- Special Sections
- Public Notices
It’s been 25 years of songs, rehearsals, makeup and lights for the various county residents who’ve been active in the Brunswick Little Theatre since its first production of the musical “Brigadoon” in 1983.
The founding members weren’t so sure it would last this long, but now, two of the most active theater participants are honoring the company’s roots with a special tribute—a free, outdoor musical revue, or as the directors call it, a “Silver Review.”
BLT veterans Thom Clemmons and Debbie Skillman chose the songs, auditioned and rehearsed the singers and even contacted many performers from years past to put together an appropriate tribute to the long-running company.
The Silver Review premiers Friday night at Holden Beach and will run for three performances at The Holden Beach Pavilion before moving the following weekend to Franklin Square Park in Southport for three more performances.
It wasn’t easy putting together a musical revue featuring 25 years’ worth of performances, but somehow, the two made it happen. The cast of 17 is ready for opening night.
“The hard part was getting the music together,” Clemmons said.
The show features songs from “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Fantasticks” and more. Clemmons and Skillman made certain they included a song from “Brigadoon.”
“Debbie and I tried to find at least one song from every show,” Clemmons said.
Although they didn’t quite reach that lofty goal, they made sure the selections represented a wide range of styles.
“When we were able to find several songs from a show, we chose those that we thought were most recognizable by the audience,” he said.
Longtime BLT performer and choreographer Michelle Lawson choreographed the show, and Ann Richmond provides piano accompaniment.
Clemmons said they tried to find as many people who sang in previous shows as possible. “For those we did find, when possible, we matched songs with the person who had sung that song in that particular show,” he said.
For instance, Skillman and Sherrill Jolly sing “Never Say No” from “The Fantasticks,” which they performed several years ago, while Skillman sings “So You Want To Be A Nun” which she sang in both the 2004 and 2007 productions of “Nunsense.”
Jeanne Lee sings “If I Loved You” which she sang in last year’s “A Grand Night for Singing,” Katrina Roman sings the part of Golde in “Sunrise, Sunset,” which she sang in the 2005 production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Clemmons himself gets into the act with “Save the People,” which he performed in BLT’s original production of “Godspell” in the 1990s.
The entire cast of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” from BLT’s youth division, Stagestruck Players, join the cast in Act I singing “Baseball” and “Happiness.”
The start of a long journey
So just how did the Brunswick Little Theatre get started, and what’s the secret to its staying power?
The idea for a local theater company began with a conversation between Southport native Stuart Callari and two of her friends, Gloria Yount and Tricia Foy, who were “out for an evening of wine,” Callari said recently.
Callari had majored in theater at Louisiana State University and enjoyed everything about the craft—from acting and directing to building sets. She and her friends started talking about how their community needed a local theater group.
A few days later, “They called and said, ‘We’re starting it, and you will direct Brigadoon.’”
The Brunswick Players was born.
“Brigadoon” was performed at the N.C. Baptist Assembly’s Hatch Auditorium and went off without a hitch, but the first few shows were a hard sell, Callari admits.
“There had been a group that tried before, and unfortunately, they put the cart before the horse. They sold season tickets and couldn’t get it together. That hurt us to get funding and sell tickets, and that’s why we didn’t do a season ticket thing for a long time,” she recalled.
The community eventually warmed up to the idea, and the group performed about four shows every year, including a musical, a mystery and a comedy. Callari’s sister, Pat Pittenger, choreographed the musicals, and Pittenger’s husband, Paul, started the Brunswick County Band to provide the accompanying music.
After a few years, the group moved its headquarters from Hatch Auditorium to The Centennial Center, a former gymnasium at the Brunswick Community College Southport annex, where the group remained for about 15 years before moving to the college’s Odell Williamson Auditorium in Supply in 2005.
Callari directed every play at Hatch, and after the company moved to Southport, she began letting others take the reins. During that time, the group also underwent a name change, becoming “Brunswick Little Theater.”
Callari doesn’t direct the company’s plays since the move to Odell Williamson, but she hardly ever misses one. These days, she gets her theater “fix” assisting director Briton Campbell at the Southport-based Stage II Productions, which is headquartered across the street from her house in an the former Amuzu movie theater.
“Briton came to me at 12 or 13 to play Liesel in ‘The Sound of Music,’ and now she’s head of Stage II Productions,” Callari said proudly.