Springer Opera House leaders focused on audience growth when determining which shows to perform in the 2012-13 season.
“We’re still in the business of trying to build our audience as we prepare for the next generation of theater goers,” artistic director Paul Pierce said before he announced the lineup Thursday.
The new season will feature more musicals than previous seasons, leading Pierce to declare the upcoming season “the year of the musical.”
Highlights include “9 to 5: The Musical,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Annie,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
About 500 season ticket holders and board, trustee and Springer Society members gathered at the theater to hear the announcement.
“Oh, we can’t wait,” said Sandy Eastman of Auburn, who attended with her husband, Rick. “We thought this season was a blow-out, but we can’t wait for next season.”
The couple will buy tickets for the entire season, she said.
Pierce said, “It’s going to be a big year for the Springer. We’re going to finish off our capital campaign (to build the Children’s Theater complex) and will break ground for the new theater.”
The Springer’s season is split into three series -- mainstage, studio and children’s. Season tickets for the mainstage and studio series are now on sale. Single tickets and children’s series tickets go on sale in August.
“9 to 5,” written by Dolly Parton and based on the 1980 film about three friends who conspire to take control of their company, opens the season Sept. 20.
Pierce calls the show a “big song-and-dance musical.”
The rights to “9 to 5” were released in December, and the Springer will be one of the first community theaters to present the musical.
Pierce said “Steel Magnolias,” the play most requested by fans, was last performed on the Springer stage in the 1988-89 season.
Pierce is most excited to see Beatles tribute show “Yesterday and Today.” The McGuigan brothers (Ryan, Matthew and Billy) play Beatles songs as part of an interactive musical revue. As patrons enter the Springer, they are given postcards on which they write their favorite Beatles song titles and explain why those songs are their favorites. The performers use those postcards to determine their set lists and they incorporate patrons’ comments into the show.
“It will be a different show every night,” Pierce said.
He also noted that the McGuigan brothers have a local connection. They learned to play guitar when their father was stationed at Fort Benning.
“Lakebottom Prime” is the prequel to last season’s “Lakebottom Proper,” a comedy based in Columbus that featured anecdotes about local residents and businesses. It’s written by Atlanta-based playwright and actor Topher Payne. The prequel is set in the early 1900s.
Also at Thursday’s ceremony, Dusty Wellborn’s star was revealed on the sidewalk in front of the Springer’s front door. She has been a board member and actress and is now a trustee, a docent and a teacher at the Springer Theater Academy.
Three others have a star in the sidewalk -- Janice Biggers, Clason Kyle and Dot McClure. They were part of a group that helped save the Springer from the wrecking ball in the early 1960s.
“I was just put in that company,” said Wellborn, wife of retired CB&T president Sam Wellborn. “It’s pretty overwhelming. People will be stepping on it to get inside the theater. I feel like Shakespeare entombed.”
The studio series kicks off in November with “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” in which four women gather for their 10-year high school reunion and sing songs popular in the 1950s and ’60s. It will be the Springer’s touring show next season
“A Tuna Christmas” and its wacky residents of Tuna, Texas, return for their 10th Springer show in December.
The series ends in March with “Cotton Patch Gospel,” which is based on the Gospel of Matthew, but set in modern times in rural Georgia.
The children’s summer show will be “Alice in Wonderland,” adapted by Ron Anderson, the Springer’s associate director and director of the Springer Theater Academy. The fall will bring Judy Blume’s “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” and the spring 2013 show will be “The Big Friendly Giant.”