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Broadway's Nikka Graff Lanzarone Headlines A CHORUS LINE

Heritage Theatre Festival is well on its way to creating one singular sensation with its 2018 season-opening production of the beloved Broadway classic A Chorus Line thanks to a stellar cast led by Broadway veteran Nikka Graff Lanzarone and an array of national, regional, and local talent.

The production, which will launch the tenure of UVA alumna Jenny Wales as Artistic Director will open on June 22 at Culbreth Theatre. It will also mark a UVA reunion for Wales and director Matthew Steffens, who met as first-years on the steps of Peabody Hall. Steffens, a noted Broadway actor, singer, dancer, director, and choreographer, is returning to Grounds for the first time as a professional and continuing a long and fruitful partnership with Wales that has seen them work together on multiple productions over the last 20 years.

While still six weeks away from their first rehearsal for the show, Wales and Steffens have logged plenty of miles and audition room hours, seeing more than 400 actors in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville. The hard work paid off in a stellar cast that combines a critically-acclaimed Broadway actress Nikka Graff Lanzarone, in the lead role of Cassie, with leading national and regional talent as well as some of the best singers, dancers, and actors from Charlottesville and the surrounding area.

Nikka Graff Lanzarone starred on Broadway in the role of Velma Kelly in Chicago and was a member of the original Broadway cast of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Lanzarone’s long and impressive resume includes Off-Broadway and regional theatre credits including roles in Sweet Charity, Seussical, Hello Again, and Zorba; Lanzarone has worked at such theatres as Long Wharf Theatre, The Goodman, Paper Mill Playhouse, and many others.

Lanzarone will be joined by Jim Moscater as Zach, Jesus Sepulveda as Larry, Emma Benson as Bebe, Camden Loeser as Mike, Hannah Kevitt as Connie, Jeffrey Marc Alkins as Greg, Helena Fay Thompson as Sheila, Kade Wright as Bobby, Ainsley Seiger as Maggie, McLain Powell as Judy, Mason Reeves as Richie, Josh Dunn as Al, Cassidy Halpin as Kristine, Gianina Mugavero as Val, Michael Hardenberg as Mark, Julian Sanchez as Paul, Nisa Mercado as Diana , Alisa Ledyard as Vickie, Camden Luck as Trisha, Christine Thalwitz as Lois, and Daniel Kingsley as Roy. 

“I think Heritage Theatre Festival audiences are going to be astounded by the talent and heart each of these performers brings to this piece. Time after time we found ourselves seeing and feeling something new from the show thanks to the unique perspective our actors were bringing from their talents and their backgrounds,” Steffens said. “The interest in each city we traveled to blew me away. I felt like I was actually in A Chorus Line, as ten groups of 35 dancers learned combination after combination in the course of a single day.”

Supporting the first-rate cast, Steffens said, is an outstanding design team that brings the same mix of national, regional, and local talent and vision. “Working with our design team on A Chorus Line has been a dream. Our Music Director, Greg Harris is a phenomenal musical talent and skilled collaborator who knows Heritage as well as anyone thanks to his long history of great work here; Lee Kennedy, our lighting designer is a professor at UVA who most recently opened Summer and Smoke at Classic Stage Company in NYC;  Alexae Visel, Costume Designer, has worked at such theatres as Yale Repertory Theatre and Theatre for a New Audience; Scenic Designer Chris Thompson was most recently working as the Assistant Scenic Designer on My Fair Lady on Broadway; Sound Designer Michael Rasbury is a professor at UVA and has worked regionally around the country.  It’s a strong team who is pushing me to think about A Chorus Line in new and innovative ways.”

The 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival season will be dedicated to the memory of David W. Weiss, a founder of Heritage Theatre Festival and former Chair of the Department of Drama.

Season subscriptions are currently on sale for the 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival season at the UVA Arts Box Office. Single ticket sales begin on May 31.  Subscriptions can be ordered in person or by phone at the box office M-F from noon to 5pm through May 1.  The box office will re-open on May 31 at 10am. Subscriptions may be ordered online at any time at artsboxoffice.virginia.edu. 

