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New theater makes most of ‘bare minimum’

by Lenise Willis

lenise@yesweekly.com

When it comes to doing the “bare minimum,” Broadway’s Best Theatre Co. does no such thing concerning their cast and their performances. However, this weekend, the burgeoning theater will present its first public show on its barely constructed, bareminimum stage.

Stanley Bernstein, one of the three founders of the theater, said they decided to perform a musical revue program called Bare Bones Broadway in order to create awareness for their developing project and introduce their proposed location to the public.

Bernstein said they are calling the program “bare bones” because they have not yet started their major renovation work on the building due to insufficient sponsorship and fundraising. “So the stage and seating are going to be very simple and basic,” Bernstein said. “We are calling it ‘Barebones Broadway’ because the building, up to two weeks ago, was literally bare to the bones,” laughed Gene Johnson, co-founder and artistic director.

So far, the new summer stock theater company has presented several invitation-only performances for Forsyth Country Club, Bermuda Run Country Club and Arbor Acres Retirement Community, but this will be their first production open to the public.

The two-hour, concert-like program will include about 30 songs, from the familiar to the unheard.

“Part of our philosophy is to do things that you don’t usually see,” Johnson said. He also added that many of the songs they’ve selected are rarely done because of the sheer difficulty of the vocals.

With that said, those songs were added to the program in order to show the true quality of the cast and to showcase the caliber of show that the theater plans to continue to present.

The cast of seven, including two students from the UNC School of the Arts, will operate on a temporary, 16-by-20-foot stage. The singers will not be dressed in costumes, but will be dressed semi-formally and professionally.

“We wanted at least two adults — more mature and professional — on the cast, but we wanted some students in the show, too,” Johnson said. “They have great voices. We want people to get a feel of the talent and quality we’ll showcase here.

“The audience will go through a lot of different moods,” Johnson added about this weekend’s performance. “Some of the songs are very gorgeous, but there are also comedy songs, as well. The selections range from Hammerstein’s works to the musical Chess. There’s many things scattered through there.”

The idea to found Broadway’s Best Theatre Co. came from Johnson’s awareness of the need for more theater jobs and more quality summer theater.

“We really felt there ought to be more places where [theater graduates] can go to work and gain professional experience before going to the major market,” Johnson said last summer before the theater had even budded.

“Not only are we providing jobs to one of the most underemployed groups in America, but we’ll also provide quality entertainment. There hasn’t been a summer stock theater in this area for years.”

The founders are still raising funds for the renovations, which include up-fitting a former ACE Hardware building to include a new heating and air-conditioning unit, bathrooms, 250 tiered seats, a stage, an orchestra area and dressing rooms.

“It’s 6,000 square feet of perfect, open space,” Johnson said when they first picked their location. “There are lush trees and shade, a deck and picnic tables outside so people can come and enjoy a picnic before a show.”

Johnson said they hope to be fully up and running by next summer. “We’d like to do shows before then, but realistically any renovations will take about six months.”

WANNA go?

“Bare Bones Broadway” will run Friday through Sunday in the new theatre space, located at 103 Beechtree Place, just off of the Farmington Road exit off of I-40. Tickets are $20 for adults; $16 for seniors and students. For tickets or more information, or to donate, call Gene Johnson at 336.575.4446 or visit broadwaysbest.biz.

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