New Theatre Seasons
Theater is finally returning to Rowan County, with new seasons announced by Lee St theatre and Piedmont Players.
After more than a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, some things have changed, but not the plan to entertain and educate Rowan theatergoers.
Calling the reopening of Piedmont Players’ Meroney and Norvell theaters the “ultimate family reunion,” interim Managing Director Tom Hollis is excited about what’s to come.
The 2021-2022 season was recently announced, and includes the musicals “Ragtime” and “The Sound of Music,” along with plays, “Twelve Angry Jurors,” an updated version of “Twelve Angry Men,” and lighter fare, with “The Savannah Sipping Society,” which Hollis describes as an evening of “Southern ladies being Southern. … You’ll recognize your relatives, your friends, and neighbors and the people sitting next to you” in the play.
Hollis, who taught theater at Central Piedmont Community College for decades, is helping Piedmont Players hire new staff and move forward from the pandemic that shuttered theaters everywhere. He says getting back to the theater is “one way to revive your spirit.”
Lori Van Wallendael, president of the Piedmont Players board, is “super excited about getting back to the stage with live audiences again.” And as an actress, she “can’t wait to get back on stage again.”
New performance days
Performances are on a new schedule this year, with most productions running two consecutive weekends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday and Saturday shows will be at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Bigger productions will run for three weekends. The Meroney is at 213 S. Main St., Salisbury.
Piedmont Players at the Meroney Theatre
Kindra Steenerson is directing “The Sweet Delilah Swim Club,” which opens July 30 at the Norvell Theatre, 135 E. Fisher St. The Meroney is undergoing renovation and repairs. The play was previously known as “The Dixie Swim Club.” Performance nights are July 30, 31 and Aug. 5-7 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Aug. 1.
Director and choreographer Todd Kubo will bring it back to the Meroney with “Some Enchanted Evening,” a musical review of the best of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s creations. The music will be familiar to many, with two grand pianos on stage. Hollis calls it, “good, familiar stuff, a happy way to start the season.”
Show dates are Oct. 8-9 and 15-16 at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 10 and 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Vintage plays with new relevance
Next up is “Twelve Angry Jurors,” based on the original “Twelve Angry Men,” which was made into a 1957 movie starring Henry Fonda.
Hollis says this is a different version, based on the “Twelve Angry Women” adaptation. He hopes the cast will include men and women. The story is simple — jurors deliberate the fate of a young man charged with murder. Fonda played the sole juror who had reasonable doubt. “It’s very timely, with all the trials we’ve seen lately, a discussion back and forth: about guilt and doubt.”
Performance dates are Nov. 12-13 and Nov. 19-20 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 14 and 21 at 2:30 p.m.
Staying timely, Piedmont will present the musical, “Ragtime” in November. “It’s probably one of the best American musicals,” Hollis says. “It’s strong music, a great story, very inclusive. … It’s the story of America.” Hollis wants a lot of people involved, because it’s a big cast. He says they are already recruiting actors and actresses. Kubo will choreograph the show. “This is the big, challenging show of the season,” Hollis says.
“I’ve been trying to get ‘Ragtime’ on the schedule for several years.” Van Wallendael says. “Piedmont Players has a strength in attracting a multicultural cast. I’m so excited about the things our local talent can do with that show,” she says. “It has moments that will fill you with awe at people’s ability to ascend bad circumstances, to create a movement.”
“Ragtime” will be presented on three weekends, Feb. 25-26, March 4-5 and March 11-12 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 27, March 6 and 13 at 2:30 p.m.
And now, let’s have some fun
Spring brings the comedy “The Savannah Sipping Society,” about Southern women and Southern ways. “It should be a fun time everyone can relate to,” Hollis says.
Performance dates are April 22-23 and 29-30 at 7:30 p.m., with 2:30 p.m. matinees April 24 and May 1.
July will feature the feel-good musical, “The Sound of Music,” which Hollis calls “everybody’s favorite.” The cast will blend adult and child actors, which Van Wallendael is excited about. “I think that will be really rewarding” to see youth actors familiar from the Norvell shows on stage at the Meroney.”
