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Bring it on: PPT announces seasons for Meroney, Norvell theaters

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

Reid Leonard has three words about the upcoming Piedmont Players Theatre season: bring it on!

This year’s shows at the Meroney and Norvell theaters include musicals, comedies and dramas featuring everything from battling cheerleaders, children who live in a boxcar, a human who thinks he’s an elf, Peter Pan before he was Peter Pan, the golden age of Broadway, singing nuns, sword fights, and much more.

Here’s the lineup for the Meroney Theater:

• “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Oct. 6-9 and 12-15. This musical tells the story of how Peter Pan became Peter Pan, and how Captain Hook lost his hand.

“It’s full of shipwrecks and pirates,” Leonard says. “It sounds like children’s theater, but it’s not. Adults will love this show, too. It’s totally unlike any musical you’ve ever seen.”

• “Act One,” Jan. 26-29 and Feb. 1-4, 2017. This comedy is written by Moss Hart, the original director of “Camelot.” His memoir is about how he got started in American theater in the early 20th century.

“A young boy writes a play which ends up being a Broadway show, and all of the story is true,” Leonard says. “This is the story of the theater, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of that world. Most of our images of Broadway come from this memoir.”

• “Sister Act,” March 16-19 and 22-25, 2017. This spring musical spectacular is based on the delightful Whoopi Goldberg movie.

“It should be tons of fun,” Leonard says. “It’s just been released as a musical, and we’re thrilled that we’re getting to do it.”

• “Tom Jones,” May 4-7 and 10-13, 2017. This comedy is based on the first English-language novel.

“It’s just a fun story,” Leonard says. “A young boy grows up as an orphan, and every woman loves him, which causes no end of problems. This show has irate husbands and irate boyfriends, lots of sword fighting and lots of swashbuckling. It’s a real audience pleaser.”

• “Tom, Dick and Harry,” July 27-30 and Aug. 2-5, 2017. PPT ends its season with this farce by Ray Cooney.

“About every two or three years, we do a farce,” Leonard explains. “If you’ve never seen one, they’re just amazing things.”

In this play, Tom and his wife are preparing to adopt a child. It’s the day of their final visit by the adoption agency, and Tom’s two wayward brothers — you guessed it, Dick and Harry — show up.

“Of course, nothing goes right,” Leonard says.

Norvell Theater

Here’s what’s happening next season at the Norvell:

• “The Boxcar Children,” Nov. 11-12 and 18-19. Generations of children have loved the Boxcar Children books, and this drama follows the story of Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, and their adventures of living in an old boxcar.

Every second- and third-grader in Rowan County will see this 55-minute play, Leonard notes.

• “Elf, Jr.,” Dec. 9-10 and 16-17. The county’s fourth- and fifth-graders will be treated to this musical about a human who grows up thinking he’s an elf.

Leonard will take on the challenge of designing a set that shows the North Pole and New York City simultaneously.

He’ll also have to find the next Anthony Cataldo or Corbin Elliott — an actor who’s proportionately larger and bigger than everyone else on stage. And who can sing and dance.

“I know he’s out there somewhere,” Leonard quips.

• “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Feb. 17-18 and 24-25, 2017. Each year, the Norvell does a Shakespeare play, and Leonard recently polled area teachers about which plays to produce.

The top two choices were “Taming of the Shrew,” which the Norvell presented in February, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The county’s eighth-graders and 11th-graders will see this play, as well as students from surrounding counties, Leonard says. “Since the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival has gone out of business, there are not a lot of live Shakespeare shows to see.”

• “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” March 30-April 2 and 6-8, 2017.

This is a full-length comedy version of an earlier, 55-minute Norvell show for students. This beloved children’s book series features Peter, a fourth-grader, who just happens to have a little brother named Fudgie. Fudgie gets all the attention, thus Peter’s attitude of feeling like a “nothing.”

• “Bring It On,” July 13-16 and 19-22, 2017. This musical about a cheerleading competition features music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author of “Hamilton.”

The theater is partnering with Elevation Cheer Co., which will choreograph this high-energy show featuring cheerleaders, tumblers and “flyers.” The stage floor will be completely covered by a mat for this production.

Again, Leonard is faced with yet another challenge: finding actors who can sing, dance, and do gymnastics.

“If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth paying 15 bucks to see us do it, would it?” Leonard asks.

Obviously, Leonard notes, “It’s a completely different type of show. It takes you by surprise.”

For more information about PPT’s season or to purchase tickets, call 704-633-5471 or visit www.piedmontplayers.com.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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