The Lutcher Theater has experienced much in its 35-year-history — hurricanes, recessions, a change in direction from more traditional opera and symphony shows to Broadway-style productions. Not only has the non-profit professional performing arts theater endured these challenges, but it has also evolved into one of the most respected venues in the area, offering high-class entertainment one might expect to see in Houston, Dallas and other major U.S. cities.
“As the Euro became more valuable, it became expensive to get overseas artists to come over … and as the casinos began developing … they started presenting pop stars, so the competition to present those stars has gotten steeper,” said Jim Clark, managing director of Lutcher Theater. “We’ve decided that Broadway is our niche. Those shows have gotten a lot bigger. When we started out, those shows would have one truck and now have three to eight 18-wheelers to load in their sets.”
Clark said the Board of Directors is excited about the theater’s success throughout the years, and to the benefit of Southeast Texas theatergoers that success has culminated with this 35th Lutcher Theater season lineup, which looks to be shaping up as one to remember.
Two Bill Cosby performances set for Thursday, July 24, and Friday, July 25, immediately sold out, delighting both Cosby and the Lutcher, Clark said.
“We are really excited. Mr. Cosby was really excited when he found out how fast we sold out the first show,” Clark said. “After we sold out, the promoter was talking to him about adding another show, and Mr. Cosby said he’d love to but he had to check with Mrs. Cosby first. It really tells you a lot about his family.”
Following sold-out shows from the Bill Cosby Far From Finished Tour, the first-class Lutcher lineup continues with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band on Tuesday, Sept. 9. Coupled with his gift for storytelling, Texas-based musician Lyle Lovett fuses elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, gospel and blues in a convention-defying manner that breaks down barriers.
“Lyle opened for us on our 30th anniversary. We’re excited that Lyle is coming back again five years later,” Clark said. “His show is just unbelievable — the quality, the musicianship. We saw him at The Austin City Limits (Music Festival) last September and were just blown away with how great that show was. Because he lives just north of Houston, Lyle likes to come over here, likes this area. So we’re excited we’re going to get Lyle back again.”
Clark said he was equally excited about Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild Live, scheduled for Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Recognized around the country as America’s favorite zookeeper, Jungle Jack Hanna’s live show features many of his favorite animal friends, as well as fascinating and humorous stories and footage from his adventures around the world.
“Jack is a performer,” Clark said. “What I love about him is he brings these animals out on stage and talks about them and educates the audience about … conservation. It gets kids and families in the theater. They have a great time. “
For those who favor traditional plays, I Love Lucy Live On Stage on Tuesday, April 28, and Wednesday, April 29, 2015, are can’t miss performances, Clark insisted.
“It’s two live segments of the Lucy show done on stage, and they do them just as they would have done them in the Desilu Studios with cameras and all that there,” he said. “It’s as if you are in the studios with them filming the TV shows.”
There are several musicals that Lutcher audiences will have the opportunity to see for the first time as well including Sister Act set for Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014; Flashdance The Musical scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015; and Nice Work If You Can Get It, a musical with a score by George and Ira Gershwin coming to Lutcher on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014.
Another musical that should draw fans of 1950s Broadway, Guys and Dolls, is set in Damon Runyon’s mythical New York City. This oddball romantic musical comedy soars with the spirit of Broadway and features a cast of vivid legendary characters: Sarah Brown, the upright “mission doll,” Adelaide, nightclub performer, and Nathan Detroit, organizer of infamous floating craps games, and Sky Masterson, high rolling gambler, played by Nederland’s own Matthew John Taylor, who wowed audiences at his first-ever Lutcher performance in Cats in 2011.
“There’s nothing like performing for a hometown crowd,” said Taylor, who has spent the last two years teaching and studying music at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. “It was electric. Southeast Texas audiences really know how to treat touring companies. It was wonderful, and I look forward to doing it again.”
