SULLIVAN — For more than 60 years, The Little Theatre-On the Square has brought Broadway talent to the heart of Central Illinois. This year's lineup already is showing its star power.
“Tickets are already selling out,” said John Stephens, Little Theatre’s executive director and producer. “The popular titles are helping to sell.”
The summer of 2019 theater season will have professional actors, dancers and singers on stage for popular musicals, including the family classic “Little Mermaid,” Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma,” Tony award-winning “Newsies,” the pop-rock musical “The Full Monty,” and the musical comedy “Church Basement Ladies.”
Although the musicals are well-known among the theater crowd, the opening show is new to most in the area.
“The Night the Music Lived” will have its Central Illinois debut June 5-16 on the Little Theatre stage. The show is a reenactment of Buddy Holly’s last concert before he died along with musicians “The Big Bopper” J.P Richardson and Ritchie Valens. The three musicians and the pilot were killed in a plane crash in 1959 after a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
“It is a show with music and the history of their lives,” Stephens said.
The show is produced by Todd Meredith, who will perform on stage with his band The Rave-Ons. Music will include “Peggy Sue,” “That’ll be the Day,” “Donna,” “Chantilly Lace,” and “Oh Boy.”
Meredith visited Little Theatre last year for the season opener of “Million Dollar Quartet.”
The theater has more in store for its patrons. Stephens said he has had donors providing assistance with the upkeep of the building.
“But they are helping, not just donating money,” he said.
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The Little Theatre now has a refurbished lobby, a new roof and a costume shop.
“A lot of new stuff is happening,” Stephens said. “That puts good energy out to us.”
The energy will be felt on stage and through the professional performers, too. The actors are hired for the season to perform not only for the Main Stage shows, but also for the Theatre for Young Audience shows.
Stephens said the new shows were written by Little Theater alumni. The daytime plays include “Rapunzel in the Wild West,” “Peter Pan Jr.,” and “The Very Different Duckling.”
The directors are bringing back the "Sensory Friendly" performances for Tuesday’s shows.
“We want those kids to experience theater,” Stephens said. “We will have more lights in the audience and less loud noises.”
The Main Stage shows continue the family entertainment with shows such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Oklahoma” and “Newsies.”
Stephens describes “The Full Monty” as one of the season’s "naughty shows." “But it really has a great message,” he said. “It is about being a father and a family man.”
The season ends with a bunch of women who serve meals to the bereaved in “Church Basement Ladies.”
“They cook for funeral dinners,” Stephens said. “It’s just silly fun.”