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Ritz Theatre sells out three consecutive nights for POTR

Something occurred in the Ritz Theatre last week that hasn’t happened for a very long time – perhaps not since its heyday as the local movie palace, when a blockbuster film arrived in the Camellia City.

It was also a first for the Greenville Area Arts Council’s annual musical benefit, “Putting on the Ritz.”

Three consecutive full houses were in attendance to enjoy the talents of 60 performers featured in the 12th annual musical beginning Thursday evening and concluding Saturday. It seems many patrons took this year’s theme of “Don’t Miss the Magic!” to heart, lining up all the way down Commerce Street, waiting for the doors to open at 7 p.m. each night.

On both Friday and Saturday nights, the show had to be delayed in order for the backstage crew and director Nancy Idland to assist patrons in finding the few lone, empty seats scattered across the auditorium.

“We are sorry we have this problem, but what a nice problem to have – to see so much support for all our performers,” Idland said Friday night. “This is really a historic occasion for us.”

The capacity audiences readily responded to the cast’s performances each night, from chuckling over the antics of the seven rather over-sized Snow White’s dwarves played by the Ritz Men, to the “sinister seaweed” Flotsam and Jetsam as performed by Ritz Kids Reagan McLain and Jaxon Beck. McLain and Beck also impressed as the impish young Aladdin/Prince Ali and Gus, Cinderella’s adorable mouse friend, respectively. 

There were oohs and aahs over Simba’s (Hollis Edwards) arrival on a most vibrant giant bird, followed by his comically fierce performance as the future “Lion King,” joined by Nancy Idland as his frustrated feathered mentor.

Other Ritz Kid standouts in this year’s show included Kalee Russell as a love struck Anna with Sterling Hamilton as her handsome prince in “Love is an Open Door” from “Frozen” and Stirling’s little brother, Stephen, as the lovable snowman Olaf dreaming of life “In Summer,” with Zoe Coon as the delightful dancing personification of all things pleasant and balmy.

Another veteran Ritz Kid, Anne Kathryn Smith, ably showed off her pipes as the wistful young mermaid Ariel dreaming of being “A Part of Your World.”

Former Ritz Kid turned Ritz Player, Mary Virginia Meadows, was a sweet and stunning Princess Jasmine opposite Turner Vickery in the beloved ballad from “Aladdin,” “A Whole New World.”

Powerhouse vocals abounded in POTR 2018 through the likes of Ritz Player veterans such Jennie Hamilton, Joni Thomas, Vicki Burt, Rosie Till, Stephanie Connor, Stacey Edwards, Lori Neilson, Madison Norrell, Joseph Longmire, Tommy Ryan, Wayne Ingram, Keith Gibson and Morgan Gibson, with newcomers Laura Simmons and Beth Cooper also “bringing it in a big way” in their solo performances.

As Idland explained to the audience on the show’s opening night, the POTR ticket sales help in a three-fold way: a percentage of the sales go back to the city, the owner of the fabled theater, to help maintain the Ritz for future generations; an additional portion goes to the POTR fund to help cover expenses for mounting the production each year, while the rest of the monies go to assist in paying the artistic fees to bring professional productions each fall and winter as part of the GAAC performance season.

“It’s been an amazing week for us and we couldn’t have done it without so many wonderful people on stage and behind the scenes . . .  it really does take a village to do this,” Idland said. 

POTR 2018 was under the direction and management of Idland, with David Norrell serving as choral director and Charlie Kennedy, with the assistance of Wayne Ingram and David Norrell, in charge of musical arrangements. Stephanie Connor, Christy Bozeman and Adriene Hicks were the show choreographers; Amy McLain, Joni Thomas and Pam Sexton served as costume designers and seamstresses, with Mack Russell and Dain Barnett in charge of lighting and sound and Mary Ann Hamilton presiding over the box office and ticket sales.