 

Box Office Extends Schedule for May

Haven't purchased your subscription yet? Don't worry!  You can do so online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via our Box Office page.  If you would rather place your order by phone or in person, the UVA Arts Box Office has extended their May schedule!  They will be open for subscription purchases on

  • Tuesday, May 1: 12-5pm
  • Thursday, May 3: 12-5pm
  • Tuesday, May 8: 12-5pm
  • Thursday, May10: 12-5pm
  • Friday, May 18: 10am-2pm
  • Friday, May 25: 10am-2pm

The Heritage Theatre Festival box office will open on May 31 at 10am for subscriptions and single tickets.

 

 

BROADWAY’S NIKKA GRAFF LANZARONE HEADLINES HERITAGE THEATRE FESTIVAL’S SEASON OPENING PRODUCTION OF A CHORUS LINE

Nikka Graff Lanzarone Heritage Theatre Festival is well on its way to creating one singular sensation with its 2018 season-opening production of the beloved Broadway classic A Chorus Line thanks to a stellar cast led by Broadway veteran Nikka Graff Lanzarone and an array of national, regional, and local talent.

The production, which will launch the tenure of UVA alumna Jenny Wales as Artistic Director will open on June 22 at Culbreth Theatre. It will also mark a UVA reunion for Wales and director Matthew Steffens, who met as first-years on the steps of Peabody Hall. Steffens, a noted Broadway actor, singer, dancer, director, and choreographer, is returning to Grounds for the first time as a professional and continuing a long and fruitful partnership with Wales that has seen them work together on multiple productions over the last 20 years.

While still six weeks away from their first rehearsal for the show, Wales and Steffens have logged plenty of miles and audition room hours, seeing more than 400 actors in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville. The hard work paid off in a stellar cast that combines a critically-acclaimed Broadway actress Nikka Graff Lanzarone, in the lead role of Cassie, with leading national and regional talent as well as some of the best singers, dancers, and actors from Charlottesville and the surrounding area.

Nikka Graff Lanzarone starred on Broadway in the role of Velma Kelly in Chicago and was a member of the original Broadway cast of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Lanzarone’s long and impressive resume includes Off-Broadway and regional theatre credits including roles in Sweet Charity, Seussical, Hello Again, and Zorba; Lanzarone has worked at such theatres as Long Wharf Theatre, The Goodman, Paper Mill Playhouse, and many others.

Lanzarone will be joined by Jim Moscater as Zach, Jesus Sepulveda as Larry, Emma Benson as Bebe, Camden Loeser as Mike, Hannah Kevitt as Connie, Jeffrey Marc Alkins as Greg, Helena Fay Thompson as Sheila, Kade Wright as Bobby, Ainsley Seiger as Maggie, McLain Powell as Judy, Mason Reeves as Richie, Josh Dunn as Al, Cassidy Halpin as Kristine, Gianina Mugavero as Val, Michael Hardenberg as Mark, Julian Sanchez as Paul, Nisa Mercado as Diana, Alisa Ledyard as Vickie, Camden Luck as Trisha, Christine Thalwitz as Lois, and Daniel Kingsley as Roy. 

“I think Heritage Theatre Festival audiences are going to be astounded by the talent and heart each of these performers brings to this piece. Time after time we found ourselves seeing and feeling something new from the show thanks to the unique perspective our actors were bringing from their talents and their backgrounds,” Steffens said. “The interest in each city we traveled to blew me away. I felt like I was actually in A Chorus Line, as ten groups of 35 dancers learned combination after combination in the course of a single day.”

Supporting the first-rate cast, Steffens said, is an outstanding design team that brings the same mix of national, regional, and local talent and vision. “Working with our design team on A Chorus Line has been a dream. Our Music Director, Greg Harris is a phenomenal musical talent and skilled collaborator who knows Heritage as well as anyone thanks to his long history of great work here; Lee Kennedy, our lighting designer is a professor at UVA who most recently opened Summer and Smoke at Classic Stage Company in NYC;  Alexae Visel, Costume Designer, has worked at such theatres as Yale Repertory Theatre and Theatre for a New Audience; Scenic Designer Chris Thompson was most recently working as the Assistant Scenic Designer on My Fair Lady on Broadway; Sound Designer Michael Rasbury is a professor at UVA and has worked regionally around the country.  It’s a strong team who is pushing me to think about A Chorus Line in new and innovative ways.”

