New PPT season features Southern classics

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 30, 2012

If you think of iconic Southern novels, two that might come to mind are “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Color Purple.”
You can soon see the stage versions of these works as part of Piedmont Players Theatre’s lineup for the new season.
The season opens in October with the first musical of the year, “The Color Purple,” which is already in rehearsal. Based on the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, it’s the story of Celie, played by Tameka Massey Brown, who starred in last season’s “Dreamgirls.” That role was played by Whoopi Goldberg in the Spielberg movie and by Fantasia Barrino in the Broadway touring show. Alexis Greer will play Sofie, the role played by Oprah Winfrey in the movie. Tyler Smith, also in PPT’s “Dreamgirls,” will play Mister.
It’s a great story and a spectacular show, says director Reid Leonard, and PPT is one of the first theaters in the area to stage it.
In February, audiences can look forward to the drama “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The big question with that play, says Leonard, is “who’s going to play Gregory Peck.” Peck, of course, played the role of Atticus Finch. (Debonair, honorable lawyer types, keep an eye out for audition notices.)This year’s Christmas-themed show is “Inspecting Carol,” a comedy about a company of actors trying to put on “A Christmas Carol” for the umpteenth time. A man who asks to audition is mistaken for an informer for the National Endowment for the Arts, and mayhem naturally ensues. Audiences loved the show when PPT did it 18 years ago, Leonard says.
The big winter music is “Spamalot.” “You can never have too much silly fun,” says Leonard of the show, which is based on the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Only two theaters in North Carolina are licensed to perform “Spamalot,” and PPT is fortunate to be among them.
The season wraps up with “The Nerd,” by Larry Shue. Leonard notes that years back PPT did another Shue show called “The Foreigner,” which was “hysterically funny.” “The Nerd” is also a great comedy, Leonard says (and it isn’t the same story as the movie starring Steve Martin).
The youth lineup of shows that will be performed at The Norvell Theatre looks equally strong. Already cast, Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” will be performed for local eighth graders at the end of September. It’s the favorite Shakespeare play for a lot of young people, says Leonard, who explains that it’s a story about a guy and a girl who have been in love for years but “can’t stand each other” and are trying to work out their relationship.
Following that production will be a show performed for second- and third-graders called “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr.” The show is about Stanley Lambchop, a normal kid who gets hit by a bulletin board above his bed and wakes up squashed flat. So flat that he can mail himself around the world and have adventures – which he does.
For the fourth- and fifth-graders, PPT will stage “The Jack Tales” by R. Rex Stephenson. Leonard notes that these are the same kind of folk tales that famed local storyteller Jackie Torrence used to tell. One thing to look forward to with that show is a youth bluegrass band.
Rounding out the youth season are “Treasure Island,” the classic pirate tale of Long John Silver, and then finally the sure-to-be-popular Disney musical “The Little Mermaid.”
All the shows have great potential, Leonard says.
PPT’s membership drive will take place the week of Sept. 10 but season tickets are on sale now by calling 704-633-5471. PPT is still looking for Producers for several shows. Any interested companies can check out the benefits at or call 704-633-5471.