The Portsmouth Area Arts Council and Children’s Theatre (PAAC) Board of Directors have announced a stunning lineup of shows for the 2022-2023 performance season.
The season consists of junior and senior company productions and will showcase Mary Poppins The Broadway Musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Oliver! Jr.
“What an exciting year this will be at the Portsmouth Area Children’s Theatre,” Executive Director Bailey Hartlage said. “While it’s most definitely PACT’s most ambitious season to date, I think it will also be our most rewarding. Having a Junior and Senior Company is what the Children’s Theatre was founded on, and I’m eager to see the students thrive in their respective age groups in the spring. I think it is equally important, though, for kids of all ages to work together since that is so rarely seen in other extracurricular activities. The younger students learn so much from their older peers, and you would be surprised at how much the older students learn from the younger ones in return. Providing these diverse opportunities for our students was a top priority when planning this season, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Auditions were recently held for the season opener: Mary Poppins The Broadway Musical. The show will run Thursday, November 17 at 10 a.m., Friday, November 18 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday, November 19 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, November 20 at 2:30 p.m.
The story follows the same plot as one of Disney’s most darling and timeless stories of the same name. The original Broadway run impressed audiences for over 2,500 performances and received nominations for nine Olivier and seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
The remaining shows have not yet been cast and audition dates will be made available on their website as the shows get closer.
The following show will be The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which is based on the Charles Dickens final, unfinished novel. According to PAAC, “this hilarious whodunit invites the audience to solve its mystery by choosing the identity of the murderer. The tale is presented as a show-within-a-show, as the Music Hall Royale – a delightfully loony Victorian theatre company – presents Dickens’ brooding mystery.”
This show will be performed by the PAAC senior company on Friday, March 17 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 19 at 2:30 p.m.
The final show of the season will be Oliver! Jr., performed by PAAC’s Junior Company. PAAC is asking audiences to consider themselves at home with the Broadway Junior version of Lionel Bart’s classic musical based on Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist.
According to PAAC’s description, “The streets of Victorian England come to life as Oliver, a malnourished orphan in a workhouse, becomes the neglected apprentice of an undertaker. Oliver escapes to London and finds acceptance amongst a group of petty thieves and pickpockets led by the elderly Fagin. When Oliver is captured for a theft that he did not commit, the benevolent victim, Mr. Brownlow takes him in. Fearing the safety of his hideout, Fagin employs the sinister Bill Sikes and the sympathetic Nancy to kidnap him back, threatening Oliver’s chances of discovering the true love of a family.”
The show will run Thursday, May 4 at 10 a.m., Friday, May 5 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., and Saturday, May 6 at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
One of the key features of the season is the hiring of a single artistic director to lead the junior and senior companies through the season, a PAAC alum herself, Alison Thompson. Thompson, who has majored in theatre, has worked in many companies around the country, and has recently performed locally as well, is excited to pass skills she has learned to the next generation of young thespians.
Hartlage believes it is important to have professionals, especially those with heart for the program like Thompson, to be instructing the children within the program.
“After working with Ali on Honk and Matilda, I was so glad when she wanted to come back for a full season,” Bailey explained. “The students have learned so much from her professional theatre experience, and it’s clear to see their growth in their performances each show. She’s also just an amazing human to work with and makes sure to create a safe and creative space for the kids during rehearsals. Our mission is to provide accessible and educational theatre experiences for our local students, but providing a place where kids can be themselves and make new friends is just as important, and Ali delivers on all those and more.”
The best way to stay up to date on all that happens is by liking Portsmouth Area Arts Council on Facebook, where they post about auditions and show information, as well as other programming opportunities throughout the year.
The Portsmouth Area Arts Council operates with grant funding through organizations like The Scioto Foundation, The Ohio Arts Council, and generous donations from several local businesses and individuals in the community. For information about supporting the Arts Council, please contact the office at (740) 351-3642 to learn about their giving programs, including their endowment funds with the Scioto Foundation and Shawnee State University.
“This season has something for everyone! Families will love seeing the magic of Mary Poppins, literary lovers will be delighted to see two Charles Dickens works brought to life, and anyone who wants to see children in our area succeed and have fun will witness that at all three productions,” Hartlage said. “Support your local Children’s Theatre by making a trip to the VRCFA this season, and if you have a young performer in your life, send them to one of our auditions in the spring!”
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