The 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival season will be dedicated to the memory of David W. Weiss, a founder of Heritage Theatre Festival and former Chair of the Department of Drama.

Season subscriptions are currently on sale for the 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival season at the UVA Arts Box Office. Single ticket sales begin on May 31.  Subscriptions can be ordered in person or by phone at the box office M-F from noon to 5pm through May 1.  The box office will re-open on May 31 at 10am. Subscriptions may be ordered online at any time at artsboxoffice.virginia.edu.

HERITAGE THEATRE FESTIVAL EXPLORES THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IN ITS 2018 SEASON

HERITAGE THEATRE FESTIVAL EXPLORES THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IN ITS 2018 SEASON FEATURING
A CHORUS LINE, HARVEY, THE COCOANUTS AND THE MOUNTAINTOP

New Artistic Director And UVA Drama Alum Jenny Wales Unveils Slate That Mixes Powerful Contemporary Themes With Classic Fun And Will Feature
Leading Directors And Performers From Across the Country

New Heritage Theatre Festival Artistic Director Jenny Wales will mark her official return to her alma mater with a season that celebrates American stories, delivers entertaining and engaging professional theatre, and reflects on our uniquely challenging times.

Wales, a UVA graduate and Drama major, will produce a first season that begins on June 21 with the Tony award-winning, classic musical A Chorus Line. The season will also include the 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Harvey, the madcap Marx Brothers musical comedy The Cocoanuts and the powerful contemporary play The Mountaintop.

 “In putting this season together, I wanted to focus on the idea of looking forward by looking back,” Wales said. “What that means to me is going back to the 1974 founding of Heritage and its original mission to explore the American canon. We have this extraordinary collection of playwrights and stories that many of us know,” Wales said “and we will look at them through a different lens, allowing us to entertain while shedding light on the sometimes challenging realities of living in today’s world.”

A Chorus Line will be presented from June 21 through July 1 in the Culbreth Theatre. The production will be directed and choreographed by UVA alum Matthew Steffens, an internationally-acclaimed actor/director/choreographer whose Broadway credits include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown with Patti LuPone and Promises, Promises alongside Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth.

At the time of its 1975 Broadway debut, A Chorus Line was a groundbreaking, genre-melding force that incorporated documentary elements into the traditional musical theatre format to tell the real life stories of aspiring artists chasing their dreams. With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, the show would go on to become its very own “singular sensation,” winning fans around the globe with its sizzling dance numbers and collection of unforgettable Broadway hits including “What I Did for Love,” “I Hope I Get It,” and “I Can Do That.”

“We all know A Chorus Line as an incredible song and dance show,” Wales said, “and one of the quintessential modern American musicals. But its themes feel more relevant than ever. At its core, this is a show about the struggle to be seen for who you are and what you can bring to the world and it speaks in so many ways to the moment we are in right now.”

Next up, Mary Chase’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Harvey, will be presented from July 5-15 in the Ruth Caplin Theatre, and will be directed by Seattle-based director Desdemona Chiang. Chiang’s credits include shows at leading regional theatres and companies across the country including Seattle Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theater and Playmakers Repertory Company, among others.

Harvey is the charming story of Elwood P. Dowd, a kind and mild-mannered gentleman with a best friend who just happens to be a 6-foot-3 rabbit that only Elwood can see. When Elwood’s sister Veta prepares to launch her daughter into society, the family’s reputation is at stake and the wheels are set in motion for a story that shocks, entertains, and explores a variety of universal issues. “Harvey is about embracing exactly who we are, and about the love, hope and complications that family brings. It is a fun evening and provides us with a space to come together and experience joy.”

