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Newport Theatre Arts Center Reveals New Season

Rae Cohen (NTAC president emeritus) acting out a scene from “Dial M for Murder.” Photo by Sarah Whitwell.

By Eric Marchese | Special to the NB Indy

If you’re a fan of local live theater in general or Newport Theatre Arts Center in particular, you’ll want to mark your calendars for the 2024-2025 season, which was just announced at a live event at the Newport Beach venue.

The theater company’s annual season announcement event was held Saturday May 4 as a combination celebration and thank-you to those who provide financial support of Newport Theatre Arts Center.

But the main event – and the reason most were in attendance that day – was a reveal of the upcoming season.

A total of 70 patrons, supporters, board members and volunteers enjoyed a catered reception in the lobby, where they were invited to bid on numerous silent auction items.

The main event took place inside the Rae A. Cohen Theater, as board president Michelle Bendetti welcomed everyone and introduced her fellow board members.

She also pointed out the presence of Cohen in the audience, noting she’s “one of our charter members, was our president for 37 years” and that she’s still an active NTAC participant.

Bendetti announced that the program for sponsorships of specific seats within the theater has been put on hold due to ongoing dealings with the City of Newport Beach regarding NTAC’s future.

She said the theater “will continue to make improvements” such as to rehearsal and storage areas in the building’s basement, “just nothing major until we know our future.”

Thanking everyone who made the gala possible and acknowledging the many volunteers involved, Bendetti said “We couldn’t do it without all of you. This has been one of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had.”

Surrounding the upcoming season, Bendetti said she anticipates “excitement and energy.” She prepped us for the season reveal by saying that before announcing each show, the audience would be given hints and clues by various board members, volunteers and actors.

Bendetti introduced board member Rebecca Rubino, assistant director and dramaturg for “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and NTAC managing director Bob Fetes, lauding Fetes by saying “Everybody needs a miracle worker, and Bob is ours.”

Rubino and Fetes performed the song “Show People,” whose lyrics describe the excitement of being part of the glitter and glamor of Broadway musicals.

Suzy Cachero (box office manager) and Floyd Harden (board member) participating in a scene from “Rumors” by Neil Simon for the NTAC season reveal. Photo by Sarah Whitwell.

The hint given, the first show of the new season was revealed as “Curtains!,” a musical comedy mystery by Kander and Ebb and Rupert Holmes that premiered in 2006. The show, described by NTAC’s announcer as “celebrating and satirizing the quirks of backstage Broadway,” opens September 20 and closes October 20.

Board vice president Andrew Kelley and board member Bill Peters greeted each other on stage, one holding a Christmas tree and the other, a menorah, suggesting next season’s holiday show “Greetings!”

Tom Dudzick’s 1990s play transcends more ordinary examples of the holiday genre, layering family drama with light humor and metaphysical concerns. Summarized at NTAC as “a warmhearted holiday story about the virtues of acceptance and religious understanding,” it runs in the holiday timeslot from November 15 through December 8.

Board member (and frequent NTAC director) Floyd Harden and box office co-manager Suzy Cachero acted out a comedic scene about a couple making a frantic phone call to a doctor with their host in the next room trying to recover from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his earlobe, a scene from the 1988 Neil Simon comedy “Rumors.” The season’s only comedy, the show runs January 17 to February 9, 2025.

Actor Kyra Alvarez performed “Right-Hand Man,” singing the lyrics to board member (and set designer and builder par excellence) Jim Huffman. The number is from the 2015 musical “Something Rotten,” alternately billed as “a very new musical” and “a hilarious musical smash.”

Set in England in 1595, the show by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell depicts two show-biz crazy brothers competing with Shakespeare for attention by and recognition from the theater-going public and being frustrated and thwarted at every turn.

NTAC synopsizes “Something Rotten” as “a clever and hilarious satire of musical theater and an exuberant celebration of the arts, creativity and the sheer joy of musicals” and is running it from March 14 to April 13.

Bendetti and fellow board member Lori Kelley acted out a scene between wives and moms Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs, whose names tipped off next season’s fifth show as “Our Town.”

The show was described as “the timeless American play by Thornton Wilder” that covers “the universal themes of life, love and death and the transient nature of human existence.” Referred to as “a simple yet powerful portrayal of ordinary life,” “Our Town” runs May 9 through June 1.

Board president emeritus Cohen has, surprisingly, never set foot on the NTAC stage – until last weekend when, during the reveal, she made her debut in the space bearing her name.

Cohen pulled on a pair of latex gloves, then sat at a desk and used a pencil to dial an old-fashioned rotary phone – enough to suggest Frederick Knott’s “Dial M for Murder.”

The classic murder mystery, we were told, deals with “betrayal, greed and the perfect crime” and is known for “its crisp dialogue, tight narrative and thrilling suspense.” Running June 27 to July 20, “Dial M” closes the new season.

After the reveal, board vice-president Andrew Kelley noted that in selecting the six finalists, the board was “definitely trying to build on the momentum of the highly successful season we’re now in the middle of. If there’s a theme, it’s that we have something for all, whether you enjoy musicals or murder mysteries or slapstick farce.”

Kelley noted that as with the current season, both musicals slotted are fairly recent. Whereas NTAC opened this season with “The Addams Family” and just wrapped “The Drowsy Chaperone,” next season features “Curtains” (from 2006) and “Something Rotten” (from 2015). With these four, NTAC is showing a propensity for presenting contemporary musicals not widely seen in Orange County.

The success of “Inspecting Carol” this past Christmastime, Kelley explained, prompted the board to seek another holiday show for the second slot of the upcoming season – hence “Greetings.”

“Dial M” is cited by Kelley as “an old school murder mystery,” and he deems the Wilder masterpiece “Our Town” as “an absolute classic. Whether you’re a young or veteran theatergoer, it resonates today. It still plays. It still works.”

Kelley told the Indy that NTAC hasn’t yet released the names of the six directors slated for next season, but indicated all six are directing at NTAC for the first time and noted that most have worked extensively throughout Southern California and are well known to local audiences.

Newport Theatre Arts Center, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach. Purchase / information: 949-631-0288,

The post Newport Theatre Arts Center Reveals New Season appeared first on Newport Beach News.

Source: Newport Beach Independent

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