This year, 2012, is a big one for me. It's the year of the dragon and I'm going to be 60 in September.
The Springer Opera House announced last night at 2012-13 will be the year of the musical.
Paul Pierce, the Springer's producing artistic director, said the 2012-13 season is an audience building year. And to do that, he's added two musicals and took away two "straight" plays.
It's also Paul's 25th anniversary as the Springer director, so it's a big year for the him ... and the Springer.
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“It’s going to be a big year for the Springer,” he said. “We’re going to finish off our capital campaign (to build the Children’s Theater complex) and will break ground for the new (children's) theater.”
About 500 Springer season ticket holders and board, trustee and Springer Society members attended the bash last night.
One of the first people to greet me was Joey Goldman. Joey is a Springer Theater Academy student and can often be seen on the Springer stages.
He's a cutie pie, who had for several years, a Justin Bieber haircut. He's got that mop cut off and as a friend said, looks more like Ralph Macchio now.
Getting back to Paul, he said he wanted to build the audience for the 141-year-old theater. “We’re still in the business of trying to build our audience as we prepare for the next generation of theater-goers,” he said.
It's unusual to have a theater director in a town as long as Paul has stayed. The average tenure for a theater director is about 10 years.
“If you’re in charge of a theater, the biggest job is to build your audience,” he said. That doesn’t work if a theater director wants to just do shows he wants to do and not what the audience wants to see.
“It can’t be about one person. The Springer is too big for one person to carry this very heavy burden.”
He said having a successful theater is having a strong collaboration between the community and the theater.
After 25 years, Pierce said he thinks about who will take over the theater after he retires. A few years ago, he was really worried.
Now, he says he walks around the halls of the theater and he sees a number of employees who could take over his job.
“It’s not about who has run a theater before,” Pierce said. “It’s who will sink their heart and soul into the community.”
Next season’s offerings“We will open with ‘9 to 5: The Musical,’” Pierce said. “It’s a big song-and-dance musical. It’s written by Dolly Parton.”The rights to the play were just released in December, and the Springer will be one of the first community theaters to present the musical.
It will be followed by “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Annie,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Yesterday and Today” and “Lakebottom Prime.”
“Steel Magnolias” is the most requested play by the community, Pierce said. Besides, he reiterated, “This is an audience-building year.”
Yes, this season is also heavily dominated by casts that are loaded with female characters.
“Women buy the tickets,” Pierce shrugged.
“Annie” will be cast from the student body of the Springer Theater Academy, Pierce said. He said he has about 1,000 students to choose from.
The play he’s most excited to see is “Yesterday and Today.” The McGuigan brothers (Ryan, Matthew and Billy) have learned all of the songs in the Beatles songbook and have turned it into a musical revue.
But it’s not just a musical revue. It’s an interactive musical revue. As patrons enter the Springer, they are given a postcard. On the postcard the patrons will write their favorite Beatles tune and why it’s so important in their lives. Minutes before the show begins, the cast will get the postcards and write out the song list and will incorporate the patron’s reasons why it’s important.
“It will be a different show every night,” Pierce said. “At intermission, they’ll go through the other postcards and create the songlist for Act II.”
The McGuigan brothers have a local tie — they lived at Fort Benning when their father was stationed here. And that’s where they learned to play guitar and sing Beatles songs.
“I think it’s a great season,” Pierce said. He said he wants to brand Columbus as a cultural destination and is working closely with the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Studio SeriesThe series kicks off with “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” which is kind of like “The Taffetas.” Four women get together and sing in the 1950s. Then 10 years later, they reunite for their high school reunion. So we get the music of the 1950s-60s.
It will be the Springer’s touring show next season.
“A Tuna Christmas” will be back for its 10th show in December.
And the Studio season ends with “Cotton Patch Gospel,” which was in the “A Tuna Christmas” slot one year before patrons demanded the "Tuna" show return.
This time, “Cotton Patch” will be in the spring time slot. The show is based on the Gospel of Matthew, but set in modern day, rural Georgia. It can be seen March 21-30.
The Children’s series“Alice in Wonderland,” adapted by Ron Anderson, the Springer’s associate director and director of the Theater Academy, can be seen July 13-21.
In the fall, Sept. 26-Oct. 6, it’s Judy Blume’s “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” where a young boy learns to love his baby brother.
The final show of the season is “The Big Friendly Giant,” where a little girl is kidnapped by a friendly giant. It can be seen April 24-May 4.
The Springer celebrityBesides the season, another announcement was made Thursday night.
This year’s Springer “celebrity” is Dusty Wellborn. She will receive a star on the sidewalk in front of the Springer’s front door.
Pierce cited her work as “someone who has had many roles at the Springer Opera House.”
She has been a board member and is now a trustee, a docent, a teacher in the Academy, has been on staff and has been on stage.
“What do I say when I’m overwhelmed,” Wellborn said. “You don’t get a star when you’re in your prime.”
She chose Lillie Langtry as the star she wants represented with her. Langtry appeared at the Springer more than 100 years ago.
One reason she chose Langtry is that her oldest son, Marshall, share’s Langtry’s birthday (Oct. 13).
“She was a very independent woman,” Wellborn said. “She was always reinventing herself.”
Pierce wasn’t surprised Wellborn chose Langtry.
“Lillie Langtry was a renegade, and so is Dusty,” he said.Renegade might not be the word Wellborn would chose, she said, but it might fit.
“I love her quote,” Wellborn said. “She said, ‘I hate to have my life disrupted by routine.’ So do I.”
And that’s why she travels so often with her husband, Sam, a retired CB&T president, seh said.
“It’s big,” she said of the award. Three others have a star in the sidewalk — Janice Biggers, Clason Kyle and Dot McClure. The three were part of the group that helped save the Springer from the wrecking ball in the early 1960s.
“I was just put in that company,” Wellborn said. “It’s pretty ovewhelming. People will be stepping on it to get inside the theater. I feel like Shakespeare entombed.”
During the ceremony, Dusty said when Paul first called her, she thought it was a joke and hung up on him.
Now, she said it's written in stone and they can't take it back.
For tickets, call 706-327-3688.