Joy is also at the heart of The Cocoanuts, a madcap comedy with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and a book by George S. Kaufman. In this new adaptation by Mark Bedard, The Cocoanuts comes to the Culbreth stage from July 19-29 and marks the Heritage return of actor/writer/director Frank Ferrante, who wowed audiences here in his award-winning one-man show An Evening with Groucho in 2014.

This time, we find Ferrante’s Groucho as the owner of a 1920’s no-star motel trying to bamboozle gullible tourists into toxic land deals as the great crash looms. Once Chico, Harpo, and company arrive on the scene, the comic mayhem meter goes to 11. “I had the pleasure of seeing Frank star in and direct A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum last fall,” Wales said, “and I was completely blown away by his talent, energy, and ability to connect with an audience.” Ferrante’s performance in Forum was recently cited by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 10 performances of 2017.

The 2018 Heritage season will close with The Mountaintop, which will be presented in the Ruth Caplin Theatre from July 26 through August 5. The Mountaintop will be directed by Kathryn Hunter-Williams. Hunter-Williams is a company member and director at PlayMakers Repertory Company and the Associate Director of Hidden Voices, a company committed to challenging, strengthening, and connecting diverse communities through the transformative power of the individual voice.

The Olivier award-winning play from Katori Hall is a fantastical imagining of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last night on earth. The story takes audiences inside room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 3, 1968, where an encounter between Dr. King and an anything-but-ordinary motel maid forces the civil rights icon to examine his own life and work. At turns moving, whimsical, and deeply human, Wales says “Producing this piece during the 50th anniversary year of Dr. King’s assassination and having it close almost a year after the tragic events of August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville, brings the opportunity for robust conversations around Dr. King’s legacy through this poetic re-imagining of his final night.”

The 2018 Heritage Theatre Festival season will be dedicated to the memory of David W. Weiss, a founder of Heritage Theatre Festival and former Chair of the Department of Drama.

Heritage’s 2017 season subscribers will receive information on how to renew their subscriptions for the 2018 season in March.  New subscription sales will begin April 2, and single tickets will go on sale May 31.

The Cocoanuts is pending final confirmation of rights.

For more information, visit www.heritagetheatrefestival.org.

David Weiss 1928 - 2017

Dear Friends,

It is with sadness that we share the news that David W. Weiss passed away on December 18, 2017. David may have “retired” from the Drama department after thirty-seven dedicated years, but he generously continued to offer care and support to Drama and the Heritage Theatre Festival. We are wholeheartedly grateful to David for his friendship and leadership –he will be dearly missed. Condolences may be offered to the family and memories of David may be shared atteaguefuneralhome.com. In the near future, the Department of Drama will join with David’s family to host a celebration of his life.

Sincerely,

Jenny Wales, Artistic Director, Heritage Theatre Festival

Colleen Kelly, Drama Department Chair

David Weiss obituary

 

That's a Wrap!

We so enjoyed having all of you in our theatres this summer!  Thank you for your tears and laughter, and for singing along, and for joining us for Talkback Tuesdays, Wine Wednesdays, Food Truck Fridays, and our Fourth of July picnic.  That was a first for Heritage and it was a blast!

Thank you to our 2017 Sustaining Sponsors: The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation and The University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and thanks to our 2017 Season Sponsors: The University of Virginia Department of Drama, The University of Virginia Arts Council, and the University of Virginia Office of The Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.  Many thanks to our Presenting Sponsors: 1st Dominion Title, BB&T, Charlottesville Settlement Company, The Compassionate Care Initiative of the UVA School of Nursing, Ednam Title, Michael Shaps Wineworks, Monticello Title, Real Estate III Title, Travinia Italian Kitchen, and Woodard Properties Developer of West 2nd and to our Media Sponsors: CBS19 News, C-Ville Weekly, WINA, WTJU, and WVPT.  Additional thanks go to our Community Sponsors: Clowns Without Borders, Payne Design Group, WNRN, and all of our volunteers. 

