On Stage

Theatre season’s second half begins with variety

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: J. Gary Thompson (center) plays Sir in Dayton Playhouse’s The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd

Way, way down in the brick-walled basement—vintage 1866—the very first construction of the Victoria Theatre holds up a mighty history with stalwart strength and stories to tell. To celebrate their 150th anniversary, the Victoria Theatre has planned a series of tours, the first Feb. 6 at 2 p.m.

If you are anticipating a grungy atmosphere below the revered building, better hope you can get in to one of the additional tours soon to be announced, since the first four are sold out. The old limestone foundation supports an amazingly spiffy and 1990 renovated subterranean space with nary a mouse, except perhaps a gaggle of small children donning costumes for Cinderella. It’s now quite functionally configured into several dressing rooms, the Green Room, a wood shop, a wardrobe room to keep costumes clean and repaired, the necessary mechanicals and shops playgoers never see.

Sue Stevens oversees all functions. Staff comprises 65 full-time and 65 part-time employees. Some are responsible for the property of the Victoria, Schuster, Human Race, WDPR, Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, Dayton City Paper, Arts garage and Unos. All share an enormous pride, keeping every square inch shiny clean and in superb working order. Issac Buckley, property assistant says, “I’ll tell you this, it can’t go down on my watch.”

Keith Wyatt, almost 20 years house manager shares other stories. Part of the new hallway ceiling beneath the orchestra pit had to be raised—actually the floor was lowered—to meet legal requirements. The stories behind the stories are not always apparent. You may be cued to “look up” at cement ceiling patches. The areas, now smooth, used to be deliberate openings from basement to theater to allow air cooling by naturally lower temperatures from below.

Many autographed celebrity photos adorn some walls, as well as large jigsaw puzzles completed by stagehands waiting between tasks.

One floor up, on stage, the finest stars of live theater over the years were often seen: the Barrymores, Sarah Bernhardt, the Wild West cowboys and through the years big road shows. Cats opened in a 1994 snowstorm, the actors left without sets or costumes. It then became home to our own Dayton Ballet and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.

Many individuals and groups of all ages worked heroically and successfully in the mid-70s to save the theater from demolition. Among them, Oakwood High School put on an original script in 1976: a review by decade of American music, dance, history and humor. A pair of sell-outs provided a good contribution, despite a tornado scare during rehearsal.

Daytonians have many personal memories and connections at First and Main. One man tells of a chance WWII USO meeting between a sailor musician and a WAC, his invitation to her to see his Victory Theatre show, a spark and ultimate marriage: his parents’ love story.

Many others have enjoyed various celebrations: my daughter and her husband, Elizabeth and Kurt Horner, had their wedding reception in the beautifully restored lobby. What more elegant way to meet your guests than sweeping down the restored Italian marble stair.

Beavercreek Community Theatre—“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress”—Jan. 21-31

The intriguing title begs the question: why would any woman choose to dress like another, never mind five? Only one possibility: it’s the dread bridesmaid challenge. The women have gathered post-wedding with some relief in the Knoxville home of the bride’s family. There’s a bit of the old South going on here and some rebellion as well. The bridesmaids, although dramatically different from each other, find some things in common, perhaps more than with the bride.

Debra Kent directs an experienced cast: Lynn Vanderpool, Wendi Michael, Cassandra Engber, Rachel Wilson, Kelli Locker and Scott Knisley, wedding usher with plenty of testosterone.

Top notch technical designers are at work, too: producer is Mary Mathieu, production stage manager is Deirdre Bray Root, lighting design by John Rensel, sound design by David Meyer and costume design by Carol Finley.

Beavercreek Community Theatre is at 3868 Dayton-Xenia Rd. in Beavercreek. For more information, please visit bctheatre.org or call 937.429.4737.

Dayton Playhouse—The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd—Jan. 22-Feb. 7

“On a Wonderful Day Like Today” you may want to keep in mind the Dayton Playhouse production of the tuneful mid-60s musical with the quirky plot of gamesmanship. Jim Lockwood directs Sir (J. Gary Thompson) who changes the rules to his advantage and Cocky (Ted Eltzroth) who finally realizes he’s playing an impossible underdog game. Think of the possibilities.

Musical director is Judy Mansky and choreographer is Allison Eder. Chris Newman does the scenic design. Other well-loved songs include “Who Can I Turn To?” and “Feeling Good.”

For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit daytonplayhouse.com or call 937.424.8477.

Dayton Theatre Guild—“Night Watch”—Now-Jan. 24

A rich heiress with insomnia sees disturbances at night, and calls the police who see nothing. Next time they doubt her. It gets worse. This play is not for children. Directed by Saul Caplan with a strong cast: Debra Strauss, Bill Stewart, Lorin Dineen, Dave Nickel, Julie Hauwiller, Andre Tomlinson, Cynthia Karns and Randy Young. Debra Kent and Barbara Jorgensen are producers.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit daytontheatreguild.org or call 937.278.5993. 

Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.



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Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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