South Pacific was the first, so it’s appropriate that it return for the 50th.
And it will when Baton Rouge Little Theater opens the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical on Friday, July 6, marking the 50th year that the theater has been staging summer musicals.
But first, there will be a celebration, one that not only will incorporate songs from musicals past but will bring back veteran actors who performed them on the theater’s stage.
“Well, we won’t have any of the actors from that first musical,” Brian Pope said. “That was 50 years ago. But we will have local favorites who performed through the years.”
And all will be tied together by Pope’s direction and narration.
“It’s like putting together a 2½ -hour musical revue,” he said, laughing. “And we’re waiting for a lot of the actors to come in from out of town, so we won’t be rehearsing until the week of the show.”
This will be the week preceding Saturday, June 16. That’s when Baton Rouge Little Theater will stage this celebration in a show it simply calls Follies.
The show will be preceded and followed by receptions and will feature 28 performers in 28 numbers lifted from, of course, South Pacific to the 2011 summer musical Hairspray.
“We thought that would be good to end the program with ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat,” from Hairspray,” Pope said. “It’s symbolic. The beat has been going on for 50 years, and it will keep going.”
Follies also will include selections from theater’s fall and spring musical productions, as well as a preview to its special engagement musical Assassins to be performed in August.
Terry Bowman is the show’s musical director. Terry Byars is the accompanist, and Timothy A. Callais is staging the numbers.
Callais’ name also is on the cast list, along with Leonard Augustus, Erin Woodworth, Kevin Harger, Michael Dunavant, Mike Katchmer, Melanie Couvillon, Mary Pittman, John Salinger, Tyler Grizaffi, Kristy Coast, Don Hill, Cole Roland, Ray Gaspard, Hugo Andricain, Rosalind Reynaud, Nonie Banks, Phillip Chaffin, Laurie Regeur, Lance Parker, Chris Pyfrom, Ernest Ourso, Geri Carlson Sauls, Dana Todd Lux, Zac Denham, Celeste Angel Veillon, Jennifer Johnson, Terry Serio, Marian Beinvenu, Nancy Litton and Jerry Leggio.
“Jerry doesn’t sing anymore, so he’ll talk about his memories of performing in musicals at Baton Rouge Little Theater,” Pope said. “I’ll start off the show with a narration, where I’ll be remembering the musicals of the past. And as I remember them, they’ll suddenly be happening on stage.”
Performers will be dressed in formal wear rather than costume, which is appropriate, because Follies will be a party, complete with cake and champagne.
Tickets have been priced in two tiers, with VIP ticket holders given access to the pre-show reception, which features food and a bar, as well as to cake and champagne at the post-show party. All other ticket holders will be admitted only to the post-show party.
And that’s OK, because not everyone will want to attend both receptions.
“We also wanted to keep the show affordable,” Pope said.
Though the theater reprised South Pacific for the 25th anniversary of its summer musicals, there was no Follies -like celebration.
“We’ve staged different programs with music over the years, but this will be the first overall celebration,” Pope said.
Follies also serves as a fundraiser for the theater with all funds benefiting its programs.
Baton Rouge Little Theater was established in 1946 in Building 326 at Harding Field, now known as Metro Airport. The theater moved to its present home at 7155 Florida Blvd. in 1962, where it staged its first musical that year.
Now a half-century has passed. And it’s time to party.