WILMINGTON — “Safety continues to be our primary concern,” Justin Smith told Port City Daily last week. The executive director announced Opera House Theatre Company’s (OHTC) 2022 season, and if all goes according to plan, the musical “Footloose” will open at the end of December.
It will mark the company’s first full season since 2020, when the pandemic shuttered all events after OHTC closed “The Sound of Music” that March.
Almost eight months passed before the company managed a few successful outdoor productions in fall 2020 and spring 2021 at Thalian Hall Portico and Blockade Runner. It also wrapped its 2021 summer season indoors at the Wilson Center and Front Street Theater. All shows consisted of smaller casts.
While Opera House enforced capacity limits during its ease back into operations, there isn’t indication (yet) that will be the case during the new season. As well, Opera House will return to its home base on the main stage of Thalian Hall, which seats 500 ticket holders.
“We will be working with Thalian Hall and have our eye on guidance and models from other companies to follow,” Smith added.
The season picks up where 2020 left off, and includes six shows with many cast members in place and tickets already sold for productions that were supposed to be staged a year ago — “Annie,” “Newsies,” and “Funny Girl” among them.
Opera House stalwart Ray Kennedy will direct the classic “Funny Girl,” which happens to be getting its own revival on Broadway in 2022. Kennedy has led the helm numerous times for Opera House over more than three decades. He also will kick off the season on Dec. 30 with “Footloose.”
“When dealing with the New Year show, you want to have a known show — but, more importantly, you want to pick a show that makes for a fun and festive evening,” Smith said. “[‘Footloose’] seemed like it checked all of the boxes.”
“Footloose” was last performed on Thalian Hall’s stage 15 years ago. It will be Kennedy’s first time directing it for Opera House, though he already is familiar with the musical after having directed it for another company years ago, according to Smith.
“A person with the local and lifetime résumés like Ray Kennedy, it’s not if he would direct but what he would direct,” Smith said. “He often will pitch shows and that is also how a season gets shaped.”
Other well-seasoned directors and actors will guide the billing, with Jason Aycock taking on “Grease.” Smith said the newer version will include more songs from the movie than originally scored in the Broadway show.
Panache Theatrical Productions founder Holli Saperstein is directing the only non-musical of the season in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” An actor in his own right, Smith (“Lincoln,” “The Highwaymen”) said it was the first show he ever performed in high school and left an indelible mark.
“That experience moved me and officially was where I was ‘bit’ by the theater bug,” Smith said. “I have wanted to produce it as long as I have been involved in theater. . . . I really would like to continue the trend of straight plays on the main stage.”
Opera House is most well-known for its season of big-song-and-dance numbers. That formula will continue with the launch of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Newsies,” directed by CFCC vice president of advancement and the arts Shane Fernando.
The Broadway classic, “Annie,” will be guided by a new face to the OHTC directorial lineup. Sarah Rodgers directed Kennedy’s original play, “Thursday Night Bridge Circle,” as part of the company’s summer season.
“Sarah is the only director this year that we had a more traditional interview process with,” Smith said. “Her pitch for ‘Annie’ was exciting and in line with my desire to mount an ‘Annie’ that Wilmington hasn’t seen before.”
Opera House season ticket packages open Sept. 1 and individual tickets go on sale to the public in October. Season renewals are on sale now for folks who had 2020 tickets.
All shows are performed at Thalian Hall’s main stage unless otherwise noted.
- Dec. 30-Jan. 15 • Directed by Ray Kennedy
- Featuring songs like “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Almost Paradise,” and the title track by Kenny Loggins
- Music is by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford (with additional lyrics by Kenny Loggins), and the book by Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
- Feb. 18-Mar. 6 • Directed by Sarah Rodgers
- Featuring songs like “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Tomorrow,” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”
- Based upon the popular Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” and loosely based on the 1885 poem “Little Orphant Annie” written by James Whitcomb Riley, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan
- July 7-24 • Directed by Jason Aycock
- Featuring songs like “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want”
- Based on the 1970s film, with book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
- Aug. 4-21 • Directed by Shane Fernando
- Featuring songs like “Carrying the Banner,” “Watch What Happens,” “The World We Know,” and “Seize the Day”
- Based on the 1992 musical film “Newsies,” inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City; music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein based on the film’s screenplay by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White
- Sept. 1-11 • Directed by Ray Kennedy
- Featuring songs like “I’m the Greatest Star,” “You Are Woman,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade”
- Book by Isobel Lennart, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Bob Merrill
The Diary of Anne Frank
- Sept. 15-18 • Directed by Holli Saperstein
- Dramatization by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based off the 1947 book “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Fran
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