Comedy’s the word at TBT

Comedy’s the word at Thunder Bay Theatre where the upcoming spring season boasts four straight comedies and one musical comedy.

Fresh off a successful first season as TBT’s artistic director, Kevin Reams maintains comedies are his forte even though audiences responded enthusiastically to his fall shows, including the holiday musical favorite, “Beauty and the Beast.”

“I connect with comedies the best, and know how to direct them the best,” said Reams, expressing some surprise over just how successful last season turned out to be, especially with “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Audiences kept growing and growing,” Reams said. “‘Beauty and the Beast’ was the biggest hit we’ve had at the theatre in at least 10 years. We had high attendance numbers for the majority of the performances.”

Starting the spring season of humor off is the children’s production, “Miss Nelson is Missing.” Based on the popular children’s book of the same name, the show features a rambunctious fourth grade class and core company member Nickie Hilton as their teacher.

When the squirrelly students insist on treating their sweet teacher badly, she goes missing and in her place comes a hardcore substitute teacher. The sub quickly whips the kids into shape and has them longing for their teacher of old, Miss Nelson.

“It will be a really cute show,” Reams said. “Very young children through high school age will remember this story.”

Next on the playbill is “Almost, Maine.” Set in a fictional small town in the middle of nowhere Maine, the show highlights a variety of different couples all at 9 p.m. on the same evening. The Northern Lights are really strong this particular night and they are affecting people in strange ways, making them fall in and out of love.

“This is a really sweet story that we put in our Valentine’s time slot,” Reams said. “There’s a theme of love running through it. It’s a perfect date play.”

Reams plans to add an extra element of entertainment to the show by bringing in local musicians to play their own original music just as the original show did when playing off Broadway.

Coming at the end of February is “Sylvia,” a play about a couple whose children have recently left the nest. They are trying to figure out the next chapter in their lives, which involves relocating to New York City where the wife embarks on a writing career. Meanwhile, as her husband is trying to determine what comes next for him, he finds a stray dog with the unique ability to converse with humans.

“Audiences will be laughing all the way through this one. If you are a dog lover, there will be some tears,” said Reams, adding that the dog doesn’t die in the end.

“Unnecessary Farce,” scheduled to open in March, keeps the humor coming. According to Reams, it’s exactly like it sounds.

“It’s one of the craziest farces written except for maybe ‘Noises Off,'” he said.

The set for the show is divided into two adjoining hotel rooms where two cops are staking out the other room in hopes of catching the mayor of their city in some shady dealings. Somehow the Scottish mafia gets involved in the action, and with two cops, three crooks and eight doors, bedlam ensues.

Closing out the season is “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels.” This 2005 musical is based on the 1988 Steve Martin movie.

“It’s one of my all time favorites,” Reams said. “I used to watch Steve Martin movies over and over as a kid to learn comic timing.”

“Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels” centers on two con men living on the French Riviera. One character makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money. The other more humbly swindles women by waking their compassion with fabricated stories about his grandmother’s failing health. After meeting on a train, the two con men attempt to work together only to find that this small French town isn’t big enough for the two of them.

Along with a new selection of shows, TBT also has put together a new core company. Hilton, a long-time veteran of the theatre, will be on board for the entire season. Returning actress/stage manager Puja Tolton also will be with the company again starting with the debut of “Almost, Maine.”

Joining up in time for “Sylvia” is professional actor Curtis Brown. Also new to TBT is Technical Director Joe Simpson, while local actors Nick Hartman and Colin Marshall and lights/sound specialist Joe Rybarczyk have been lined up as interns.

For more information about the spring season or to purchase season tickets, call Thunder Bay Theatre at 354-2267.