At the opening for the Woodstock Playhouse last Thursday night, June 30, it seemed one could hardly fit another body into the western lobby for the newly revived theater, now up and running as a bonafide high-energy Summer Stock theater care of the folks who’ve been bringing us all that the New York Conservatory of the Arts has been producing for years now.
Older folks, full and part-time Woodstockers, tried and recalled the last thing they’d seen at the Playhouse. Or dropped names of later stars they saw getting their starts on its stage. Occasionally, someone would bring up the horrors of the fire that brought it all to an end 24 years ago. Then corrected their use of a terminal noun.
Town supervisor Jeff Moran spoke to all about his years as an actor, raced through a personal memory of the Playhouse, and ended with an ode to theater’s role in bringing him together with his wife, Dion Ogust (who took the images accompanying this piece). Randy Conti, the evening’s producer and impresario, introduced his parents, who got him infected in show biz, and brought their Pan American Dance Company north a quarter century ago, to everyone he hobnobbed with.
Dress was casual elegance, Wine flowed. Hors d’ouervres, ranging from peeled vodka-filled cherry tomatoes to Marscapone tubes and several unnamable appetizers, kept threatening to steal the lead as conversation topic for the evening.
And then it was showtime.
From the moment the lights came up on the spare set and full, talented cast practicing dance steps in unison for the story-within-stories theatrical conceit that is A Chorus Line, straight through to same cast’s gold lame suited high-kicking and full-throated finale, everyone seemed enthralled.
Okay, so a couple of people left early. Some complained that the air conditioning was turned too high. Others murmured that the sound mix needed adjusting, yet.
Fooey… chalk that all up to the sort of “Doesn’t this suck” talk we spent our college years lobbing about. By show’s end, two hours in without an intermission, everything was working perfectly in gear. The live band was impeccable, the singing, dancing, acting and casting spot-on and effective. Best of all, the timing was fast, eye-catching, yet modulated just enough to lend the show the roller-coaster feel it needs. Everyone had fun and came out grinning.
Over champagne and assorted desserts, County Executive Mike Hein talked about this historic night “when theater was reborn in Woodstock,” lit up as if he were one of the actors playing an actor auditioning with all he had.
Stepping out into the starlit night, volunteers ushered audience members to where they’d parked their cars on the Playhouse lawn, as smiling and attentive to everyone as they were at the night’s start.
Every detail seemed to have been thought of, then handled with not only care, but enthusiasm and pride. The costumes were all perfect, the concessions, the attendees, the greeters. It felt both homey and professional.
On Saturday, July 9, there is an opening for the art show up in the Playhouse’s two new lobbies, by the lady artists of the Green Garden Goddesses, a group of Columbia, Greene and Ulster County residents who have showed similarly a few times before. The work is diverse, in various media, yet all garden-themed. Members include Portia Munson, Tasha Depp, Christie Rupp, Virginia Brill, Cate Woodruff, Dina Palin, Ruth Leonard, Sasha Chermayeff… and my wife, Fawn Potash. It’s open to the public, for all those curious to take a peak in the town’s new treasure, and runs from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
There are only four more performances of A Chorus Line before this season’s second rouser, Anything Goes, opens on July 15. Get tickets now…it’s a great experience.++
For further information, head over to the box office at the Playhouse Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2:00 to 5:00 PM, and Sundays from 12 noon through performance time at 2:00 PM Or call 679-6900 during Box Office hours, or visit their website at www.woodstockplayhouse.org.
For more opening night photos, see www.dionphoto.com/PLAYHOUSE