Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Tickets on sale for Leavenworth Summer Theater’s 30th anniversary season

Leavenworth Summer Theater is known for performing “The Sound of Music” against the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains.
Leavenworth Summer Theater is known for performing “The Sound of Music” against the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains.
COURTESY OF STEPHEN HUFMAN / LEAVENWORTH SUMMER THEATER
Posted

LEAVENWORTH – General public and group tickets are now on sale for Leavenworth Summer Theater’s (LST) 30th anniversary season. This summer will feature Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and renowned “The Sound of Music” at Ski Hill Amphitheater. 

“Beauty and the Beast” will be directed by Tiffany Mausser. The original Broadway production ran for thirteen years and was nominated for nine Tony Awards.

“It's a rare opportunity, as Disney has put the show "back in the vault" for years. We were fortunate to secure one of the final licenses, making us one of the last companies in the Pacific Northwest to offer this special show for the foreseeable future,” said LST Executive Director Christy Shearer.

“The Sound of Music” will see the return of Autumn Manson, from Redlands, CA, taking on the role of Maria. Ernest Palmer will return for his sixth year as Captain von Trapp. The von Trapp children will be played by 14 local and regional youth. 

“This year, over 300 actors competed for 50 spots. Most actors are in both productions, changing characters from day to day. It’s a huge challenge!” said Shearer.

Shearer describes each production as a “year-long labor of love,” with over 100 volunteers and professionals contributing each year. The productions feature both local talent and performers from across the country, as well two live orchestras consisting of musicians from all over Washington State.The shows are selected a year in advance, and preparation starts right as summer productions end. LST works on set and costume design in the fall, and begins casting by February. 

Three decades in, the summer theater is bolstered by the support of schools, staff, actors, musicians, technicians, volunteers, and donors throughout the community. It garners approximately 500 visitors to each of its performances every summer. 

“Over our 30-year history, we've had over 350 von Trapps grace our stage, witnessed LST marriages, and now welcome a second generation of LST kids. That's the most rewarding aspect of what we do. We even had a real von Trapp family member attend a performance in 2022!” said Shearer.

However, the theater didn’t start as a success. In fact, the co-founders weren’t sure if it would survive a second year after a disastrous first summer in 1994.

The story of LST dates back to the 1980s, when actors Bill Weis and John Wagner became friends through the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre in Idaho. 

“At one point, John mentioned his desire to start a semi-professional summer theater to Bill, and Bill surprisingly and generously offered to fund it,” said Susan Wagner, LST co-founder and wife to John.

After researching various locations across Idaho and Washington, the founders chose Leavenworth to launch their theater. The Wagners would move their family out to the Bavarian town to start production. In addition to financing the first year, Weis and his wife, Marilyn Roy, would help with administrative tasks. 

In 1994, the Wagners opened LST with a summer production of Hansel and Gretel. The show was low in popularity, and ended in several weeks of cancellations due to nearby fires.

“Ticket sales and audience numbers were low, and at the end of the summer, we had lost all of the money that Bill had put into the theater. However, Bill encouraged us to try one more year, and said he would finance it again,” said Susan.

In 1995, they tried “The Sound of Music,” and the theater took off. The last show of the 1995 season attracted over 800 audience members, which was the largest show in LST history. Since then, the theater has switched to reserved seating, added and changed locations, and has produced over 50 different shows in its 30 years. However, “The Sound of Music” has remained a staple production every summer.

“It has been the mainstay of our continued success and longevity,” said Susan. 

This summer, both productions will be performed at Ski Hill Amphitheater, due to the end of LST’s permit agreement with the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in 2023. Next year, the theater will return to the Festhalle, bringing back a full summer lineup across both venues.

General ticket sales opened June 3 for the 2024 season, which will run throughout July and August. More information about the summer theater and tickets can be found at leavenworthsummertheater.org.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here