Heritage Theatre employed over 100 people to bring our summer season to you.  This talented group of artists, technicians, artisans, designers, actors, stitchers, directors, musicians, dressers, front of house staff, stage managers, and administrators worked tirelessly to create and present our season to you and we are so proud of the works they created!  Thank you 2017 Heritage Theatre Festival company – you rock!

Next year will be our 44th season and we hope you will join us for Jenny Wales’ (our new Artistic Director) inaugural season!

 

Interview with Robert Chapel

Welcome back to the blog! Today we managed to track down the elusive Bob Chapel and were able to ask him a few questions about his production of Company, which runs through Friday!

Hi Bob! Congratulations on a wonderful opening weekend! The buzz around the show is already amazing, and we wanted to do a quick follow up with you to learn a little more about you and the creative team’s process. You've been an integral part of the Heritage Theatre Festival for many, many years now - what was the process like when it came to deciding to direct Company? Did you bring the show to Colleen Kelly? Or was it something she wanted to do and knew you were the one for the job?

Colleen selected the show.  She called me up and asked if I would like to direct it and I said “yes."

Simple as that! That’s great. You and the designers have set the show in the 1970s - when the musical was originally written. What about the show made you want to ground it in that period?

Although the show is centered around the institution of marriage and deals with issues that are as relevant today as way back when, there are certain references that are very 1970s — “Will you call me tomorrow, or my service will explain” and scenes such as the dope smoking scene that would seem a bit dated were the show to be set in today’s world.  I also believe that there is less pressure to “be married” today than it was in the 70s.  The last production of the show on Broadway was a radical rendition with the cast also playing the instruments on stage.  I decided I wanted our audience to see what is a bit closer to what they would have seen when it was originally produced.  It was the show that really started to propel Stephen Sondheim onward to his extraordinary successes.

Company is a deeply personal musical, interlaced with a lot of wild characters and some pretty whacky moments - what work have you had to do with the cast to balance the comedy with the drama?

I always want my actors to play the truth — whether playing comedy or seriously dramatic moments (of which there a few in “Company”).  Comedy is very serious business and if actors commit to the moment, the situation, chances are the comedy will shine through.  I fortunately have a company of actors who understand this completely.  I am pleased with our comic moments and our serious moments throughout the evening.

So trusting the script and the performances to make that happen, that’s great. And now a little soft-ball: what has been your favorite part of working on Company this summer?

Working with this extraordinary cast — not only very talented but also very nice people.  Every day was a pleasure from beginning to opening night.

Thanks Bob, and congrats again on such a wonderful production. We wish you and the cast many broken legs for the rest of the run!

If for some reason you haven’t yet, go ahead and grab tickets from the box office tab at the top of the page!

Baskerville soars! And Company is waiting in the wings!

Can you believe it?! Only a week and a half until Heritage Theatre Festival says so long (farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye) to our 2017 season. It’s been awhile since we checked in with you all here, these last two Main Stage shows have taken a ton of effort from everyone around the festival, and if you can make it out to see them, we think you’ll understand why!

Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, is in the middle of its ALMOST ENTIRELY SOLD OUT run right now. And the audience feedback has been amazing. As you may have seen we’ve even had to add another performance this Saturday! Don’t miss this show! It’s a wonderful, madcap adventure, full of laughs and thrills, and one of the more technically intricate shows we’ve put on. Our production of Baskerville has over 200 technical cues, more than 100 costume changes, and features an entirely original score by Composer and Sound Designer Michael Rasbury. Tech week was especially crazy for this one! But now that it’s on its feet and running the production has been a true joy for all involved. Check out the box office link above to snag tickets for you and your friends.

While you’re there, don’t forget to get your tickets for Company, directed by the one and only Robert Chapel. Bob has assembled an exceptionally talented group of actors, designers, and technicians to tackle the challenge of a Steven Sondheim musical. While our production is set in the 70s, the themes it presents are timeless and several songs are considered to be among the best in all of musical theatre. Late last week the cast of Company got together with the orchestra to do what is known as Sitzprobe, a full sing-thru of the musical making sure that the actors and the orchestra are on the same page. Then right from that tech started! Moving platforms, magic candles, you name it and this show has it. Tech week has gone excellently here, and Thursday is the final dress rehearsal (basically a practice performance); after that Company is off to the races - and we couldn’t be happier. One of the actors said to us “all the show needs now, is an audience.” That’s where you come in dear readers! Get your tickets for Company here!