Hollis says it’s a “timely reminder of where we’ve been so we don’t go there again.”
“We also wanted to have a big splash at the end,” with the familiar musical. “I believe in the power of music to overcome political and historical bad times. How much more ‘feel good’ can you get than ‘The Sound of Music’?” Van Wallendael says.
Looking for tickets?
Tickets for Meroney Theatre productions are $23 for adults and $21 for seniors.
Season ticket sales began July 15, with individual ticket sales starting Sept. 1. The best way to get tickets and make reservations is by calling 704-633-5471.
You can find updated information on the season at www.piedmontplayers.com and on Facebook, @piedmontplayerstheatre.
Youth theater at The Norvell
The Norvell Theatre season for young actors is packed, too.
They’ll start with “Miss Nelson is Missing,” based on the best-selling book about a missing teacher and her strict substitute.
Performance dates are Sept. 17-18 and 24-25 at 7:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and 26.
Families will love “Frozen Jr.,” with, as Hollis describes it, “all the wonderful things from the movie.” They hope to take this one to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools, but are waiting for the state’s latest guidelines.
Performance dates are Dec. 3-4, 10-11 and Dec. 17-18 at 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 5, 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m.
Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Othello” will be seen mostly in the schools, with one performance for the general public on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Some singing and dancing
Remember “Schoolhouse Rock” from back in the day? “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function” and all that? Well, it’s back and on the Norvell stage as “Schoolhouse Rock Live Jr.” in March. “It’s high energy, fast songs,” Hollis says.
Performance dates are March 18-19 and 24-25 at 7:30 p.m., and March 20 and 27 at 2:30 p.m.
The Broadway musical “Legally Blonde” will bring lots of pink to the stage, along with “beautiful numbers and a solid story,” Hollis says.
Performance days are June 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees June 5, 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m.
How to buy tickets
Tickets for Norvell Theatre shows are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors; tickets for “Schoolhouse Rock Live Jr.” and “Legally Blonde” are $16 for adults and $14 for seniors. To learn more about the season as it develops, go to www.piedmontplayers.com or on Facebook at @theNorvellTheater. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.
“We all deserve to come back out and enjoy theater after 18-20 months of isolation. It’s a way to revive your spirit, see your friends and family again,” Hollis says.
“I think we’re heading upwards,” Van Wallendael says. “We’ve gotten through this huge darkness on several levels, and we’re ready to put our best foot forward and start fresh, grow new audiences and bring the old audiences back.”
Lee St theatre
Lee St theatre did its best to put on productions as the pandemic restrictions eased, and audiences responded by buying all the available tickets for shows like “Grease.”
The upcoming season, which starts with “Noises Off” on Aug. 20, is a mix of familiar shows, each with a Lee St twist.
“Noises Off” is a classic farce, directed by Matthew Monte, who has performed on Rowan stages before. Executive Director Rod Oden calls it perhaps the “greatest comic farce” done by community theaters.
It’s all about a production of “Noises On,” and all the things going wrong on stage and off. The actors don’t know their lines; they’re fighting with each other over personal problems; chaos ensues and it’s all one, long laugh, with a revolving set, lots of doors and lots of mistakes.
Like Piedmont Players, Lee St is now offering performances on weekends, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Performances of “Noises Off” will be Aug. 20-21, 27-28 and Sept. 3-4.
Who’s the monster?
“Frankenstein” follows in October, and you can forget that old movie with Boris Karloff. Bo List keeps the script true to the novel, where Dr. Frankenstein is the man playing God, and the Creature is a sentient, suffering being. It’s a timeless tale of man and creature, asking, “Who is the real monster here?” Is it Frankenstein for playing God, or his creation, who reads the book of Genesis and is deeply angered by what has been done to him?
Director Brian Daye should be familiar to local theatergoers from his time on stage and directing “Fences.” Oden promises a “great lab scene and a great ending.”
