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Chemainus Theatre unveils show lineup for 30th anniversary season

Mix of comedy, award-winning drama and a summer musical blockbuster on the schedule

The Chemainus Theatre would have normally been at this stage sooner, but reaching the 30th anniversary season is a milestone the staff looks forward to celebrating with the public.

“We would have hit the 30th season in 2022, but we lost two seasons,” said managing director Randy Huber.

Related story: Chemainus Theatre staging a bigger comeback during 2023

Those COVID years are but a distant memory now, but the effects are still being felt at the box office and Huber hopes 2024 will be a big rebound year for ticket sales. Those pre-pandemic levels have yet to be attained since the theatre resumed programming again the last two years.

Behind-the-scenes work has long been under way for the 2024 season and some preparations have already started for 2025. That’s how far ahead the necessary groundwork must be laid.

But, first things first, and it’s on with the shows that will be coming this calendar year.

“We’re doing five main stage shows and then some auxiliary programming as well,” explained Huber.

It all begins with a curling comedy Hurry Hard March 22-April 14 followed by a comedic adventure Jeeves At Sea May 10-June 2, the summer musical 9 to 5 June 28-Aug. 25, award-winning drama The Piano Teacher Sept. 27-Oct. 20 and concludes with a holiday romance Miss Bennett Christmas at Pemberley Nov. 22-Dec. 22.

“The season’s kind of neat,” said artistic director Mark DuMez. “The centrepiece is the summer musical. We’re back to a fulsome musical with 9 to 5.”

Music and lyrics for that summer blockbuster are by none other than Dolly Parton herself.

“She seems like she’s always relevant,” noted DuMez.

Parton is still making waves in the industry and beyond, even as she reached her 78th birthday on Jan. 19. She defied the age spectrum by appearing in a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader uniform during a National Football League game in November.

Chemainus Theatre fans won’t get to see her in person, obviously, but the legacy of her music will ring true throughout the 9 to 5 production.

“There’s a tirelessness to her and her work,” reasoned DuMez.

Here’s a synopsis of the shows on the 2024 calendar:

Hurry Hard – A comedy by Canadian playwright Kristen Da Silva. When Bill and Sandy’s marriage splits up, so does their curling team. A medical emergency left the men’s team a player short on the day of the big regional bonspiel. Bill, Sandy and their friends put aside their differences and come together to make a winning foursome.

“Lots of laughter and good heart, too,” said DuMez of the play, not to be confused with Men With Brooms.

“In this case, it’s women and men with brooms,” he quipped. “Everyone gets a broom.”

Jeeves At Sea – Bertie Wooster revels in life aboard the Vanderley yacht, accompanied by his peerless valet Jeeves. When Bertie’s pal Crumpet assaults a prince, a madcap case of mistaken identities ensues, leading to Bertie’s doom or marriage? Jeeves will sort it all out – maybe.

This will be the fourth show in the Jeeves series, but it’s been a while. “Glad to see that series is coming back,” said DuMez. “It’s such a fun and frolicking world. Our audiences love the Jeeves series.”

9 To 5 – The musical is based on the 1980 hit movie, a hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era. Pushed to the boiling point, three female co-workers plot to get even with their egotistical boss. Violet, Judy and Doralee live out their wildest fantasy by giving their boss the boot.

The Piano Teacher – A play about loss, love, friendship and the healing power of music. When classical pianist Erin experiences a family tragedy, she’s unable to play music or even touch a piano. She meets an unconventional piano teacher who gives her new hope for the future.

The award-winning drama is written by Dorothy Dittrich, a long-time member of the Vancouver Theatre community who now calls Nanaimo home. She was part of the production team for Classic Country Roads at the Chemainus Theatre in 2022 as assistant musical director.

“She’s written this beautiful play about healing, how music and compassionate relationships make that possible,” explained DuMez. “Just really excited to have a nationally award-winning piece that’s got such a local connection.”

Miss Bennett Christmas at Pemberley – The sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is set at Christmas two years after the novel ends. Miss Bennett continues the story, but with middle sister Mary as its unlikely heroine. When the family gathers for Christmas at Pemberley, an unexpected guest sparks Mary’s hopes for independence, an intellectual match and possibly even love.

“I think it’s going to be a popular season with our season ticket holders,” summed up Huber.

“We’re going to have some of the Playbill Presents cabarets between the shows,” he added.

DuMez noted there will also be an Indigenous Film Festival to kick things off in 2024 March 8-9.

“We’re still in a spot where we’re rebuilding,” said Huber.

“This year has been a year of building back. We’re certainly not at the level of pre-pandemic.”

But there are signs of a definite rebound and Huber said he’s been pleased with the recent sales.

The support for the theatre through the pandemic by other means was encouraging.

“Audiences and sponsors, we’re just very grateful for the support,” said Huber.

With a little something for everyone, DuMez hopes the season will also attract some newcomers.

“Thirty seasons in, it’s nice for people to try for the first time,” he said.

Those looking for deals will find some at the theatre, including a three-show option.

“The sooner folks buy, the better seats are going to be that they can access,” Huber pointed out. “Planning ahead is always best.”

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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