“The goal was always to provide an opportunity where an opportunity wasn’t. And it goes both ways. Whether you’re seeing a show, or whether you’re performing in the show,” said Kendall Payne, founder of Adaire Theatre.
Adaire Theatre is in its seventh season, and for Payne, the journey just keeps getting better and better with a strong opening weekend for its current production of “Chicago” the musical. The show is set in the 1920s. It’s about two rival murderers — nightclub star Velma Kelly, who kills both her husband and sister, and Roxie Hart, who kills her lover who she has been cheating on her husband with. Both women get locked up in the Cook County Jail and are fighting to get the help of lawyer Billy Flynn to make their cases a media sensation, in order to launch their show business careers.
While Adaire Theatre is known for putting on children’s shows, they decided to take things in a different direction this year by putting on a production that would reach an older audience. Although “Chicago” is a very adult show, it seems to be well-received. David Boyd had never seen “Chicago” before, so he didn’t quite know what to expect. However, he says he had a good time.
“It has it all. It has humor, it has the dark side of the city, the justice, a little bit of everything for everybody. I think it’s a really good show and everyone would enjoy it,” Boyd said.
Hannah Altizer is very familiar with the show. She said she saw it on Broadway but it didn’t live up to any expectations.
“I was really hoping that this would be awesome, and it totally blew it out the water. It was really, really great,” she said.
“We’ve had a strong turnout of new faces, which is exciting. It means we’re reaching a different demographic of people,” Payne said.
Every show takes a great deal of preparation before the actors even show up for day one of rehearsals. Payne works with Keith Patrick McCoy, Associate Artistic Director for Adaire Theatre, to make it all happen. They begin planning months in advance — going over everything from choreography and set design, to costumes and lighting.
Payne and McCoy say what sets Adaire Theatre apart is they both come from a professional theatre background, which means the expectations are high.
“We’ve done everything from being on stage, to teaching, to directing, to musical direction. We’ve done every aspect of theatre, so we’re not coming in with just one point of view,” Payne said.
What audiences will see is a product of two weeks of rehearsals. Payne says only about 40 hours of rehearsal time went into the show, which he says isn’t a lot. Payne and McCoy believe it’s very important that the actors get to experience what it’s like to be a professional actor.
“We’re a blend of everything. We have professionals, community people, college students. But what it comes down to is we conduct it as a professional company. We have professional standards. We expect a certain type of quality. We bring people from all different levels of theatre and we help them rise to the occasion,” McCoy explained.
And the actors are starting to understand what having “professional standards” means.
“We learn it and we’re expected to practice it at home and have it down. That was difficult at first, but I think it’s going to help me in the long run to know my material for shows,” said Actor Caleb Meyer.
“It’s very guided. You can trust them. You know that they’re going to set you up for where you need to be; and find out all the things that you’re capable of that you didn’t know that you were capable of,” explained Actor Sadie Covey.
“We push them to do things they normally don’t do. Think in ways they normally don’t think. And seeing someone go from that point of I don’t know that I can do this, to seeing them spread their wings and fly, it’s great getting them to that point,” McCoy said.
Payne says people who have been in an Adaire Theatre production have gone on to pursue careers in acting, modeling, stage craft, and set design in places like Philadelphia, Richmond, and even as far as California.
Payne says supporting local theatre is important because there’s simply not a lot of it around here.
“You can drive 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or even an hour away, but when it’s right down the street it’s even more accessible. And what’s great about it, is that even though it’s right down the street, you’re not sacrificing the quality. You’re getting just as good of a show as if you were going to Mill Mountain Theatre or the Barter Theatre. The great thing about it is it’s right in your own backyard,” Payne said.
With each season, Adaire Theatre has gained support not only with loyal audience members, but organizations, as well, like the Elks Lodge in downtown Pulaski. Adaire Theatre has performed several cabarets at the lodge, but “Chicago” is the first main stage production for the theatre company at that location.
“We needed a home to produce our theatre and they needed a way to get more people in here and to see what this place is capable of. And they took a chance on letting us see what we could do. It’s worked out great.”
Payne says there are lots of things in the works, including an opportunity to see more shows. He says Adaire Theatre will put on its first Christmas show in December and Payne guarantees it will have something for everyone.
There are only three show dates left to see “Chicago.” Performances are Friday and Saturday, August 24 and 25, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, August 26, at 2 p.m., at the Elks Lodge in downtown Pulaski. Tickets are $10.
“I think they will be blown away by what they see. And they’ll be shocked that a lot of the talent is from this area,” Payne said.
If you would like more information about this topic, please call Kendall Payne at (540) 250-3665, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By NEESEY PAYNE, Special to The Patriot