Performances will be Oct. 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30, for a good Halloween scare.
A little bit of fun
For a complete change of pace, Lee St will do “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which is everything you imagine. “It’s more fun than a chair-throwing episode of Jerry Springer,” Oden says. The trailer park is in Florida, and the cast features a wife who’s scared of everything and a workaholic husband, who argue endlessly. Three women are like a Greek chorus, telling the story, with plenty of beers and laughs. And just to make it more fun, a stripper appears. Oden calls it “a fun show, with incredible music. Everybody will be hooting and hollering about it.”
Performance dates are Nov. 19-20, 26-27 and Dec. 3-4.
Revisiting the classics
The stage classic “Our Town” starts off 2022. The poignant story about what and who makes a community was written by Thornton Wilder, and often presented without props or sets. Oden says this production, directed by Claudia Galup, will have projections of streets and homes in our area as a backdrop, so it really is “our town.”
“Our Town” Performance dates are Jan. 21-22, 28-29 and Feb. 4-5.
A new adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility,” being written now by area playwright Andy Rassler, will be directed by Tom Hollis, the interim managing director of Piedmont Players. This version will focus on mistaken identities, missed communications and the silliness of it all. Rassler will have two public readings before the play is finished to determine audience reaction. Oden said it should reach all audiences.
Performance dates are March 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19.
Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” will intrigue mystery fans and others in this well-known tale of eight people on an island who are murdered one-by-one while the rest of the guests try to figure out whodunit. Director Melissa Tarduno is looking for what happens between the lines. Oden says it will be “very edgy.”
Performance dates are April 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30.
Believe what you see
Jimmy Stewart starred in the movie version of “Harvey,” but now it’s back on stage, with the lovable Elwood P. Dowd and his best friend, a 6-foot-tall white rabbit. “It’s the most endearing of plays,” Oden says. “You’ll find yourself believing things you never thought you would.” He thinks it’s ideal to make audiences “feel better, feel good about people and have hope. … And I’ve waiting to design that set for so long.”
Performance dates are May 27-28, June 3-4 and 10-11.
Wrapping up the 2022 season will be another favorite that’s pure sci-fi, fantasy fun, “Little Shop of Horrors.” This is the sixth time Oden has done the show and he never gets tired of it. He promises “an awesome plant, an awesome Seymour and Audrey and a dentist that’s just over the top.”
Performances will be July 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23.
This is the first year Lee St has offered season tickets, which Oden says are already more popular than the flex passes. A season ticket guarantees you a seat at every production.
Individual tickets are $20 for plays, $25 for the two musicals.
To purchase tickets, go to leest.org, and the options are at the top of the page.
“The last year was the hardest year that every theater experienced and the continual support in attendance, giving and excitement has fueled us to push us forward to do this season,” Oden says.
More to see and hear
– Don’t miss the Plein Air show at Rail Walk Studios and Gallery, 409 N. Lee St., Salisburuy, July 23, 4-6 p.m. http://www.railwalkstudiosandgallery.com/
– Gold Rush Art and Craft Festival, Historic Gold Hill, July 24, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 840 St. Stephen’s Church Road. https://goldhillnc.com/2021/04/10/gold-rush-art-and-craft-festival/
– Artist Natacha Sochat, will speak at Waterworks, 123 E. Liberty St., Salisbury, July 22, 1:30 p.m.; her exhibit Eye Am Witness-Paintings for Children, will be in place through Sept. 2. Reservations requested, 704-636-1882; https://www.waterworks.org/ or https://natachasochat.com/
– Sunday Serenade – Sweet Summer Sounds at Utzman-Chambers House, 114 N. Jackson St., SalisuburyJuly 25, 7-8 p.m. http://www.rowanmuseum.org/
– Sunday Serenade, Utzman-Chambers House, 116 N. Jackson St., Salisubury, Aug. 8, Old Porch Rockers by John Stafford and Archie Tucker, 7-8 p.m. http://www.rowanmuseum.org/