By Greg Stepanich
The closing in April of the Caldwell Theatre Co. after money problems forced it to dim its footlights was a blow to more than the company itself and its audiences.
It also was a shock to the whole South Florida theater system, akin to what happened last June with the shuttering of Florida Stage. But while that company’s artistic team, led by Lou Tyrrell, is coming back to life at Delray Beach’s Arts Garage, the Caldwell itself has not regenerated.
Abhorring the theatrical vacuum that left the Count de Hoernle Theatre empty, Entr’acte Theatrix has stepped in to bring theater back to the building on Federal Highway in Boca Raton with 10 performances this month of the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
Entr’acte was booked into the theater in any case before the Caldwell went under, but could have looked elsewhere after the building was foreclosed on. But Vicki Halmos, Entr’acte’s executive producer, said it was important that her troupe stay put.
“After thinking about it and talking about it, we said, ‘If we can do something to bring attention— not to the Caldwell Theater Company because I don’t think they have the wherewithal to do it or to save themselves — but certainly to bring visibility to the venue, then we should do it,’ ” Halmos said.
And she hopes that the community itself will rally around the building in order to save it as a performing space. After all, the bank doesn’t particularly care what’s there as long as it’s paying rent, she said.
“It very easily could turn into something else if people don’t start paying attention,” she said.
Entr’acte is an offshoot of Halmos’ Palm Beach Principal Players, which was founded to give theatrical opportunities to high school and college performers. Entr’acte continues the mission of giving performance chances to those players at later stages of their careers.
Written as a rock record in 1969 by Webber and his longtime lyricist collaborator Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar was considered edgy and even blasphemous at its stage premiere in 1971, but its catchy score (I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Superstar, Everything’s Alright) and its contemporary energy, similar to Hair and Godspell, have helped make it a staple of community repertory for decades.
For Halmos, the show — currently in revival on Broadway and in production for another revival in London, and done by her Palm Beach players about a dozen years ago — has a timeless message of establishment-shaking that is as fresh as Tahrir Square.
“It seemed to be relevant now because of all the uproar going on in the Middle East, and to bring attention to the political aspects of that,” she said. Specifically, to the idea of a rock-the-boat figure who challenged the status quo and made a revolution, Halmos said.
“You see a lot of that going on today, and it’s been going on through history,” she said, and yet it’s also contemporary. “It’s a young man’s story, it’s an idealist’s story, it’s a story for this generation.”
Starring in the show are John Justice Parker as Jesus, Anthony Nuccio as Judas and Val Roche as Mary Magdalene. The show is directed by Jessica Kris, and the musical direction will be handled by the veteran Roger Blankenship.
The show runs July 5 through 15, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets are $25, $15 for groups and children under 12, and $10 for students. Call 877-710-7779 to buy tickets or get more information.
Twenty years ago this month, three woodwind players from the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra decided to fill the time between seasons with a summer program of chamber music.
Now in its 21st season, the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival opens July 6 with the first of four weekends of concerts in three different venues countywide. The first concert in July 1992 at Palm Beach State College’s Duncan Theatre came about because there was so little musical activity during the summer.
“There was nothing going on in the summer. It was before Beethoven on the Beach with the Florida Philharmonic, it was before any of that stuff. There was nothing going on,” said bassoonist Michael Ellert, who founded the festival with clarinetist Michael Forte and flutist Karen Dixon. “And so we decided to do something in place of nothing.”
Among the works planned for this season are Bela Bartok’s Contrasts in Week 3 (originally written for Benny Goodman and Josef Szigeti), Schubert’s beautiful song cycle The Shepherd on the Rock with mezzo-soprano Sonia Santiago in Week 2, and Brahms’ beloved Piano Quartet No. 1 (in G minor, Op. 25), in Week 4.
The first week will offer music by Boccherini and Poulenc, and a major work by the unfairly neglected Franco-Polish composer Alexandre Tansman, who will be represented by his Septet for woodwinds, trumpet, viola and cello, written in 1930.
For personnel and financial reasons, the festival can’t be expanded as is, Ellert said. But early in the coming season, it’s possible the musicians will perform some winter concerts, perhaps as part of an Orpheus Chamber Orchestra-style ensemble.
Changes in schedule at the Palm Beach Opera and other ensembles have left some of the musicians at looser ends than they have been in the past, so the festival musicians are talking about filling up that time with a new venture.
“We’re trying to figure out if there’s anything we can do in September, October, November, before everything else gets started,” Ellert said.
The summer concerts are planned for July 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, and 27-29. Friday concerts are at 8 p.m. at the Helen Persson Recital Hall on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach; Saturday concerts begin at 8 p.m. at the Eissey Campus Theatre at Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens; Sunday concerts are scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Crest Theatre at Old School Square in Delray Beach.
Tickets are $25 per concert or $85 for all four; students get in free. Tickets are available at the door or in advance. To order, call 800-330-6874, or send an email to email@example.com.
Greg Stepanich is editor of The ArtsPaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.