There are two great options for live theater in downtown Sanford. Here’s a preview of upcoming shows at Theater West End and the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center.
WDPAC is a Dream
When it was first suggested to Kyona Levine Farmer that she helm a production of the musical Dreamgirls, the director wasn’t too enthusiastic.
Kyona was familiar with the 2006 hit movie version of Dreamgirls but was a bit put off by the film’s commercialized style-over-substance. It was only when she began studying the original Broadway version that Kyona got excited about the show’s themes of friendship, betrayal, and dreaming big.
Now, she is eager to share her Dreamgirls vision with theater-goers. Kyona’s production company, SparKyL Entertainment, will present the classic musical in mid-March in cooperation with the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center.
“I’m a storyteller,” Kyona says. “My goal is to give every audience member something they can relate to in this show.”
Dreamgirls, a Tony Award-winning musical, tells the tale of the Dreamettes, a trio of black singers who yearn for stardom. The girl group’s struggles and triumphs are set against the backdrop of the entertainment industry and its inner-workings.
Steve Nelson, WDPAC’s treasurer and the show’s producer, pitched the musical to Kyona. He has been a fan of the show for years and considers it a good fit for the historic community theater.
“I’ve wanted the theater to do Dreamgirls for a long time because it has a great story, wonderful music, and gives the theater the opportunity to showcase some outstanding African-American talent,” Steve says.
The musical features catchy songs with a distinctly Motown vibe, which Steve says is one of its strongest selling points. Some of WDPAC’s most popular offerings in recent years have been Motown tribute concerts, which have drawn sell-out crowds. Steve expects Dreamgirls to have the same sort of audience appeal.
“Dreamgirls will introduce some new folks to Sanford and to what our theater is,” Steve says. “I think that it will help spread the word about what we feel is a really good community theater.”
Dana Feurtado, who sang at a WDPAC fundraiser a couple of years ago, enjoyed the experience so much that she wanted to perform at the theater again. The Sanford resident auditioned for Dreamgirls on a whim and is thrilled to be in the show’s ensemble.
“It’s a wonderful cast; the rehearsals don’t feel like work, because it’s so much fun,” says Dana, who teaches first grade at Bentley Elementary School. “I think we’ll bring that fun to the stage.”
Dreamgirls runs March 15-17 at the WDPAC theater at 201 South Magnolia Avenue in Sanford. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $20 to $27.
In addition, WDPAC has other musicals and a murder mystery play in the works, all of which will be performed by the WDPAC Repertory or Junior Repertory companies. Those shows are Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced, the classic musical Gypsy, and Disney’s Aladdin JR.
The End is Just the Beginning
Theater West End put itself on the map in a splashy way with its debut show in September – a stellar production of The Color Purple. And the brand-new professional theater hasn’t slowed down since.
“We hit the ground running, that’s for sure,” says Derek Critzer, Theater West End’s managing artistic director. “We’re just learning as we go.”
Executive director Quinn Roberts says the theater wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of audience support for The Color Purple, a musical based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the 1980s movie. Demand for tickets was so high that the theater added extra performances, which quickly sold out.
“We didn’t even have all the seats installed on opening night, so we were overwhelmed, but in a great way,” Quinn says.
Theater West End, at 115 West First Street, followed The Color Purple with The Bridges of Madison County, based on the best-selling novel, and the classic West Side Story. All three shows received accolades from audiences and critics.
The second half of the theater’s inaugural season will feature The Wild Party, from March 29-April 14; Ghost the Musical, from June 14-30; and If/Then from August 16-September 1.
The Wild Party is a steamy whodunnit set during Prohibition. Ghost is based on the 1990 hit movie starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg. And If/Then is a romantic story about a woman at a crossroads in her life.
In addition to its mainstage series, Theater West End offers Musical Theater Intensives for high schoolers, which give teens the opportunity to perform challenging material. Next up is a teen production of West Side Story, running March 8-10, which opens right after the mainstage version closes.
The theater also offers educational performance programs for students in second through eighth grades, called Rising Stars. Their next show will be Disney’s 101 Dalmatians KIDS.
Theater West End also produces a cabaret series featuring well-known Central Florida performers, and it has forged partnerships with area performing arts groups. For example, improv comedy shows and burlesque cabarets will be featured on a monthly basis.
Derek and Quinn say that there have been a few hiccups since they opened the doors. Derek jokes that although he worries about things like armchair cupholders and bathroom toilet-paper fixtures, audiences have been forgiving of any minor glitches.
“The talent they see on the stage makes them forget everything,” he says. “That’s the beauty of theater.”
“Every chance we get, we’re trying to fine-tune,” Quinn adds. “I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. People often stop us and say, ‘Thank you for bringing this to Sanford.’”
Want More Information?