South Charleston: Variety is spice of life for Opera House shows

Messenger photo by Mike Munden

Alice Moore (left) and Bill Young work on their vocals as they prepare for the South Charleston Opera House Players’ summer production. Shows are set for May 16-17.

In 20 years, the Opera House Players have diverged only three times from their usual summer play format to present variety shows—1989, 1995 and 2008.

Some of the folks who participated in the early variety shows are in this year’s production, which will take place at 8 p.m. May 16-17 at the South Charleston Opera House.

Bill Young and Sam Stuckey are among the repeaters. Thirteen years ago, they teamed up to do Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” They’re rehearsing it again.

When asked why they decided to reprise the skit, Young said wryly, “Because we’re good at it.”

When asked how long it took to learn the routine, Young said (again) wryly, “I don’t think we have yet. We don’t want to peak too early.”

The duo plans to dress like Abbott and Costello and deliver a close approximation of the routine.

“Me and Sam just work off each other well. We don’t get shook up if it doesn’t go exactly the way it’s supposed to,” Young said.

Like the other 20 adults involved in the production, dubbed “The Gas Light Gaieties,” Young likes the spontaneity and fast pace of a variety show.

“There’s something different happening all the time,” he said.

That’s what Director Rick Burton likes, too.

“We have nine skits planned and nine or 10 songs. We’ll have people come out and do one-liners in between the skits. Sometimes the curtain won’t even close,” he said.

Burton chose the variety show format as something different to celebrate the Opera House Players’ 20th anniversary. Next year, they might try a dinner theater, he said.

The origins of the Opera House Players lie in the community’s desire to maintain and enhance the town’s historic opera house. To raise money, a group of concerned citizens decided to put on a show in 1988.

“We hired a professional from Spring-field to organize the first couple of shows, but decided to save money and direct it ourselves after that,” said Burton, who has performed in all but one of the shows in the last two decades and directed a good number of them.

“People have fun with community theater. It’s fun to see people in a different light. You get to see teachers and profes-sional people up on stage acting silly,” he said.

South Charleston resident Alice Moore has been a regular on the Opera House stage.

“It’s one of those things that when you first start, you think, ‘I can’t do that,’ but then it grows on you and becomes part of your life,” said Moore, who has performed in all but one Opera House production.

This year, she will be part of two acts she first did in 1995: a quick skit and a “42nd Street” song-and-dance routine.

“This is my last year. I’m going to hang up my tap shoes after this,” Moore said. “I don’t know what else I can be. I’ve played everything from a saloon keeper to a witch doctor. I paint the scenery (I don’t know how many more coats of paint it can take.) I do the makeup… It’s been a blast.”

Maybe Moore’s fellow performers will talk her into keeping the tap shoes polished and ready to go for another 20 years.

Tickets to “The Gas Light Gaieties” are $6 and are available at Charleston Pharmacy or at the door. The Opera House is located in the upper story of South Charleston Town Hall, 35 S. Chillicothe St.

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