With the sold-out success of Always…Patsy Cline and a new rehearsal and administrative building, STAGES St. Louis has been thrust into the national spotlight. When LN recently caught up with executive producer Jack Lane, co-founder of the 27-year-old nonprofit theater company, he was gushing—for good reason—about the overwhelming achievements of the latest season and all the new initiatives in store for STAGES as it blossoms into its next 25 years.
When your recent run of Always…Patsy Cline played to sellout crowds (even the additional performances sold out), what was your reaction?
It was a runaway success that has really taken us by surprise. This is the first time in our history that we've ever had this kind of success. Patsy Cline has a voice and music that cuts through the generations. It has gone through the roof, and we had to turn away thousands of people. So much so that there is a possibility of moving it to a different theater space sometime in the future, maybe late fall or spring 2014. As Patsy lead actress (Jacqueline Petroccia) said, We have lightning in a bottle right now.
What was it about the shows this season that made you choose to present them?
The whole season truly is about empowered women: whether it’s the real-life Patsy Cline, the animated character Cinderella, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde or Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Against all odds, they made a good life and were not going to let things get in their way.
Tell us more about your next show, Legally Blonde (July 19-Aug. 18).
Legally Blonde is one of the most fun Broadway musicals in recent history—and it has a message for all people—not just women. This is a show where we needed triple threats—stars who can sing, dance and act. When Michelle London (starring as Elle Woods) walks in the room, she glows and she’s funny, and then she opens her mouth and starts singing. And then she also can act. St. Louis favorite Ben Nordstrom also will shine as the male lead, Emmett Forrest.
Talk about why you brought back My Fair Lady (Sept. 6-Oct. 6).
We did My Fair Lady about 15 years ago. And there’s nothing that should be changed about it—it is the perfect musical. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, it stands the test of time. It’s so much about an underdog, Eliza Doolittle (played by Pamela Brumley), a flower seller who teaches Professor Henry Higgins (Christopher Guilmet) about not judging. Guilmet returns to us after a heartbreakingly good performance in our production of Camelot several years ago. It was truly one of the best stage performances I’ve ever seen.
Describe your new building in Chesterfield that now houses your front offices and soon will be home to a multitude of new arts programs.
It is a former synagogue in Chesterfield built in 2005 that we renovated. The 22,000-square-foot building has office space, a rehearsal stage and a lot of other spaces. It will be home to new programs, including American Musical Creative—new American musicals will be born there. This is taking STAGES into the next level. All of this is putting us on a national platform and securing STAGES into the future.
Describe the STAGES show experience.
The Robert G. Reim Theatre (377 seats in 11 rows) is the most intimate theater experience in St. Louis. With its continual rise of seats, the view of the stage is amazing. It’s a miniaturized Broadway house. What’s important when you go to the theater is to really experience the emotion of the arts. You have real ownership when you attend a show at STAGES. The shows are literally in your lap, even from the 11th row. The energy from the actors and the audience feed off each other. It is electric.
Take us behind the scenes at STAGES during the production process.
Our shows are built from scratch, so our productions are exclusively built for our audiences. In season, we have 150 staff members and there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
What is in the works for the 2014 season?
We are currently choosing the season for 2014. The success of Always… Patsy Cline is making us look at similar shows. Clearly, our audiences have been moved by the live music and the emotion of this show. We are humbled by the support of the St. Louis community—we have 9,100 subscribers. When they get behind you, they’re fiercely loyal.