With summer in the books, the owner of Theater By The Sea reflects on the theater’s big comeback | Arts & Living


SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI – Theater by the Sea’s summer 2022 season has delivered on its promise of an explosive schedule after a global pandemic left the curtains drawn for two years.

After the success of COVID, Bill Hanney, the theater’s owner and executive producer, had to pause summer musical productions until this year, when social distancing, restrictions, and all things COVID eased enough that the theater from the 89-year-old barn can resume a normal schedule. high-end productions.

“Every show went off without a hitch. No covid disaster. It was a fabulous season. I wouldn’t do anything different,” Hanney said in an interview this week. The hits in order of popularity were “Kinky Boots”, “Footloose”, “Million Dollar Quartet”, and “Cinderella”. he added.

Hanney said the diversity of musical spectacle – rock and roll, classics and the heartwarming feelings the songs and stories evoke in an audience – made the featured collection a hit with box office sales and a flood of gift holders. season tickets back.

Let’s take a quick look at the productions that filled the room and each one earned standing ovations when the curtain closed.

Thunderous applause, cheers and almost uninterrupted laughter – save for the searing moments that silenced an audience seeing the ravages of gender stereotypes – forged the Tony and Olivier-winning musical “Kinky Boots” into one act. gripping and entertaining finale for the 2022 season.

The musical, based on the 2005 British film ‘Kinky Boots’, tells the story of Charlie Price and a drag queen, Lola, who team up to save a shoe company based in thriving market town Northhampton, in the East Midlands of England.

Lola crosses cultural and perceived gender barriers and her character raises the question that she could in fact be any of us. It certainly gives us food for thought.

The performers who danced the night away in TBTS’ production of “Footloose” showed what’s possible when the spirit of Terpsichore allows fleeting feet. However, that’s not so much the case in the mythical Midwestern town of Bomont, Utah, which had banned dancing.

Fate has put on a collision course in rebelling transplanted Chicago teenager Ren McCormack with longtime resident and crusading pastor Reverend Shaw Moore, who initiated and champions the nationwide ban. towing.

Underneath it all, both men are also dealing with the loss of important people in their lives. Dance for Ren helps him recover while for Moore, the dance reminds him of what he thinks caused the loss.

South Kingstown’s Nikki Munroe said at intermission, “I like the twisted scene. It catches your eye with the twisted stained glass windows. There is something behind. Will it work out in the end?

“Million Dollar Quartet” took audiences back to the birth of rock and roll and the launch from lackluster beginnings of well-known musicians tasting success and trying to hang on to it.

It also has a surprise ending that fits right in with the audience-centric focus of Theater By The Sea owner and producer Bill Hanney. It promised to delight anyone with rhythm in their bones.

The production was worth the time and ticket price to experience the music of the 1950s and the birth of rock and roll, both of which have now faded into wispy history so many decades and generations later.

The show took place during an unexpected jam session that took place on December 4, 1956 – of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.

It was clear from that first song to the last that Colin Summers (Perkins), Sky Seals (Cash), Taylor Isaac Gray (Lewis) and Alessandro Viviano (Presley) produced a sonic resonance that the loud applause from that audience showed that they had hit the mark.

A visitor to the theater, Tony Sciolto, along with his wife Nikki Munroe, are music enthusiasts. They travel to regional venues for concerts as well as local venues, such as the Pump House Music Works, to hear tunes from all kinds of bands and actors.

“It was very realistic, especially Johnny Cash,” said Sciolto, who is nearly 75 and has followed music his whole life.

In Cinderella, director Kenny Ingram and his cast brought laughs, smooth dance moves and a few hours of tunes that hit the rafters of this classic that appeals to kids and adults alike.

So much talent came from the stage in equal measure that audiences continued to interrupt the performers with applause and cheers unlike most musicals this summer in the 89-year-old barn theater on Cards Pond Road.

“It’s like Aladdin let the genie out of the bottle,” commented New Yorker Paige Munroe, 30, a South Kingstown resident, visiting relatives and stopping to watch the musical. She is young enough to have seen it many times on TV as she grew up and was part of house plays with sisters Veronica and Christine.

In addition to the work provided on stage, this year the theater also participated in the future of the art form with an internship endowed by local author Don Winslow. It was created in honor of his mother, Ottis Winslow, who served as the theater’s manager for decades.

“The intention is to provide a hands-on, hands-on education to a local student interested in the business aspects of theater, honoring my mother in a practical way in a place that meant so much to her,” he said.

The internship will be an annual award paid directly by the family to cover an intern’s salary for the theater season.

So, as this season drew to a close, a happy Bill Hanney was exuberant about the productions, audience reception, behind-the-scenes staff initiatives, and cast performances.

“I think that was the kind of show people wanted to see,” Hanney said in this week’s interview. Judging by the shows packed for each production, he’s not wrong.

And he might not have been wrong a year ago when he said in 2021: “This year we survived everything. We’re still here and that has allowed us to come back next year stronger than ever and with a full schedule of what people expect.

The theater’s 2021 season had ended with a nearly sold-out house for the award-winning film “Mamma Mia!” and in overtime with an unscheduled extra performance of the American jukebox musical romantic comedy.

This week he said with the confidence he often portrays: “I delivered a promised season three years ago and we delivered it when the shows hit the stage. Other theaters may not have been so lucky.


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