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Theatre West Virginia kicks off 57th season tonight

By WENDY HOLDREN

The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Theatre West Virginia invites long time fans and first-timers to the opening night of summer dramas at the Cliffside Amphitheater in Grandview.

The 57th season kicks off with 10 performances of Footloose: The Musical, based on the 1984 film of the same name.

Theatre West Virginia performers run through a dress rehearsal for “Footloose,” which opens the season tonight at Grandview Park’s Cliffside Amphitheatre.
(Photo by Brad Davis)

The outdoor dramas are back and bigger than ever since the theatre’s near closure in September 2013, shares TWV General Manger Scott Hill.

“The 57th season is really important because it was touch and go whether we’d make it through the 54th season,” Hill said. “We’ve come a long way from there. We have three shows this year, and they’re getting better and better and better.”

With more stable footing, Hill said the theatre has been able to hire additional actors, dancers, singers and musicians to fill the stage.

“We have 43 actors for Footloose,” he said. “I think we’re in the right position to be able to advance, so long as the state of West Virginia continues to see the importance of the theatre.”

Not only has Theatre West Virginia been performing historical plays for the past 57 years, Hill said, but the theatre has also become part of the fabric of southern West Virginia.

The theatre has a special place in the hearts of many — some who’ve shared a first date there, or attended a show with their whole family.

“The reason Theatre West Virginia is important is the connection it’s made with the people of southern West Virginia. It’s like baseball. It’s something I played with my dad, and it’s something I gave to my son. It almost links us all together. Theatre West Virginia does that on a smaller scale.”

Hill, along with Artistic Director Jason Adkins, shared their excitement about the variety of shows patrons can experience this year.

After Footloose, history lovers can get their fix with Devil Anse and the McCoy gang in 10 performances of Hatfields and McCoys.

“Everybody knows about the feud,” Hill said. “But there’s also the romance.”

Not only is there action and romance, but Hill said he especially appreciates the transformation of Devil Anse, who’s being played by Andy Woodruff this year.

To wrap the season, TWV patrons are invited to nine performances of The Jungle Book Kids, which features a panel of young actors and actresses. Hill said 35 of the 38 performers are under the age of 18.

Adkins said activities will be available for kids before the show begins, and during the show, there will be opportunities for audience interaction and audience participation.

“Part of my vision is to say, if we’re going to put out a show for kids, let’s cater to them in every way,” said Adkins, who’s directing The Jungle Book.

Also new at TWV this year will be Tudor’s Biscuit World cups. Hill said the biscuit chain has stepped up as a sponsor, which will save the theatre hundreds of dollars this season in cups for drinks purchased at the concession stand.

“We’re finding interesting ways to keep the theatre going,” Hill added. He said Wal-Mart also donated bottled water for the season.

Also new this year, before each performance of Hatfields and McCoys, the audience will be invited to pay special tribute to veterans during the singing of the national anthem.

“We’ll present a military person, inactive or retired, and salute them, to thank them for their service,” Hill said. “West Virginia has a large per capita of military, and it’s time to start thanking those folks.”

Performances of Footloose will be held June 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30 and July 1. Performances of Hatfields and McCoys will be held July 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. Performances of The Jungle Book Kids will be held July 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30.

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