Managing director Randy Huber put himself on the record last year as saying a show coming to the Chemainus Theatre in 2019 would shatter attendance records.
It’s since been announced the distinction of going after the mark for packing the most people into the seats during its run rests with Mamma Mia!, on stage from May 24-Aug. 31.
“I’m sticking by that,” said Huber of his assessment. “I think this will be the new record-holder for us. After that, that will be a tough record to break.”
It’s not the only biggie on the calendar for 2019 so the full package of six shows will likely break the attendance record for an entire year as well.
Three blockbusters and three other shows that will surely generate plenty of interest during shorter runs are ensuring 2019 is going to be especially memorable at the theatre.
It all gets going Feb. 15-Apr. 6 with The Sound of Music that doesn’t need much of an introduction.
“Putting the big Broadway musical in the first slot is something new for us,” noted Huber.
“Some of these historic shows, they come up with renewed relevance in different times,” artistic director Mark DuMez indicated. “That’s part of the reason why you bring them back.”
Even though people know the story and the music well, there’s no doubt the demand for tickets will be high.
The rest of the shows on the schedule are: The Foreigner, Apr. 18-May 9; then Mamma Mia!; Mrs. Warren’s Profession Sept. 13-Oct. 5; Lumberjacks in Love Oct. 18-Nov. 2; and Miracle on 34th Street for the Christmas season Nov. 15-Dec. 29.
The KidzPlay show is The Magician’s Nephew July 13-Aug. 11 and the first studio theatre performance in two years will be I & You running Aug. 22-31.
The Sound of Music, Mamma Mia! and Miracle on 34th Street will sell themselves. The others will require audiences to think about what might be the most appealing to them.
“They get different experiences throughout the year,” pointed out Huber. “Mark balances that – type of show, setting and style of show.”
“I see that as trying to go wide and deep with the programming,” said DuMez. “There really is something for everyone.”
“We have to have pretty broad appeal,” reasoned Huber.
It’s always fun for the theatre staff to predict which of the lesser-known shows might resonate with the public the most.
“I put my dibs on Lumberjacks in Love as the darkhorse of the year,” said master predictor Huber.
DuMez, who’s been at the theatre now for 17 years, said the goal is always to maintain a high standard and continue to set the bar even higher.
The theatre has developed a reputation as a great place to work in the industry and performers enjoy coming here. New actors continue to filter into productions as well as many familiar favourites.
“You come here and you’re part of this company and you can put some of your urban cares away and focus on the company and whatever else you want to focus on,” said DuMez as an appealing aspect for performers.
The KidzPlay series also carries a special significance.
“That’s become such a lovely way for kids and families to come into the theatre for the first time,” DuMez pointed out.
“It’s really a very meaningful form for our theatre. It’s really about exposure to theatre and cultural exposure.”
Unbeknownst to most people, the theatre is already working beyond 2019 with its planning.
“I’m on 2021 right now,” noted DuMez. “For 2020, we’ll start doing rights investigations now.”
“The big thing is availability of titles,” added Huber. “It’s seeing what windows open up for us.”
If something unexpected comes up before the schedules of the following years are finalized, you can bet the theatre will jump on it.
This time of year always proves interesting for DuMez. He’s bouncing back between reviewing last year, living in the moment this year and obviously looking ahead to next year and beyond.
“You get this sort of annual vertigo,” he joked.
Huber wanted to express the theatre’s gratitude for the continued public support and many Chemainus businesses remain instrumental to its success.
“That’s the springboard for us,” he said. “It doesn’t happen without them.”