This is normally where we’d sign off, but like an old infomercial “There’s MORE!” Closing out our 2017 season is Barry Lubin as “Grandma” - one of the signature clowns of The Big Apple Circus. We also have a few other events on the topic of Clowning and the wonderful impact it can have on many different aspects of our lives - check out our Facebook page or the special events page on our website for more details! Well that’s it for us! Hope to see you at the theatre this weekend!

Heritage Theatre Festival to present Stephen Sondheim's Musical Masterpiece COMPANY

HERITAGE THEATRE FESTIVAL TO PRESENT
STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S MUSICAL MASTERPIECE COMPANY

OPENING JULY 28 AT CULBRETH THEATRE

Sondheim’s Groundbreaking 1970 Musical Explores Many Sides of Commitment Through Story of Bachelor on His 35th Birthday And the Lessons He Learns From the Couples Around Him

Featuring All-Time-Classic Sondheim Songs Including “Being Alive” and “The Ladies Who Lunch”

Directed by Former Heritage Producing Artistic Director Robert Chapel

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – July 21, 2017 – Heritage Theatre Festival is wrapping up its 2017 season with one of the all-time classic American musicals when it presents Stephen Sondheim’s Company.  The production will be directed by longtime Heritage Producing Artistic Director Robert Chapel, returning to HTF for the first time since his retirement in 2015.

Company, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth, will be presented in the Culbreth Theatre from July 28 through August 4.  Tickets for Company are $30 if purchased before July 28 and $35 if purchased on or after that date.  Student/Child tickets are available for $15 regardless of when purchased.  Tickets for this and all 2017 Heritage Theatre Festival shows are available at the UVA Arts Box Office (located in the lobby of the Drama Building), online at www.heritagetheatrefestival.org or by phone at 434-924-3376.

Company, first presented on Broadway in 1970 when it earned a record-setting 14 Tony nominations and won six Tony Awards, is the story of Bobby, a bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday on the outside looking in at the world of relationships and commitment.  Revolutionary at the time as one of Broadway’s first non-linear musicals, Company was originally conceived by Furth as 11 different one-act plays.  The plays and the subject matter, a no-punches-pulled look at upper-middle-class New York marriages, appealed to Sondheim.  He shared them with legendary Broadway producer Hal Prince, who agreed there was indeed a musical there.

In each vignette, Bobby is surrounded by different couples he knows, and he gets and shares an intimate an unvarnished look at their various relationships while they look back at him and his carefree independence with a good bit of envy.  The show is Sondheim at his brilliant and often caustic best, featuring a treasure trove of unforgettable numbers including “Being Alive,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Marry Me a Little,” “Side by Side by Side,” and more.

While Company marks the end of the “official” 2017 Heritage season, there is a special treat in store for audiences of all ages when International Clown Hall of Fame member Barry Lubin, the face of the Big Apple Circus, brings his iconic and irrepressible character “Grandma” for performances in the Ruth Caplin Theatre on August 4 and 5.

Parking for Heritage Theatre Festival performances is available at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, conveniently located alongside the theatres.

Nathan Whitmer as Robert (left), Timothy Read as Larry, and Lydia Horan as Joanne.

Heritage Theatre Festival to present Ken Ludwig's BASKERVILLE: A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY

The game is definitely afoot this summer at Heritage Theatre Festival thanks to its upcoming production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery – opening July 22 in the Ruth Caplin Theatre.

Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, directed by Colleen Kelly and Marianne Kubik, will be presented in the Ruth Caplin Theatre from July 22-29. Tickets are $25 if purchased before July 22 and $30 if purchased on or after that date. Student/Child tickets are available for $15 regardless of when purchased. Tickets for this and all 2017 Heritage Theatre Festival shows are available at the UVA Arts Box Office (located in the lobby of the Drama Building), online at www.heritagetheatrefestival.org or by phone at 434-924-3376.

