“The Wedding Singer”, “Something Rotten!” premiere as part of the new season of Thalian Association

The Thalian Association for Community Theater has announced its 2022-2023 season, which includes “Something Rotten,” “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Cinderella,” and “The Wedding Singer.” (Courtesy of Pexels)

WILMINGTON — The state’s official nonprofit theater company, Thalian Association Community Theater (TACT), has announced its 2022-2023 season. It will include two Wilmington premieres and hopefully no Covid outbreaks – something the cast and crew have had to grapple with since live theater returned to the main stage at Thalian Hall last summer.

Despite precautions put in place by artistic director Chandler Davis and executive director Susan Habas to ensure the safety of the cast and crew during rehearsals, TACT had to move their third show of the current season, “Company,” at the end of the summer. “We had a breakout,” Davis said.

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Three of the 16 people involved were infected during omicron’s spike in January, delaying the show’s February curtain call.

As rehearsals resume for “Company” this spring, TACT will also be hosting auditions for next season’s roster: “Something Rotten,” “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Cinderella,” and ” The Wedding Singer”. .” The first and last show in the lineup will be the Wilmington Debut.

“I’m always thinking about what hasn’t been done recently,” Davis said, “or what might be a first in Wilmington. And, you know, my next kind of thing was just to produce a season of good We want to do theater that makes people smile, especially since there’s been a lot of uncertainty lately.

There are four musicals and play in the lineup. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” will bring a fairy tale to life, which Davis is eager to create.

“It’s a chance for us to do something fantastic and experiment a little more with our designs,” she said.

“The Wedding Singer,” based on the Adam Sandler film, is filled with comedy backed by a jukebox of 80s sounds.

“Something rotten! ‘freaked me when I saw it on Broadway,’ Davis said. “And Thalian likes to start strong with a big musical every year.”

The show debuted on Broadway in 2015 and was nominated for 10 Tonys and won one for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the role of Christian Bole as Shakespeare. It follows the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom – brothers who struggle to get their theater troupe off the ground, mostly because they have to compete with their hugely popular contemporary, William Shakespeare.

The season’s only play without music and dance numbers will come with “The Philadelphia Story,” a show that was also a classic Hollywood movie. It addresses a socialite’s hijinks surrounding her love life involving three men.

“I love Katharine Hepburn,” Davis said, referring to the 1940 film. “But I included it because it’s just as important to keep games on the main stage as well. Musicals are the big sources of money, but we have a lot of great talent in Wilmington, and not all of them get to perform on the main stage.

The holidays will bring the retaliation of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” – based on the often-seen 1983 film during its 24-hour rerun on cable channels each Christmas Day. Thalian last performed the show in 2017.

Picking a holiday hit is part of the company’s strategy to have a financially viable season. A show can cost between $40,000 and $60,000 to produce. According to GuideStar, TACT spends nearly $300,000 on theater productions each year. While most shows bring in 70% of box office sales, or an average profit of $6,000, Habas said holiday shows go up to 80% of box office sales. Additionally, the group is adding more performance dates.

“These shows can put us in the $25,000 profit range,” she said. “So the holiday shows are really what make it for us. But we can also very easily lose up to $25,000 on a show, which happens all the time. It doesn’t take too much to gobble up your working capital.

Like all industries, Covid has driven up prices to set up production, with increases in lumber costs and supply chain issues, particularly relevant when it comes to building sets, constructing costumes and to hire creative teams. Habas and Davis agree that it takes around 25% more to get a production started than before Covid – even taking into account what can be recycled from old musicals and plays.

“It also affected licensing companies and shipping warehouses,” Davis said. The rights to produce programs have doubled. “And it takes twice as long to get scripts and music,” she added.

To offset costs, the 2022-23 season will see a $2 ticket price increase. The team is also focusing more on fundraising and sponsorships, as well as season packages. At the end of the day, if TACT breaks even, Davis said she’s glad every production can break even.

“My number one job is to produce theater that people can participate in,” she clarified, “to provide a creative outlet for members of the city’s community.”

TACT is the oldest operating theater company in North Carolina, founded in 1788. It also works in youth theater and has announced that its 2022-2023 season includes a rendition of Disney’s “Descendents,” “Rudolph the Red -Nosed Reindeer”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Schoolhouse Rock” and “Tuck Everlasting”.

All musicals and plays produced by TACT are filmed, which accrues to New Hanover County schools for students to view, as well as youth organizations such as the Brigade Boys and Girls Club.

Like most nonprofits impacted by the pandemic, TACT broadcasts came to a complete halt in March 2020 and remained closed for 16 months. Habas said the nonprofit organization survives on grants, including federal funds, such as $277,947 received from the Shuttered Venues Fellowship from the Small Business Administration.

TACT kicked off their first musical comeback with “Beehive” last July, which Davis said did very well during his weekend. Two months later, when “Driving Miss Daisy” went up, it was impacted by the delta variant and actually attracted a drop in audience attendance, Habas said.

“We really had to adjust – and I hate that word – but ‘pivot’, depending on what’s going on with Covid in the community,” Habas said.

Both Davis and Habas hope for smoother operations in the coming year, both launching productions and seeing stable ratings. Turnout was at a high level when Covid-19 numbers declined and mask mandates were lax.

The company will evolve with standards set by the governor’s office, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Roy Cooper announced more than a week ago that masks should be phased out by March 7 indoors and remain optional in schools and local government.

“We wore masks in rehearsal this season, until we got into tech week,” Davis explained. “It’s hard to sing with a mask, it’s hard to dance with a mask. We just hope that the whole process will be easier and that people will stay safe to come back in the months to come. . »

TACT requires those who audition and are cast on each show to be vaccinated or provide a medical reason not to be. Those who are not vaccinated take a Covid test once a week throughout the six-week or more rehearsal process and the run of the show.

Auditions and roles are now posted on TACT’s social media for the current season. Posts will arrive in May for the new season, which kicks off in September.

TACT will also produce a summer show, “Dogfight,” directed by Cathy Street. It follows the story of a group of Marines who are to be shipped off to Vietnam in the early 70s. They make a bet to pick the least attractive girl to go out for a night out – a soldier picks a waitress and ends up hooking up with his date. Davis said the show explores trauma and mental health. She planned to do it before Covid, but said it seemed very relevant to the here and now.

“I just miss doing these smaller, intimate shows that maybe aren’t going to get 800 people,” she said. The production will be housed in the Hannah Block Community Arts Center and the USO Building, which the Thalian Association manages for the City of Wilmington.

“Although we are a retired USO, we try to do things that relate to the armed forces and we thought that was a good connection,” Davis added.

2022-2023 subscriptions to Thalian Association productions open in May. Tickets for the remainder of his 2021-22 season are on sale now, including April’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” May’s “Sleuth” and August’s “Company.” He also produces the rest of his theatrical productions for young people: “Children of Eden Jr.” in March and “Junie B’s Essential” in April and May.

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