Venice Theatre plans a return to regular schedule next season

Jay Handelman
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Murray Chase, producing executive director of Venice Theatre, announces the company’s 2021-22 season including a return to a regular schedule, with Kristofer Geddie, left, the general manager and director of diversity.

After testing the waters with some small indoor musical programs last fall and this spring, Venice Theatre is preparing to reopen with a full season of plays and musicals for 2021-22, including some of the productions that were canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray Chase, the theater’s producing executive director, and other theater staff members, announced the company’s 72nd season for its mainstage, Stage II and Generations series in an outdoor event in the theater’s parking lot Monday night.

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There will be big shows beginning in January, including “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but the first part of the season will feature smaller shows that require fewer performers and more limited production values, including sets and costumes.

Chase said the season schedule was built around the need to adjust for continued safety precautions and because of construction and renovation to the theater’s production facilities that are due to begin in July and be completed by November.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we feel like we’re hedging our bets on how fast our volunteer team will be back, plus we’ll be going through construction and we’re not sure how much access we’ll have to the shop” where sets are built.

A scene from Venice Theatre’s 2019 production of “Assisted Living the Musical: the Home for the Holidays,” which will be revived in November.

Subscription sales will be somewhat limited before single ticket sales begin June 1.

“By then we should know if we can sell a full house to any of these shows,” Chase said. Otherwise, the theater will continue to limit audience capacity in both theater spaces until safety guidelines allow.

He anticipates a strong demand, mixed with some hesitation.

“I think we will get a huge explosion of sales when we open them up, but I’m not sure it will continue,” Chase said. “One of our volunteers was saying we’ve been isolated in our little pod for so long, it is strange to come out of it. The idea of getting people back in the habit of going to the theater is going to take time.”

The mainstage season in the recently renamed Jervey Theatre will open Sept. 24-Oct. 10 with John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” which features a cast of four playing multiple characters in a mythical town where locals fall in and out of love. It will be followed by “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, which has been a past hit in the theater’s Stage II series. It runs Oct. 29-Nov. 28.

Supporters of the Venice Theatre brought their own chairs and gathered in the parking lot on March 29 to hear the announcement of the 2021-22 season of plays and musicals.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” a musical built around the songs of Thomas “Fats” Waller, runs Jan. 14-Feb. 6, followed by “Beauty and the Beast” (Feb. 25-March 27) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (April 15-May 1). The theater will present the traditional stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel by Christopher Sergel, not the newer Broadway version by Aaron Sorkin.

The Stage 2 series in its 90-seat Yvonne Pinkerton Theatre, will open with the recent Broadway hit “An Act of God” (Aug. 27-Sept. 5) by David Javerbaum, a former “Daily Show” writer. The play grew out of a series of tweets by the author, who developed them into his book “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God.”

It will be followed by Charles Ludlam’s comedy “The Mystery of Irma Vep – A Penny Dreadful” (Sept. 24-Oct. 10); “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” (Jan. 21-Feb. 20) featuring one of the final performances of Billie Holiday; the musical “The Last Five Years” by Jason Robert Brown (March 4-April 3); David Harrower’s two-person drama “Blackbird” (April 15-May 1) and Chase’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (May 13-29). All but “Hamlet” feature just two performers.

The theater’s annual Summer Stock production for high school and college students will be a July 8-17 run of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein.” 

The Generations series, intended for family audiences, also includes the musical “Once Upon a Mattress” (July 30-Aug. 1); Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters” (Oct. 22-Nov. 7), which is set in a fantasy world; the theater’s annual musical production of “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 10-20) and the musical “Bugsy Malone,” based on the 1976 film with Jodie Foster and Scott Baio.

For subscription and other information: 941-488-1115; venicetheatre.org. Email may be sent to info@venicetheatre.net.

Jay Handelman, arts editor and theater critic, has been an editor and writer at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune since 1984. Read more of his arts and entertainment stories. And please support local journalism by subscribing to the Herald-Tribune.