May 05--Millie will be thoroughly modern, guys who go ice fishing will be funny and sweet, and the folks who live in our town will feel familiar.
Those are the highlights of the 50th anniversary season of La Crosse Community Theatre as it prepares for its first full season in the new Weber Center for the Performing Arts.
"Anytime a community theater gets to be as old as we are, it's time to celebrate," said LCT artistic director Greg Parmeter. "One of the things I wanted to focus on was to choose a season of shows we hadn't done before. We wanted to make sure we had enough comedy, enough drama."
His partner in theater, David Kilpatrick, who is executive director at LCT and also executive director of the Weber Center, said this season completes the cycle of a two-year project that bids goodbye to the old building and says hello to the new building.
"So this season is a lot lighter," he said.
If you want light, season opener "Noises Off" delivers. It's a madcap farce that will take advantage of both stage right and stage left, something the old theater was lacking.
"That was on our wish list five years ago," Kilpatrick said, "but we wanted to do it in the new building."
"It's one our audiences have requested for years," Parmeter said. "It really is one of the best comedies ever written. The space will fit the play very well."
And Kilpatrick said it's well-suited for those who don't like theater, a group they always are trying to get into the building.
That's why they will also be presenting "Guys on Ice," Parmeter said. "It's a sweet story that will melt your heart," but it isn't intimidating to those not so comfortable in a theater setting.
"We always want to expand on our audience," he said. "It brings in an audience that wouldn't normally come to theater. It can make theater more accessible to those who think they don't like theater."
"It's also very simple music," Kilpatrick said. "It's not everybody breaking out in song and show girls dancing across the ice. It's two guys on ice who happen to occasionally sing."
"First Lady Suite" is a piano and string quartet musical about 20th century first ladies, from Jackie Kennedy to Mamie Eisenhower, Bess Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt.
"It's part of our mission of reaching out and branching out," Kilpatrick said. "It's no 'Annie,' it's no 'Oklahoma!' It's beyond the easy theater. It's a little bit more challenging."
"Our Town" will be a youth theater production. "It's going to be our high school students, and it's the first time we've done it," Parmeter said. "It has so many great roles. We wanted to give our students a chance to do it. It's a little more challenging than our usual youth theater. It's got some real meat to it."
There's more theater for youths with the Jellybean Theatre production of "Snow Queen." It will feature adult actors performing theater for youth.
For the holidays, the theater will present a radio-style production of "A Miracle on 34th Street." Actors will perform a radio play because there are so many locations in the play that it would be difficult to stage, Parmeter said.
"David and I are collaborating on putting the script together. We're basing our adaptation on the original book. It's kind of exciting. It's fully staged, but done in the style of 1940s radio station."
This year's Patron's Pick is "Tuesday's With Morrie, the true story of Mitch Albom, a journalist driven solely by his career, and Morrie Schwartz, his former college professor. When Mitch learns Morrie is dying of Lou Gehrig's Disease, he seeks out his old mentor. What starts as a simple visit to say goodbye turns into a weekly pilgrimage and one final class on the meaning of life.
The big musical this year is "Thoroughly Modern Millie." It's classic musical theater, Parmeter said. "It's fun, it's full of dancing, it's got great costumes. It makes you feel good walking out of it."
A Judy Blume classic, "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," polishes off the youth theater season. Parmeter said her books translate well to the stage and are popular with kids and adults. "Though she's writing children's literature, there's a maturity to her writing that appeals even to adults. She really does understand children and growing up in America."
(c)2013 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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