Taylor said Guys and Dolls is an endearing production to him because it was his first theater experience during his teen years at Nederland High School.
“It holds an extremely special place in my heart,” he said. “I did Guys and Dolls, my first production, following a pretty girl to audition.”
Taylor said Guys and Dolls offers something for everyone.
“The show is a really, perfect blend of sidesplitting comedy … and a warm love story,” Taylor said. “Whether you’re looking for slapstick or true, intense passion or whether you’re looking for something that’s light and enjoyable, it really covers all of those bases with a score that — in the 1950s — was really pushing the boundaries of jazz and classical music theater. It’s a really wonderful show.”
Taylor said his own special memories growing up as a child attending performances at the Lutcher Theater inspired him to become an actor, himself.
“I can legitimately say the moment I knew I had to be a performer. I was seeing The Scarlet Pimpernel — the first show I’d ever seen at the Lutcher,” Taylor said. “My high school choir director took me as a freshman in high school. It was hysterical and beautiful. We laughed. We cried. It was just wonderful. I will never forget that.”
For those who wish for memories such as Taylor’s, there are special season packages the Lutcher Theater is offering for the upcoming season.
Options include a Premiere Package of season tickets for patrons desiring to attend 10 to fifteen shows. This package ranges in price from $310 to $819 per person, depending on seat location and show selection.
For patrons desiring four to nine shows, the Spotlight Saver Package is available, allowing the opportunity to create custom combination packages. This package ranges in price from only $80 to $590 per person, depending on seat location and show selection.
There are several benefits to buying a package of season tickets. With season packages, patrons’ entertainment plans are set for the season; they have ticket exchange privileges and enjoy the perk of having great seats show after show. Premiere Package Subscribers (10-15 shows) get the best seats in the A section – center orchestra. Spotlight Packages (4-9 shows) give subscribers discounted seats in the side orchestra and balcony.
“Folks that don’t buy tickets ahead of time miss shows,” Clark said. “They don’t put them on the calendar and miss them. The folks that make a plan remember to come. They’ve invested in it and get themselves there. We send them e-mails and remind them that they’ve got tickets.”
Season ticket holders are also the first to learn about upcoming added events. When the Lutcher Theater had the opportunity to add summer performances of Bill Cosby, season ticket holders were the first to hear of the news and have the opportunity to purchase tickets. The first performance sold out to the public in one day and the second performance sold out in one month.
Finally, season ticket holders enjoy the advantage of purchasing tickets before single tickets go on sale to the public, scheduled this year for Aug. 15, 2014.
Clark said that audiences can expect nothing but the best from Lutcher Theater now and well into the future.
“There is some new product coming off of Broadway that has been touring in the major cities, and they’ll scale those down where they can play in our halls also pretty soon … which is really exciting,” he said.
Clark said that unlike many unhealthy habits that some of us pick up, attending theater is one that can have rewarding benefits.
“Theater is a habit you develop that enriches your life,” he said.
For a schedule of dates and times for upcoming Lutcher Theater events, see page 12-13B.
For more information on Lutcher Theater or to order tickets call (409) 886-5535 or visit www.lutcher.org .
Lutcher Theater Kids’ Series
The Lutcher Theater Kids’ Series is a great way to introduce children to the wonderful world of theater.
Jim Clark, managing director of Lutcher Theater, said there are about eight kids’ shows as part of the series this year, including Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train Live: Buddy’s Big Adventure, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015; School House Rock! Live, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014; and Junie B. in Jingle Bells Batman Smells.“Fifteen thousand kids from area schools attend our (kids’ series) every year,” Clark said. “We have national and mostly international companies these days doing daytime performances for kids. We’ve got some really great daytime shows that are $4 a ticket. It makes it affordable for the schools to be able to bring their kids to fulfill their arts components; it introduces kids to the theater; it enriches families’ lives.”
For more information and complete lineup of shows, call (409) 886-5535 or visit www.lutcher.org .