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An 'Awesome' First Half

APT opens 2018 with classic comedy ‘The Producers’

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Photographs by COURTESY PHOTO

Tom Karounos as Max Bialystock, left, and Patrick Edmunds as Leo Bloom, right, begin rehearsals for the Arkansas Public Theatre production of “The Producers” with musical director/conductor Lisa Auten.

About this time, the arts community might be looking for a season announcement from Arkansas Public Theatre. It won't happen this year -- until March 2.

There is no mystical significance to the date, says Ed McClure, production chairman for the Rogers nonprofit, even though it is his birthday. It's just that the theater can't obtain rights to a musical more than 18 months out -- and that means the summer musical for 2019 can't be locked in in January.

FYI

APT ‘Second Season’

Arkansas Public Theatre finishes its 2017-18 season with these five shows:

Feb. 9-25 — “The Producers”: Bialystock and Bloom — names that should strike terror and hysteria in anyone familiar with Mel Brooks’ classic cult comedy film.

March 30-April 8 — “Living on Love”: This farce centers on an opera diva who discovers her larger-than-life maestro husband has become enamored with the lovely young lady hired to ghostwrite his largely fictional autobiography. To get revenge, she hires a handsome young scribe of her own. Auditions: Feb. 12.

May 4-13 — “Ann”: An intimate, no-holds-barred portrait of Ann Richards, the legendary late governor of Texas. Auditions: April 2.

June 8-17 — “An Act of God”: After many millennium, and in just 90 minutes, God (assisted by his devoted angels) answers some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. Auditions: May 7.

July 27-Aug. 12 — “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”: The Biblical saga of Joseph and his coat of many colors comes to life in this musical parable by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Auditions June 11-12.

INFORMATION — 631-8988.

"We've been figuring out ways to do it for a couple of years now, and it's just not working," he says. "So we're going to wait a couple of months."

Besides, he adds, the musical comedy "The Producers" will have just ended, "so we can have the stage and have a big party and not get in the way of rehearsals."

McClure won't speculate on the 2018-19 lineup, but he's excited about this season, which has already "exceeded expectations." Opening with "The Rocky Horror Show" in September -- "which did even better than we expected it to" -- the season continued in November with "Every Day a Visitor," a script fresh out of New York. "It blew the roof off attendance-wise," McClure says. "Talk about a script that no one knew! It did have a larger cast than a lot of nonmusicals, but we were overwhelmingly surprised and happy with the success of that show." Wrapping up the first half of the year was "A Christmas Story," which returns every three years to the APT stage. "And it was sold out," McClure says. "Counting 'The Wedding Singer,' which was last summer's musical, it's been a great FOUR-show run!"

The second half of the season is bookended by musicals -- "The Producers," which opens Feb. 9 and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," set for July 27-Aug. 12. Pre-Christmas auditions for "The Producers" saw 50 people audition for 22 roles, "and it's a great cast," McClure says. "It's a tad bit iconic, so you need to find people that kind of fit the mold of what audiences expect. Once you get those roles cast, then you figure out how to use all the other folks you can in the ensemble!"

The cast includes Tom Karounos ("Fiddler on the Roof") as Max Bialystock and Patrick Edmunds ("Tuesdays With Mortie") as Leopold Bloom, along with Wendell Jones ("Spamalot"), Alix Keil ("The Wedding Singer"), Jan Riedmueller ("The Velocity of Autumn"), Kyle Hylton, Jeremy Reid Stuthard and Stephanie Whitcomb ("The Rocky Horror Show"), Michael Weir (many shows at Arts Center of the Ozarks, including "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"), Lexie Hardcastle ("Les Miserables") and Jenella Young ("Legally Blonde").

"We haven't even had a rehearsal yet, but I saw them in auditions," McClure says. "It's going to be awesome."

McClure thinks, however, the three nonmusicals in between "The Producers" and "Joseph" will be equally "awesome" -- a word he uses often in talking about what's happening on the APT stage. "All three are new scripts, just recently on Broadway," he says. "And as far as I know, all three are new to Arkansas.

"I am so excited about these shows. I think it's an exceptional season."

NAN What's Up on 01/07/2018

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