BANNER ELK — Lees-McRae College Summer Theatre returns for its 34th season this summer with three new shows.
This year’s lineup includes “Mamma Mia!” “From the Mountaintop: The Edgar Tufts Story” and “Newsies.”
“From the Mountaintop” was written by Summer Theatre Artistic Director Janet Speer with music by John Thomas and Tommy Oaks. The play tells the story of Edgar Tufts, a pivotal figure in the history of Banner Elk who laid the framework for what would become Grandfather Home for Children and Lees-McRae College.
“Mamma Mia!” is a musical based around the music of the immensely popular Swedish pop group ABBA. The group achieved international fame after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 with their song “Waterloo.” The play received Hollywood treatment with a popular musical film adaptation of the same name starring Meryl Streep released in 2008 and a sequel in 2018.
“Newsies” is originally a Walt Disney musical starring Christian Bale based on the historic strike of newsboys in New York City in 1899. It was later turned into an award-winning Broadway show.
Speer said all the plays have heart, but are drastically different thematically, adding that “Mamma Mia!” and “Newsies” are shows theatregoers have been requesting for years.
These are all professional productions, with Speer adding that the casting begins in January and stretches through April, with hundreds of applicants being seen.
Speer reviews roles and technical needs. While she is often able to recruit Summer Theatre alumni, roles and technical positions are also advertised in trade magazines and on the program’s website. When casting time comes each winter, Speer reviews hundreds of headshots, resumes and video reels from professional actors and actresses who want a place in the program.
“We look first for the person who best fits the role,” Speer said. “That may be a physical resemblance, but not always. Sometimes we like to use someone not typical in a role. The actor does, however, have to have excellent talent.”
There are more than 100 people in the play company drawn from all over the country. All of the designers and most of the crews are professionals from other areas as well.
Speer said the planning process begins in earnest in October and ramps up in January, though some planning happens year-round.
Speer said she used to travel all over for casting and technician calls, but almost everything is done online.
For tickets and more information on the shows, click to https://www.lmc.edu/community/summer-theatre/index.htm.