in February.
Camelot was Alan Jay Lerner’s and Frederick Loewe’s 1960 follow up to My Fair Lady. Loewe was not interested in the project at first, but signed on at the prodding of Lerner and director Moss Hart, who were adapting T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.
The original version ran four and a half hours at its Toronto debut, but was trimmed by almost two hours before — and after — arriving on Broadway starring Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, Roddy McDowell and a then-unknown Robert Goulet. A couple of decades ago, I was lucky to see Camelot in Houston, with an older Goulet taking over the King Arthur role. Of course, he was great.
Camelot ran 873 performances on Broadway and its cast album topped the charts for an incredible 60 weeks. The score was a favorite of President John F. Kennedy and, after his death, his widow Jacqueline turned the musical into a metaphor for the Kennedy presidency.
Big, the Musical is based on the 1988 film Big about a 12-year-old boy who is granted a wish to grow up overnight. His wish is granted, but the boy, John Baskin, soon learns that being an adult isn’t that much fun, so he seeks to return to his childhood.
The 1996 musical features music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and book by John Weidman. It was nominated for five Tony Awards: Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Book, Score and Choreography.
Pardon me if I am too excited about The Theatre Company’s five show of the new season: The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann, with music by Kurt Weill.
I was one of a group of people privileged to help Randy Wilson develop new seasons. Every year I would bring up The Threepenny Opera because, in large part, I never have seen it and I love Frank Sinatra’s and Bobby Darin’s versions of Mack the Knife.
Wilson agreed that he wanted to do it but never was able to fit it into a Theatre Company season. But as a gift, perhaps to me, but certainly to the community, Wilson included it for next year.
The Threepenny Opera is adapted from an 18th-century ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay.
The “play with music” opened in 1928 in Berlin. Americans were introduced to the story in a 1931 movie by G.W. Pabst. The musical opened on Broadway in 1933, but closed after 12 performances. Since then, it has been revised many times, most recently in 2006 with Alan Cumming, Cyndi Lauper and Ana Gasteyer.
Music critic Hans Keller said The Threepenny Opera is “the weightiest possible lowbrow opera for highbrows and the most full-blooded highbrow musical for lowbrows.”
Closing out the season will be Rock of Ages, a 2006 jukebox musical by Chris D’Arienzo featuring music of the 1980s by the likes of Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, Journey and Foreigner.
I will admit, by musical youth dates to the 1960s with Motown, Simon and Garfunkel and Joan Baez, so I can’t really speak to this musical. The presentation at Sunday’s Preview Party was energetic, to be sure and no doubt the production at The Theatre Company will be lively.
The best way to ensure you get to see each of these productions is to purchase season tickets, which are only $84 for all six shows — a 30 percent saving off the $120 individual adult ticket price. Children’s season tickets are only $42. Not only will you save money, but you will be admitted to the theatre first so you can claim your favorite seats.
To order season tickets, download a form at theatre.com.
Dobson said, “Season tickets are an absolute steal.
“The Theatre Company continues to provide high caliber productions at affordable prices.
“We’ve also got some big names this season that are likely to be sell-outs. Having season tickets is the only way to guarantee that you won’t miss out on one of these beautiful musicals.”
I think Randy Wilson would be proud of the upcoming season. His legacy will live on for many years to come at The Theatre Company.
Several personnel changes were announced at Sunday night’s Preview Party.
As we said, Adrienne Dobson was named interim artistic director. Well, Sunday night, board president Roger Pine announced that the word “interim” has been removed from her title.
It is an appropriate movie. When Randy Wilson fell ill the first week of rehearsals for Sweeney Todd last fall, Dobson, already in the cast, stepped up to direct the show in Wilson’s absence. She did a marvelous job. After Wilson’s death, Dobson directed Fiddler on the Roof, Big River, and the dual Sondheim presentation of Passion and Assassins.
Dobson has proven to be a creative, innovative director with a vision that has served The Theatre Company well. She also undertook a myriad of tasks normally handled by the artistic director and she did them well. Not discounting the hard work of the board, Dobson has kept The Theatre Company operating on an even keel and has made its continuation assured.
She will continue as vice president of operations for Customer Impact. “It’s a great company that I’ve been working for since I was in college, and I’m happy to continue doing so,” she said.
Of her “new” job, Dobson said, “It’ll be a continuation of what I’ve been doing in the past few months.
“I’ll be directing multiple shows for our new season, and also appointing guest directors. This is meant to give me a chance to step back and focus on other areas of the theater, and it’s great for both our audiences and our volunteers to have the fresh perspective of a guest director.”
Another announcement isn’t as happy. For several years, Suzanne Phelps has served as part-time business manager of The Theatre Company — and I use the term part-time advisedly. She was in charge of the box office, season tickets, writing grants and so many more tasks.
I volunteer a bit at The Theatre Company and worked closely with Phelps, whom I have known for 30 years since I covered public education and she was one of the best top administrators in the Bryan school district. I am amazed at all she did for The Theatre Company and her organization.
I have enjoyed working with her and will miss her assistance, and I wish her well.
The good news is that the board of directors hired Debbie Prince to fill Phelps’ position and I can’t think of a better choice. In the past few weeks, Prince has trained with Phelps and has jumped into her job with energy and conviction.
I can’t wait to work more with Prince as she settles into her new job.
• Wednesday through Saturday — Coping, This Is Water Theatre, Watershed Garage, 2151 Harvey Mitchell Parkway S., near the intersection with Longmire Drive in College Station, 8 p.m. Pay what you can. (thisiswatertheatre.com)
• Aug. 10-26 — For Her Che-ild’s Sake, a melodrama, StageCenter, 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G’s Pizza, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., $12-$15. (stagecenter.net)
• Every Sunday — Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)
Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to email@example.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.