Ritz Players take to stage for Putting on the Ritz rehearsals

Published 5:22 pm Friday, March 24, 2017

Some of the youth cast members of Putting on the Ritz rehearse one of their numbers on stage Tuesday night. Pictured, from left, Reagan McLain, Vivian Gates, Theo Bullard, Hannah Huggins, Amelia Gregory, Ann Katherine Smith and Jaxon Beck.

On Tuesday night, Ritz spotlights dazzled eyes new to its stage, as counts of “five, six, seven, eight” were chanted and performers worked on learning those all-important lyrics.

If it’s late March in Greenville, it’s full-fledged rehearsal time for the Greenville Area Arts Council’s annual musical fundraiser, “Putting on the Ritz.”

“I know some of you aren’t used to these bright, bright lights yet,” said Nancy Idland, both the executive director of the GAAC and the woman helming the production. “Work on learning not to squint—focus on a spot out there and keep those eyes open.”

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The 60 or so Ritz Players in this year’s all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza have been rehearsing for weeks in the theatre’s reception room. Tuesday night was their first time bringing some of the musical numbers to its historic stage.

The 2017 cast is a mix of familiar faces such as Vicki Burt, Lori Neilson, Tom Payne and Steve Norman, along with talent new to POTR, like Joseph Longmire.

“Joseph is just wonderful,” enthused POTR vet Jennie Hamilton, who will join both her sons on stage for the show.

“He does a solo to ‘Candyman’ and it’s great. We are missing some of our heavy hitters from past productions this year, but we also have some great new talent and I am so excited about the show.”

Promising “An Evening of Pure Imagination,” POTR 2017 is slated to feature a mix of the Beatles’ pop classics, along with other hits from over the past decades, from David Bowie to Cyndi Lauper and the Spice Girls to Adele. There will also be numbers from the popular kids’ film “Trolls” and Roald Dahl’s classic children’s tale, “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.”

Idland says each of the cast members is featured in at least four numbers. That means POTR seamstresses Joni Thomas and Amy McClain, with Idland’s assistance, have to put together 240 costumes–no small feat.

Fittings are underway and Hamilton says she is thrilled with her costumes. “They are so colorful and so much fun,” she said with a big smile. “It think they are going to look great up on the stage.”

Idland says this year’s show is a little more laid-back for its performers. “You know, in the past sometimes people have barely gotten through one costume change and a number before they had to race back to the dressing room for another change,” Idland said.

“This year, we are trying to make it a little more relaxed for the cast. So some individuals may not be in as many numbers as in the past, but we think they will enjoy the overall experience more. And the music we’ve chosen is so much fun for them to perform. I know the audience is going to feel that and respond to that. We are looking forward to another wonderful production showcasing our amazing local talent.”

POTR 2017: An Evening of Pure Imagination is slated for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 27, 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ritz Theatre.  Tickets, which will be available at The Pineapple downtown, will be $20 for adults and $15 for students.