By Joseph Pratt
April 20, 2014
The Portsmouth Area Children’s Theatre (PACT) has finalized the details of its fifth season, and is eager to continue their momentum with a season of favorites. The 2014-2015 season line-up consists of “A Year with Frog and Toad, KIDS,” “Disney’s Aladdin, JR,” and “Dear Edwina.” The age range on all shows goes from students six to 18 years of age.
The season will start off with their annual summer theatre camp, which lasts two weeks. The theatre camp is designed for seasoned and beginner students and is ideal for the busy student who attend summer camps and go on vacations. The summer camp will run July 6 through July 20 and will show at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts.
This year’s camp will be “A Year with Frog and Road, KIDS.” Arnold Lobel’s well-loved characters hop from the page to the stage in this shortened version of Robert and Willie Reale’s Tony-nominated musical. This whimsical show follows two great friends – cheerful, popular Frog and grumpy Toad – through four fun-filled seasons.
“I had the options for the camp narrowed down to about four and I chose this one, because I think it gives the most number of kids a chance to shine,” Susan Foster, artistic director of PACT, said. “I also have just always loved the book ‘Frog and Toad.’”
The season will continue into fall with “Disney’s Aladdin, JR.” The classic Disney tale will entertain audiences of all ages with this story of a street rat who becomes a prince, featuring magic carpets, genies and other whimsical characters. “Disney’s Aladdin, JR” will run at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts Oct. 17-19 and will also offer school showings.
The music in“Disney’s Aladdin, JR” is a tuneful, accessible Academy award-winning score, with songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, including “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me.”
“With ‘Aladdin’ coming back on Broadway, it is what all of my kids keep talking about,” Foster said. “It has also been a while since we have done it, so when they asked to do it I was okay with it. I think Aladdin will be a big draw, because it is Disney. I think kids will be all over it.”
The season will wrap up in March, with “Dear Edwina,” a musical filled with life-lessons and campy tunes. The show follows 13 year-old Edwina Spoonapple, who would do just about anything to be a part of the Kalamazoo Advice-a-palooza Festival. While her siblings both have proof of their accomplishments, Edwina has nothing. When a talent scout from the convention visits her hometown, she trots out her musical advice giving shows live from the family garage in hopes of finding her place in the spotlight.
“Dear Edwina” will run at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on March 27-29 and will also offer student showings prior to opening night.
“It is my favorite show. I just love ‘Dear Edwina.’ Again, this show has so much casting potential for students, it is just very well written, the music is catchy, it’s funny and is full of lessons,” Foster said. “When I was talking to some of the alumni and told them we were going to be doing it, they were all jealous, because it is one of their favorites, too.”
The attendance record of their fourth season broke anything the theatre had seen in past seasons, each show passing the previous one. By the end of the season, 6,813 audience members enjoyed the talents of PACT’s students in the year alone.
“More people saw shows than ever this year,” PACT Executive Director Becky Lovins said. “Every time Susan directs one of our shows, we learn; the more times we get to do something, the better you get at it. As we get better, the kids enjoy it more. We also had more kids audition this year than before, which helps.”
PACT statistics show that each show generally consists of 30 percent new students and many of the students return to be a part of another show.
“This past season was so phenomenal,” Lovins said. “I think next season will go over well. We have a lot of momentum and we have a very loyal fan base. We don’t only see family members, but community members who make every show, because they enjoy what we produce. I think this speaks volumes about the quality of productions that Susan is able to put on.”
More information on PACT and their productions can be found by checking them out on Facebook, at PAAC4kids.org or by calling Becky Lovins at 740-351-3621.
In other PACT news, with the celebration of their fifth season and continuous growth, and the recent grant win from Southern Ohio Medical Center, the theatre is planning on leasing a space of their own. Lovins said she is hopeful about a few prospects and will hopefully announce the location of their new home soon.
“We’ve been amazed at the growth we’ve experienced over the last 4 years. We expected maybe 30-40 kids our first season and had over 100 audition,” Lovins said. “Each show we do gets better, we learn more, the kids learn more and we feel like we have a great program going. We are excited to take some big steps next season and take the theatre to a whole new level.”
Joseph Pratt can be contacted at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.