Sunday, June 29, 2008

3 Cheers for Stage 1

Posted by Bruce Miller
Our good friend and colleague Chase Kniffen announced today in the Times-Dispatch the founding of Richmond’s newest theatrical endeavor—Stage 1 Theatre Company. Chase’s new nonprofit venture will be mounting local productions of the latest and most adventurous musicals—the type of shows that make it onto a Central Virginia stage too infrequently. Stage 1 will also fulfill Chase’s long-standing dream to be an artistic director of his own company.

Stage 1 will begin this fall with an advantage that most new theatres don’t have—its own home facility. The new company will be located at 9130 Dickey Drive in Hanover County, in facilities that it will share with the current tenant, Shuffles Dance Center, directed by Peggy Thibodeau. Chase and the Thibodeaus (Thibodeaux?) are building a 99-seat intimate theatre that will perfectly suit the small, sometimes edgy musicals that comprise the centerpiece of the company’s mission.

Brand new musicals are not unknown in Richmond. Firehouse, of course, has an admirable history bringing new tuners to town (Bat Boy, Austin’s Bridge, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the current Reefer Madness), and over the years the Mill has produced acclaimed productions of Urinetown, Floyd Collins and Songs for a New World when all of those shows were hot-off-the-presses and generating lots of theatrical buzz. The Mill also produced the World Premiere of Two Bits by Tom Width and Paul Deiss.

Richmond Triangle Players has a strong track record of producing regional premieres of Off or Off Off Broadway musicals, too numerous to mention here. Both Triangle and the Mill will be bringing Altar Boys to Richmond next season in two separate (and probably very different) productions.

One of Theatre IV’s biggest hits, Quilters, was new and unknown when it first opened in Richmond in ‘86, and Blackbirds of Broadway and Four Part Harmony were well received World Premieres at Theatre IV’s historic Empire Theatre. Barksdale created and produced Richmond’s most successful World Premiere musical, Red Hot and Cole, with book by Randy Strawderman, James Bianchi and Muriel McAuley. In 2009, Barksdale will stage the World Premiere of Mona’s Arrangements, a new musical by Bo Wilson and Steve Liebman.

Violet, Oil City Symphony, Falsettos, Das Barbecu, and Weird Romance were all new and hip when they regionally premiered at Barksdale in the 1990s.

But many new shows never make it here, and now, with Stage 1 devoting itself solely to new musicals, that’s about to change. Chase’s first season includes “tick, tick … BOOM!” by Jonathan Larson of Rent fame (Nov 7-22), Children’s Letters to God (a family offering from Feb 6-21), Normal (a show Chase has been dying to direct, Apr 3-18), and Summer of ’42 (Jun 19-Jul 11).

We wish Chase and his new company all the best, and can’t wait to buy our season tickets. For more info, call 427-7548 or visit http://www.stage1va.org/.

--Bruce Miller

6 comments:

Jacquie said...

Bruce, you forgot about Bojangles...which I think may be considered (next to Red, Hot & Cole) Barksdale's most successful (if not most controversial) original musical production. Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Sammy Cahn, Book by Doug Jones and directed by John Glenn. The show was sold out for the entire run prior to opening and there was much talk of it going to Broadway. The late Ben Vereen came to see the show and was interested in playing the lead if it hit NY.

Jacquie said...

Oh wait...Mr. Vereen is NOT dead! Lord, this is how rumors start!

joepabst said...

Quite frankly, I forgot about "Bojangles"... and I was in it!! Yikes! Stories for another blog...

Jacquie said...

Yes, I think on some level we would all like to forget what we went through during that show...but all that should be in the second Barksdale book!

Thespis' Little Helper said...

I thought I had missed something major with the late Ben Vereen!!!

I am thrilled that Richmond is getting to see an even greater number of new works!

Congrats to Chase and Peggy! I can hardly wait!

Rosie B. said...

A (bootleg) recording of 'Bojangles' was listed on Ebay recently, but the seller didn't know the theater or date, only that it was produced in Virginia.