It’s been an emotional roller coaster ride the last three seasons for the Chemainus Theatre. With the return to stage in 2022, it’s hoped the ride will be much smoother as the theatre rolls out its 2023 schedule and prepares to head into a new season.
It’s a season that offers a little something for everyone’s tastes in theatre.
“It’s a nice mix,” said managing director Randy Huber.
“There’s lots of variety in the season,” added artistic director Mark DuMez. “A lot of shows have two elements in them.”
So whether patrons prefer comedy, mystery, suspense, drama or music, it’s all covered in the five shows on the schedule.
“It’s five very different experiences,” noted Huber. “It’s a full range of theatrical experiences.”
“Two very new shows,” observed marketing director Michelle Vogelgesang. “They look very interesting. We’re pretty excited about the season, nice to get back to some new stuff and a bigger musical.”
A phased-in approach to seat selection begins with season tickets available to donors and then bookings and renewals for groups that come on a regular basis. They will all be notified.
Feb. 1 is the launch for season tickets for the general public, with single tickets going on sale Feb. 8.
There’s also an option to purchase three-show packages where “they get to choose the shows they want to see,” explained Huber.”
And for a full season subscription, “we’ve given a really good discount on that package,” he added.
DuMez has been busy arranging to cast the shows and that aspect is coming together nicely.
“We’ve got a couple of shows cast,” he said. “We’ll be auditioning early (in 2023) for the second half of the season.”
The theatre schedule got part way into its first show of 2020, The Marvellous Wonderettes, when the rest of the season got cancelled due to COVID. The theatre stage remained dark in 2021 before slowly opening up again with precautions in 2022 and shows with smaller casts.
“It’s nice to be planning a full season with some assurance,” said DuMez. “It’s nice to see the audience that’s been returning to the theatre.”
Without further adieu, here’s what’s on the agenda for 2023:
Naked Radio, March 3-April 2
DuMez immediately assures there is no nudity in this performance, despite the title.
Billed as a musical comedy, the show’s premise is two deejays hold a community together through music, laughter and song with a host of call-in characters and cheeky jingles after a powerful snowstorm – “something we know very much about on Vancouver Island,” quips DuMez – that cuts off the internet, cell phones and TV. All that’s left is the local radio station; thus, the naked part.
“They have to make up a radio show on the fly,” said DuMez of the deejays’ predicament.
“A third person on the show, she plays over a dozen characters calling in. It’s super funny.”
For those who remember Lumberjacks In Love when it played at the Chemainus Theatre, Naked Radio is from the same company in Wisconsin, Northern Sky Theater.
Gaslight, April 28-May 28
Two versions of the classic thriller, mystery and suspense yarn were movie releases in the 1940s.
The story involves a woman who believes she’s been living an idyllic married life with her husband. But she worries about losing her grip on reality when items start to disappear, pictures move and the gaslight dims. She searches for answers as secrets from the past are revealed.
This recent adaptation is from the Shaw Festival in Ontario.
“The detective has been removed,” said DuMez of one difference. “The heroine is responsible for basically sleuthing her own puzzle. It’s kind of a neat update. It changes the dynamic.”
Ghost The Musical, June 23-Aug. 27
DuMez said it’s “based on the film that featured the Unchained Melody as one of the featured numbers.”
Ghost The Musical follows young couple Sam and Molly whose connection takes a shocking turn after his untimely death.
Sam is trapped between two worlds and refuses to leave Molly, although she’s in grave danger as the bond of love transcends all challenges.
“It’s a bit of a mystery as well,” added DuMez.
The Fiancee, Sept. 22-Oct. 22
This is a new Canadian comedy, DuMez said, that’s a door-slamming kind of farce set toward the end of the Second World War.
“One well-meaning sister wants to send the troops out happily,” he noted. “She says she’ll marry a number of different people because she can’t say ‘no.’ When they come back, she’s in a bit of a bind.
“It’s a really strong Canadian comedy that played really well at the Citadel (Theatre) in Edmonton when it premiered. We’ll be doing our own version here.”
It’s A Wonderful Life – The Radio Play, Nov. 17-Dec. 23
This version of the beloved holiday classic is done with a clever twist as a live radio broadcast.
“It’s a kind of a simple actor-driven magical telling of the story,” said DuMez.
Actors each portray numerous characters and take on sound effects.
The story otherwise stays true to form with George Bailey realizing what life would have been like if he wasn’t born and how he impacted so many people in a positive light. With the help of his guardian angel Clarence, George has a change of heart from being downtrodden to recapturing the spirit of the holidays.
DuMez added the Playbill Presents cabarets that helped fill the COVID gaps will be returning between shows, with the performers to be announced.
The Playbill Dining Room will also have a buffet option returning in 2023 on Wednesdays during shows with a premium buffet on Saturday nights as well as brunch buffets for Saturday and Sunday matinees.
“I think patrons are going to be interested to know that,” said Vogelgesang.
The table d’hote menus will continue on Thursday and Friday nights.
The theatre looks to 2023 to rebuild momentum and that includes a Momentum Matched Giving Campaign for donors. Island Savings, a division of First West Credit Union, and Dr. Don and Joyce Hilton have collectively pledged $25,000 to the matched campaign of putting together the 2023 season.
“You incur a lot of your costs up-front and the revenue comes later,” explained Huber. “This is going to be a critical campaign for us.”
The vital financial support will help to restore capacity. The theatre ran at less than half its historical audience level in 2022, but the light is at the end of the tunnel again.
“It feels a little more normal,” said Huber. “We won’t get back to 2019 levels (in 2023) but we’d like to take a step in that direction.”