Season Preview: A look at Amarillo Little Theatre's 2017-18 offerings
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Amarillo Little Theatre hopes for a high-flying season with a selection of acclaimed dramas, popular comedies and musical adaptations of a pair of beloved movies.
"We're hoping for an increase in attendance," artistic/general director Allen Shankles said. "We were down about 15 percent (last season), and we've got to try to correct that.
"We had a great season artistically, but despite that, our ticket sales were down, so it's been a frustrating season (and) I'm hoping to turn that around this next season."
The Mainstage season opens Sept. 21 with the stage version of Mary Poppins, the eternally popular children's tale about a magical English nanny who's "practically perfect in every way," a friendly chimney sweep, her rambunctious charges and their priggish parents.
Based on P.L. Travers' books and the 1964 Disney film, the musical version debuted in London in 2004 and on Broadway in 2006, where it was nominated for seven Tony Awards. It will run Sept. 21 to Oct. 8.
"We have a very segmented audience right now," Shankles said. "We're bringing in new people, but we had a very firm division between the people (last season) who loved Young Frankenstein and the people who loved Anything Goes. ... Hopefully, Mary Poppins bridges that gap for us.
"First of all, it will appeal to families with children, but it's also a new musical based on a classic movie, so hopefully, it will have a broader appeal than perhaps Young Frankenstein did."
And yes, there will be flying, courtesy of the same company who helped lift ALT's Peter Pan off the ground in 2014.
The Mainstage season continues with Plaid Tidings, a Christmas-themed sequel to the musical revue Forever Plaid, which ALT staged in 2002. In the show, a clean-cut quartet of prematurely deceased crooners get one last chance to put on a show — this time, featuring holiday favorites. It'll run Dec. 7 to 18.
Up next is the bloody romp The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, a humorous whodunnit inspired by 1940s murder mysteries, as the characters try to find the "Stage Door Slasher" before he claims more victims. The comedy will run Jan. 18 to 28.
"It's a fun script, really clever," Shankles said. "There's revolving doors and bookcases and things, and it's kind of a farce at the same time. I think it's going to be fun for our audiences."
Then comes The Savannah Sipping Society, a comedy about a quartet of Southern women seeking new lives while enjoying an impromptu happy hour. It's from Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, the same playwrights behind the popular Dixie Swim Club, which ALT staged in 2010.
"Dixie Swim Club was a big hit for us, so hopefully, we'll make that connection and tap into the good will from that show," Shankles said.
Savannah Sipping Society will be staged March 1 to 11.
The Mainstage season closes with Sister Act, the stage adaptation of the 1992 comedy that opened in London in 2010 and on Broadway the following year. The musical, which features all-new tunes written by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast) and Glenn Slater (Broadway's The Little Mermaid and School of Rock), finds wannabe showgirl Deloris Van Cartier hiding out from the mob in a convent in 1970s-era Philadelphia, allowing for a score filled with disco, soul and Motown-inspired songs. It'll run May 3 to 20.
"We're really excited about the piece and think we can do it really well," Shankles said.
The parallel season at the Adventure Space will focus on smaller, generally more contemporary and challenging shows.
The Adventure Space season opens with Nick Payne's Constellations, a two-person drama about the romance between a beekeeper and a theoretical physicist that skips through multiple realities and parallel universes. It'll be staged Aug. 17 to 27.
"It's a beautiful new script," Shankles said. "It's a very unusual play but I think it's going to be well-liked by our audience ... once they get their head around it a little bit."
Romance of a more traditional sort also drives the next Adventure Space production, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, to be staged Nov. 9 to 19.
"It has a good pedigree" — Shanley wrote Doubt and the film Moonstruck, among others — "and it's a very endearing show," Shankles said.
The play, which debuted on Broadway in 2014 with Debra Messing, is set in rural Ireland and follows the burgeoning romance of an awkward, shy man and a brittle woman who live on neighboring farms, each with an aging parent hoping to see their children married off.
And yet more love is in the air with the Valentine's show, the Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, to be staged Feb. 8 to 18. Last staged here in 2004, the four-person musical depicts romantic adventures and misadventures in a series of vignettes.
"It was a huge hit for us when we did it," Shankles said. "I've just re-read it, and it's going to need a little updating — it talks about Palm Pilots and things like that — and I'm kind of toying with the idea of using projections and showing text messages, to bring it into the modern era and put in current-day vernacular."
The Adventure Space season closes with ALT's first-ever production of a play by noted author Harold Pinter, his 1975 classic No Man's Land, about two poets drinking the night away who may or may not share a past but definitely share a love of spinning stories. The night takes an ominous turn when they're joined by two younger men. The drama, to be staged April 5 to 15, will be directed by Stephen Crandall.
"The easiest choice of the bunch was No Man's Land," Shankles said. "It's a nice fit for our audience."
Season ticket packages range from $136 to $154 for nine admissions, $75 to $85 for five admissions and $61 to $69 for four admissions.