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Spotlight on the Riverside Dinner Theater (Part 1)

By • Nov 8th, 2010 • Category: Interviews
Riverside Dinner Theater
Interviewed October 20, 2010

Note: Part 2 of this interview will be posted on Tuesday the 9th)

Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio. Today we are talking with Patrick A’Hearn, the Artistic Director for the Riverside Dinner Theatre in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Thanks for having us over today.

Patrick: Thanks for having me.

Mike: We just saw your production of Chicago.

Patrick: Yes. Absolutely. It’s fun to be finally presenting the show here after trying to get it for awhile. It seems to be a crowd pleaser, which is always good when you are planning the season at dinner theatre. We are pretty proud of the production. We have a strong cast and our production elements are strong so we are happy to fill the seats.

Mike: So you’re halfway through the season.

Patrick: We opened with Footloose then Into The Woods and Chicago, so we will be halfway through after Chicago. We have extended it one week because of the demand for the show. There is a lot of repeat business so we decided to run it through Thanksgiving. Then we open It’s A Wonderful Life on December 1st.

Mike: And A Wonderful Life is not the regular radio version that a lot of people do?

Patrick: I did not even know that? Is there a radio version?

Mike: We do a lot of community theater. There are four different groups in the DC area doing It’s A Wonderful Life the Radio Version in December.

Patrick: Wow, I did not even know that.

Mike: We have seen it twice last year and a couple times this year.

Patrick: And it is like an old radio show?

Mike: They have a sound guy in one corner with different sound effects boxes and things and everybody has a script and they all dress in their forties outfits and they come up.

Patrick: That’s interesting.

Mike: So when we saw that we said, “my gosh they are doing that too.” But then the MC before Chicago saying it was a musical.

Patrick: It is a musical. We were supposed to have White Christmas. And then at the last minute they pulled the rights. So I believe the Barksdale Theatre in Richmond is doing it and for some reason they beat us to the punch. They have the restriction like we have the restriction for Chicago and they did not want to give it up.

Interestingly enough we are doing Hairspray next season and we have the restriction on that. Little Theatre of Alexandria wants to do Hairspray. It’s interesting how it works. They called us and said “Would you mind?” And we didn’t. Because I think everyone needs to co-habitate together. If all theaters do well, that’s a good thing.

This is a musical version. When White Christmas went by the wayside it came to the plate of let’s do The Sound of Music. I thought “oh boy.” The theater has done The Sound of Music twice. I joked with Mr. Wehman (the General Manager) and asked him what are we going to do with all these people who thought they were going to see White Christmas? And you’re going to go to them and say Oh don’t worry about it we’re going to do The Sound of Music and put a Christmas tree in the Von Trapp family living room and sing Christmas carols instead of Edelweiss? He said it was a good idea. I said, no I think we need to stay in the Christmas vein. Last year they did Scrooge. I didn’t know if going for the Alan Menken Christmas Carol was the right thing to do this season.

I discussed with him about doing a Christmas season spectacular that we would produce in house because I know a lot of theaters do that. Then I thought It’s A Wonderful Life. I remembered that Sheldon Harnik had written the lyrics to a production of that and thought that might be interesting. So we looked into It’s A Wonderful Life and we actually did our homework. We went on YouTube and listened. There are about five or six musical versions. The one that we chose is by a married couple Susan and Philip Kern, and Jerry Lowe. I just thought it was simple and the music was nice so we decided to go with that version.

Mike: That makes sense. That’s good. Try something different.

Patrick: Try something a little different. Everybody thinks ugh – It’s Wonderful Life, The Musical; so we tried to get something that did not detract from the movie. We wanted to keep it in the same vein as the movie. I think it’s a charming story and the music written for this particular production does not detract.

Mike: It’s still what people will sort of remember from the movie.

Patrick: Oh, absolutely it’s very true to the script. I would hate to say verbatim, but it’s pretty darn close to what you’ve seen. It’s delightful. It’s selling like hot cakes. Because we have extended Chicago for one week it’s only I think about four weeks then we go right into Hairspray which opens the beginning of January.

Mike: Then you finish with Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Patrick: We finish with another edgy show. Yes we are going out on a limb. I said to Mr. Wehman we need to be careful not to do too many of these. We had initially thought that maybe Whorehouse isn’t going to be everybody’s ticket in this area and we thought maybe the groups would not call and already the groups are signing up. I’m actually going to be back on the bill to direct that one. I really want to play up the country music portion of it. Really try to do authentic country. This is an area that loves country so rather than make it about what everybody thinks it’s about to really push the musical aspect of it in terms of the music aspect of it. So that’s what we are going to do.

Note: Part 2 of this interview will be posted on Tuesday the 9th)

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This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5818.

started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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