The world’s most famous detective and his trusty sidekick Watson face down their most notorious case of all in this madcap retelling of the ultimate Victorian whodunit from the “mastermind of mayhem” Ken Ludwig. A stunningly nimble cast of five takes on nearly 40 characters, coming on and off stage almost as quickly as the twists and turns of this delightfully complex plot, as Holmes and Watson race against time to crack the mystery of The Hound of the Baskervilles before a family curse dooms its newest heir. The intrepid investigators’ search for the (anything but elementary) truth comes complete with a dizzying web of clues, outlandish accents, disguises, and deceit.  Does a wild hellhound prowl the moors of Devonshire? Can our heroes discover the truth in time?  Can costume changes really be that fast?  These and many more questions are just waiting to be answered!

Co-director Marianne Kubik said she was drawn to the story by its deft mixing of comedy and drama. “Ken Ludwig puts the entire Hound of the Baskervilles plot into this story,” she said. “But the unique thing that really starts to move it into the more madcap comic realm is that he has taken five actors and dispersed them across 38 roles. Two of these actors spend the entire play as Holmes and Watson. So there is a lot of energy and excitement in seeing these remaining three actors playing these multiple roles, often in the same scene. Then you add the fact that this is set in Victorian times and features period costumes and you have full costume changes that are happening sometimes in 20 or 30 seconds.”

Those changes, Kelly said are nothing new to Heritage Costume Designer Dorothy Smith, a veteran of the “Tuna” plays that proved a hit with Heritage audiences and featured only two actors in a similar number of roles.

The pace and complexity is hardly conveyed by sets and costumes alone, Kelly said, but falls largely on the show’s cast. “In addition to costume changes, our actors are often doing scene shifts,” she said. “They may carry a chair into a scene, or they may suddenly grab a door and walk through it.  They are really creating the environment or the audience.”  These added responsibilities plus a summer season rehearsal schedule made casting particularly important, she said.  “Both Marianne and I wanted to work with actors we knew and trusted, people we knew we could start with on day one, since we didn’t have the time to figure out how to work together.”

The cast includes UVA Drama MFA students Michael Miranda and Sam Reeder and Drama faculty member Denise Stewart, a Heritage audience favorite from roles in shows including Shear Madness.  Playing the roles of Holmes and Watson are Mark Jeter and Jeremy West.  “Not only do I know them and have worked with them,” Kelly said, “but they have also worked together before and really understand how each other works.”

Another element that is helping to set the many scenes is an original soundscape for the show created by Sound Designer and UVA Drama Department faculty member Michael Rasbury.  “Michael has composed an underscore of music for the entire show,” Kubik said.  “So you have chase music for a chase scene, for instance, and danger music when the hounds are imminent.”  The soundscape is complemented by a visual landscape created by Lighting Designer R. Lee Kennedy and Set Designer Batul Rizvi.   “The challenge from the beginning was how do we create this world in which the actors can tell this story, from the danger of the hounds and the moors to the creepiness of Baskerville?”

Despite the many moving parts and the extensive preparation that goes into a production like this, the goal, Kubik said, has remained simple. “What we want to do with this show is to thrill the audience.  That could be the thrill of suspense, of danger, or of comedy.  Because this is definitely a comedy, but it is also Sherlock Holmes, so there is plenty of real suspense there as well.  I think there are plenty of thrills to go around.”

The 2017 Heritage Theatre Festival will continue with the classic Stephen Sondheim musical Company, featuring all-time classic Broadway hits like “Being Alive” (July 28-August 4 in the Culbreth Theatre). Putting an exclamation point on the season’s proceedings this summer will be International Clown Hall of Fame member Barry Lubin, the face of the Big Apple Circus, who will bring his iconic and irrepressible character “Grandma” for performances in the Ruth Caplin Theatre on August 4 and 5.

Parking for Heritage Theatre Festival performances is available at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, conveniently located alongside the theaters.

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Thank you to our 2018 Sustaining and Season Sponsors