Putting on a show: Franklin’s Overlook Theater Company banks on the appeal of timeless stage classicsWritten by Colby Dunn
Everybody loves a classic. At least that’s what the minds behind Franklin’s Overlook Theater Company were banking on when they put together the lineup for their 2011 season.
They’ll be putting on shows that embody every definition of the word classic, from the Broadway staple “Guys n’ Dolls” to adaptations of some of the world’s most beloved children’s books in “Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss” and “Narnia,” a two-act version of the Chronicles of Narnia.
The company will be taking on musical classics as well, opening the season with “Delovely,” a celebration of Cole Porter’s timeless tunes, following the yellow brick road to a production of MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” and listening to the hills come alive with the Julie Andrews hit, “Sound of Music.” They’ll end the season channeling a modern comedy classic with a rendition of Disney’s side-splitting tale of sorcery in the Middle-Eastern sands, “Alladin.”
Creative Director Scotty Corbin said that the troupe arrived at the idea after seeing the stress and worry that the still-slumping economy is bringing into American life. He wants the company’s shows this year to be a haven where people can come enjoy the good, simple fun of a timeless production, a space to step away from the stress of modern life, if only for a few hours.
“Everything has to do with a good, old-fashioned time in the theater,” said Corbin. “We want this year to be able to provide a place where people can laugh and clap and have a good time in the theater.”
And maybe, he said, even be a part of it themselves.
The company was started back in 1996, when Corbin and a few friends decided to stage a show in a barn, to general appreciation from attendees and performers alike. The show grew into a tradition, that grew into a passion, that grew into a company that now has a state-of-the-art venue to call home. They bounced around to different stages around the Macon County area, but with the opening of the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, they’ve found a permanent nesting place that is ideal for their busy calendar.
Putting on such a full season of ambitious shows takes a veritable army of cast, crew and volunteers that are a mix of amateur, professional and semi-professional thespians. For a full-on Broadway musical like “Guys n’ Dolls,” the company will need up to 80 people to pull off the show every night, and they’re proud to say that they pull participants from all walks of life.
“A lot of these young people who come, they started at a young age and every year we see the improvement that takes place,” said Nikki Corbin, who heads up marketing and publicity for the company. “It’s allowing people the opportunity to be able to perform and to be able to do something that we love to do, to discover the talent within.”
The company, she said, is committed to fostering that artistic discovery and expression within the community, offering a shared experience for the audience, the cast and crew and the local community.
That, said Scotty Corbin, is what drives their desire to keep costs low. The shows they’re gearing towards children and families — “Aladdin” and “Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss,” just to name a couple — are just $10 per adult ticket. For larger, mainstage-style productions like the “Wizard of Oz” and “Guys n’ Dolls,” they’ll top out their ticket prices at $13 in an effort to keep it affordable for anyone who wants to have the magical experience of live theater.
“It’s all about letting the community have a great experience together,” said Scotty Corbin. “We want to make it extremely affordable so as many people as possible can come. You can bring your entire family hopefully for the price of one ticket at a larger venue.”
For every show, they hold open auditions that will be listed in advance online and announced through their e-mail list, and Corbin encourages anyone who is interested to come out and give it a shot.
In addition, they’ve got a local talent show that’s become a staple of their season, and, he said, they’re excited to see the quality performances that locals bring to the table this year.
As they go into the 2011 season, Scotty Corbin is excited about where theater in Western North Carolina is going, and he hopes that this season of classics will help solidify his company as a classic part of the region’s entertainment scene.
“Not only is it an entertainment venue, it’s a place where people can come nurture their talents and grow and learn,” Corbin said. “The sky’s the limit the way we’re looking at it. We just want everything we do to be as top quality as we can possibly be and hopefully each time make it better.”
For more information, visit www.greatmountainmusic.com or call 828.349.5856.
• “De Lovely,” (a dinner show featuring music of Cole Porter) Feb 3, 4, 5
• “Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss,” March 1 and 3
• “The Sound of Music,” April 14, 15, 16, 17
• “Who’s Got Talent,” a local talent competition, May 31
• “Guys and Dolls,” June 23, 24, 25, 26
• “Narnia” (a two-act play based on the Chronicles of Narnia), Aug. 4, 5, 6, 7
• “Who’s Got Talent,” Sept. 27
• “The Wizard of Oz,” Nov. 3, 4, 5, 6
• Disney’s “Aladdin,” Dec. 13 and 15