ALBANY — Theatre Albany is embarking on a performance season that will be heavy on music and comedy, and light in tone.
“(Theater-goers) want to have fun,” Doug Lorber, vice president of the Theatre Albany Board of Directors, said. “They want to escape, go out somewhere. They don’t want to think about stuff, just enjoy the music and laugh. That’s what our intentions are.
“Plus, there are so many talented singers in this town. They need somewhere to hone their craft.”
There should be plenty of honing — as well as laughs and songs — in the coming season, on which the curtain rises in September with the musical “Oklahoma!” The first casting call, conducted just before Independence Day, drew about 15 prospective cast members, with two more auditions to follow.
Lorber, a longtime Theatre Albany actor, said with musicals, the cast, director and crew need more time to prepare than with comedies and dramas.
“With musicals, you have to rehearse more — six to eight weeks,” he said.
That is the reason the theater has scheduled three performances during the first half of the season and two in the second half.
“Last year, we did a musical, a kids’ show for Christmas, two comedies, and we ended with a musical,” Lorber said. “This year, we’re going to do a musical, a comedy and a kids’ show by the end of the (calendar) year, and then do two big musicals to end the (performance) year.”
“Oklahoma!” is scheduled to run Sept. 13-15 and 20-22. It will be followed by “The Nerd” in October and “Annie Jr.” in December. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will come to the stage in February, with the season wrapping up in late April and early May with “Mamma Mia!”
This season, Theatre Albany will continue to utilize guest directors. Diane Giddens is directing “Oklahoma!” with Gary Unger handling the music. Directors and dates for the remainder of the season should be approved by the board soon, said Lorber, who has guest-directed and is expected to get an assignment this season.
The theater has started selling season subscriptions, which are flex passes with vouchers that are good for any show in any combination. For example, an individual could use all six vouchers in the basic six-ticket pass to see every performance of “Oklahoma!,” or to see each of the five shows, including one twice. A couple could purchase a six-voucher pass and see three shows together. There are a number of combinations in which the passes can be used, and the flexibility has been popular with theater goers.
This season, the cost of flex packs is slightly higher than last season. The six-ticket pass is $120, up $10 from last year, and the 12-ticket passes, at $240, are up $20.
“Because we’re doing more musicals (which are more expensive to produce), the costs are a little higher,” Lorber said. “But you’re still getting six tickets instead of five, so you’re still getting a free show for the same price.”
Season flex packs can be purchased online at theatrealbany.com. Lorber said the online ticketing system “has been great” and noted the theater’s website has been freshened and improved.
“The only thing missing from it now is pictures from previous shows,” he said. “We’re going to try to set up an archive. Gordon Wright (a volunteer who has been organizing Theatre Albany records and documents) has done an amazing job of getting things together.
“He has programs from close to Day 1 (the theater organized in 1932), and he’s got them in order. He’s been there about a year now, just doing that stuff out of the goodness of his heart.”
The theater has seen other improvements as well, Lorber said.
“It looks nice,” he noted. “Randy (Henry, an Albany contractor) redid the hallways and bathrooms. The porch looks great.”
Other needs also are being addressed. Last month, the theater benefited from a successful fundraiser titled “Light Up the Stage with Marcy and Friends.” The cabaret-style show and auction conducted at the former Newman’s restaurant on Meredyth Drive raised about $11,000 toward the purchase of a new lighting system, Lorber said.
“It was fantastic,” he said, “and Marcy (McCarty) did an outstanding job. Everybody did.”
Theater officials are also looking at other funding sources for the project.
“We’re in the process of writing a grant to the Fox Theatre,” Lorber said. “They have a thing called the Preservation Grant, which is a matching grant.”
But McCarty and her dozen or so friends who wowed the crowd last month likely will have an encore next June.
Following an assessment of the fundraiser, the theater board “agreed to do it again at a bigger venue that can hold maybe 300 people and where the air works a little bit better, because it was a little toasty,” Lorber said.
A traditional December fundraiser also is returning, he said.
“We’re bringing back the Tour of Homes this year,” Lorber announced. “We had to forgo it last year because of the storm. We’re looking for homes now, so if anyone’s interested, let us know.”
While the lighting system is the No. 1 need, the theater also needs new sound and fly systems. The latter allows backdrops to be suspended above the stage and lowered as needed during a play. That makes scenery changes easier and more attractive than rolling pieces onto the stage.
“Once we get all these funds we hope to get, Randy Henry is in charge of our fundraising and he has some great ideas,” Lorber said.
Meanwhile, Lorber said he likes the script the theater is following these days.
“I’m really excited about the direction the theater’s going in now,” he said. “Our goal is to get back to the glory days of the early ’90s when we had over 2,000 subscribers. There’s an incredible energy on the board now and everybody’s excited.”