Loudoun’s community theater scene is increasingly sophisticated, with more choices for audiences than ever. This spring’s landscape offers a mix of musicals and plays—whether you’re looking for a Broadway classic, contemporary girl power or something in between.
Goose Creek Players: “Pride and Prejudice”
Goose Creek Players director Michael Goshorn launched his new company last year with a small-scale production of “Miracle on 34th Street,” and the troupe steps things up this spring with a production of “Pride and Prejudice” at Franklin Park Arts Center. Goshorn thinks he’s found just the right adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel featuring the fabulous Bennet sisters as they negotiate love and society in 19th century England.
“I needed something that was popular and yet not done a lot,” Goshorn said. “This show is a perfect mix of both comedy and drama … and it can’t hurt that there are so many Austen fans out there.”
Goshorn, who starred as Henry Higgins in Pickwick Players 2016 production of “My Fair Lady” and has directed and performed in other community theater productions, thinks Loudoun’s increasingly sophisticated audience is ready for non-musical plays.
“I realized that there were so many talented people around me who may not be singers,” he said. “I started thinking we really need something around here to do more shows like this. There’s a need here.”
“Pride and Prejudice” stars Autumn Anderson as Elizabeth Bennet, reprising her role at Riverside High School last fall, and newcomer Christian Rodgers as Mr. Darcy.
“It’s been fun watching each one of the actors find their character,” Goshorn said.
Goose Creek Players’ production of “Pride and Prejudice” runs Friday, April 19, Saturday, April 20, Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28 at Franklin Park Arts Center, 36441 Blueridge View Lane, Purcellville. Tickets are $15. For more information, go to goosecreekplayers.com.
Sterling Playmakers: “Steel Magnolias”
One of Loudoun’s longest running companies, Sterling Playmakers, takes on the 1987 comedy-drama “Steel Magnolias.” Unlike the popular 1989 movie, the play features an all-female cast and is set entirely in a Louisiana beauty salon. The play features the familiar characters—wisecracking Truvy, her assistant Annelle, prickly Ouiser and eccentric Miss Clairee—along with community favorites M’Lynn and her daughter Shelby, offering everything from funny repartee to thoughtful soul searching and musings on mortality.
The Playmakers routinely have a packed season, with up to five shows each year and offer both musicals and straight plays.
“We like to provide a mixture to appeal to a variety of audiences and actors as well and really get the chance to explore different types of theater, both musicals and plays,” said marketing director Robyn Stafford. “We want the seasons to be well-balanced.”
And while director Jim Collinson is a man, part of his vision was to feature an all-female crew along with the six-woman cast.
“I think having this as an all woman show is kind of part of its appeal. From an actor perspective but also just from a story perspective,” Stafford said. “It’s a very girl-power/women-power type of production but from a different perspective than you might usually see. One of the wonderful things about ‘Steel Magnolias’ is it shows the strength and power of women, just normal women in their everyday lives.”
Sterling Playmakers “Steel Magnolias” runs April 26 through 28 and May 3 through 5, with 7:30 p.m. shows Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. matinees both Sundays. Performances take place at Seneca Ridge Middle School, 98 Seneca Ridge Drive, Sterling, and tickets are $13.
Main Street Theater: “South Pacific”
On the heels of its very contemporary production of “Shrek: The Musical” last fall, Main Street Theater does a 180 spin with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic “South Pacific” in honor of the show’s 70th anniversary.
Now in its seventh season, Main Street has developed a solid pool of actors, allowing the company to take risks with ambitious productions, founder and artistic director Karlah Louis said.
Main Street’s pattern has been putting on something “light and frothy” in the fall and tackling a more challenging show in the spring, like last year’s ambitious and successful production of “Into the Woods,” which, like “South Pacific,” requires what Louis calls “legit Broadway voices.”
“In order to perform these particular ones, you really need a level of talent that can do justice to the material.” Louis said. “Rodgers and Hammerstein [shows] are some of the most difficult. They have a certain style of singing that people don’t write anymore.”
The 1949 Broadway classic tells the story of American Navy nurse Nellie Forbush who is stationed on an island in the South Pacific during World War II and falls in love with French plantation owner Emile de Becque. The show stars Steve Cairns as Emile and Ashley Snow as Nellie. The actors also played Shrek and Princess Fiona last fall, and while Louis and co-director Ann Cirillo didn’t initially have them in mind for the roles, they couldn’t overlook the pair’s chemistry.
“It’s usually a puzzle,” Louis sad. “A lot of times what happens is you’re looking for the best fit of people who go together. They were the best fit.”
The show is romantic and charming with beloved songs but also intense with its direct confrontation of racism in the 1940s. Nellie initially rejects Emile’s children because their late mother was Polynesian while the parallel romance between young Marine officer Joseph Cable and a young Asian woman Liat is derailed because of his fear of social repercussions.
“We have tackled it head on,” Louis said. “We discussed it with our cast. We wanted to make sure our cast was true to how it was written. … Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote this show about this very subject because they wanted it put in America’s face. They wanted that uncomfortable feeling to have discussion”
“South Pacific” runs May 3 through 5 and May 10 through 12 at Franklin Park Arts Center with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for children, students and seniors. For tickets and information, go to mainstreettheaterproductions.org.
Pickwick Players: “Anne of Green Gables”
Musical theater specialists The Pickwick Players had planned to do “The Sound of Music” this spring, but director Michele Reynolds found out just as they were going into auditions that her company couldn’t get the rights to the show and was left scrambling to find another musical with plenty of roles for children.
Thanks to her daughter, who also works in the performing arts, Reynolds came up with “Anne of Green Gables” a long-running Canadian musical based on the classic L.M. Montgomery novel. And while the book has legions of fans, the musical is much less well known to American audiences.
“People know the story, but they don’t know the musical,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds went into the production unfamiliar with the musical score herself but has since been completely charmed. The role of Anne double cast with local teens Bethany Folks and Alyssa Van Landingham starring as Anne. Pickwick’s Marilla Cuthbert, Beth Schultz, recently moved from Canada and is the cast’s resident expert on the show which is considered a Canadian classic.
“At first I was kind of skeptical but the more we get into it, the more we love it,” Reynolds said. “It’s a very big ensemble show and its wonderful energy and the humor in with wonderful energy and humor.”
“Anne of Green Gables” runs Friday May 17 and May 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays May 18 and May 25 at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Farmwell Station Middle School, 44281 Gloucester Parkway, Ashburn. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for children and seniors. For tickets and information, go to thepickwickplayers.com.