Season Preview: A look at ALT's 2016-17 season and our 'The Season'

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on

"The Season" trailer

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Over the next several weeks, I'll take a look at the upcoming 2016-17 seasons for all of Amarillo's major arts groups. I'm kicking off today with Amarillo Little Theater and a special announcement for our readers and viewers.

Beginning this month, Panhandle PBS is going deep inside Amarillo's vibrant art groups, both performing and visual, to tell the full story of one season develops.

In webisodes, blog posts and segments on our Live Here television show, The Season will explore every aspect of what it takes to stage performance and mount exhibitions, one arts group at a time.

To kick it off, we're following ALT as it celebrates its 90th season, making it one of the longest continually operating community theaters in the country.

We’ll take you from auditions through productions, from costume and set sketches to construction, from the parting of the curtains on opening night to the final bows at curtain call of the last show of the season.

Check out the video for a taste of what's to come — and speaking of: what, exactly, is to come at ALT this year?

The season opens Aug. 18 with The Full Monty, a musical adaptation by Terrence McNally and David Yazbek of the 1997 British comedy about a group of unemployed men who become unlikely strippers.

"The sleeper hit of the season could be Full Monty," ALT artistic/general director Allen Shankles told me. "We've toyed with The Full Monty in the past and had been a little bit reluctant because of different scenes in the show we would have to create in the smaller environment (of the Adventure Space), but we're committed to finding a way to make that work."

I'm pretty sure he means the nudity, because — yes — the men do take it all off by the end, though staging tricks generally mean the audience only gets a slightly cheeky view. The musical runs Aug. 18 to 28 in the Adventure Space, 2751 Civic Circle.

The season continues with Gore Vidal's The Best Man, a 1960 drama that still sounds distressingly timely: It takes place during the presidential primaries, with an ethical candidate and an unscrupulous one vying for the sitting president's endorsement. "We'd have to do it in the fall or not do it at all because it's going to be irrelevant after Nov. 3 or 4 or whatever day our country is going to change forever," Shankles said.

The drama runs Sept. 15 to 25 on the ALT Mainstage, 2019 Civic Circle.

Up next is one that sounds particularly intriguing: The Birds, a theatrical adaptation (by Irish playwright Conor McPherson) of the same Daphne du Maurier short story that inspired Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller. In this, the avian menaces aren't the only thing to watch out for. A few final survivors are holed up inside a remote cabin, tormented by the ever-present pecking and scratching of the deadly birds outside, and "a power struggle taking place inside the house becomes violent," Shankles said. "It's a wonderful, fun, dark piece."

It runs Nov. 3 to 13 in the Adventure Space.

Then comes the season's centerpiece: Young Frankenstein, the Mel Brooks musical adaptation of the 1974 comedy classic. "It's a huge show," Shankles said. "I had to convince my staff to a certain degree because some of them ... were flabbergasted that I thought we could do it. ... But we've done some huge shows of late, and it just doesn't scare me now the way it did." 

The musical runs Dec. 1 to 18 on the Mainstage.

2017 opens with a revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs, last produced in 2003. The Neil Simon comedy is an autobiographical look at his childhood and will feature a cast of adults and child actors from the ALT Academy. "We're very excited about it," Shankles said. "It's a beautiful piece of work."

The comedy runs Jan. 19 to 29 on the Mainstage.

Another comedy, of a more recent vintage, comes next: It's Only a Play, another work by McNally. It premiered in 1982 off-off-Broadway and finally got its Broadway debut (in a production starring the likes of Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally) in 2014. In the play, a producer, director and actors eagerly (or not) await the reviews of their newly opened Broadway play. Expect lots of insider jokes, Shankles said. "It's going to be more enjoyable for people who know about theater and Broadway," he said. "I thought it would fit nicely in the Adventure Space because there's typically a more educated patron at the Adventure Space, more knowledgeable about theater in general."

The comedy runs Feb. 9 to 19.

Another comedy — also centering around a bunch of maniacal actors, oddly enough — comes next: The perennially popular Noises Off, the overwhelming favorite in a survey of ALT audiences this spring, Shankles said. "It's a play that everybody loves and adores," Shankles said. The three-act comedy depicts life on-stage and off for a company staging a truly dreadful British farce; rivalries and love affairs curdle into a blisteringly funny antipathy.

The farce runs March 2 to 12 on the Mainstage.

Up next is the only show of the season with which I'm not familiar: Seminar, a dark comedy written by Theresa Rebeck, who created the inside-theater drama Smash for NBC. In the play, which opened on Broadway in 2011, an acclaimed author (played originally by Alan Rickman, so you know he's just dripping with disdain) leads a writing workshop for four aspiring authors. "He's a complete jerk and destroys almost everybody in his path," Shankles said.

The comedy runs April 6 to 15 in the Adventure Space.

And finally, the season wraps with the popular Cole Porter musical Anything Goes, a Broadway staple about a nightclub singer, criminal fugitives and romantic complications aboard a trans-Atlantic ocean liner. "It's got lots of great dance, tap dance, zany characters — very lighthearted," Shankles said. "It should be a winner with our traditional audiences and hopefully with everybody."

The musical runs May 4 to 21.

Season tickets are on sale now, sold in packs of four or five tickets each and ranging from $57 to $85. Click here for more details, or call 806-355-9991.


Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at on Facebook.    

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