It all started ten years ago with a dream. This week, that dream goes up in lights when Roxanne Pardi and her passionate band of mostly local performers open with “The Robber Bridegroom,” at Endeavor Hall.
Pardi, a Clayton voice and piano teacher, and choreographer LaTonya Watts, Pardi’s former student, first began talking about bringing live theater to Clayton more than ten years ago.
Pardi, herself a performer, loves the whole idea of little theatre. “It’s a different experience than going to the Lesher or the Orpheum,” says Pardi. “It’s small, intimate – a totally different vibe.”
Pardi put her dream in motion two years ago when she and Watts formed The Clayton Theatre Company. Community support was enthusiastic from the get-go.
“It was huge. Everyone from my colleagues and students to the CBCA and the city of Clayton were cheering us on.”
The challenges were many, the first of which was, not surprisingly, money. Pardi first went to friends and family, then to the CBCA for a grant to finance the first show. CBCA awarded the group $3,000 in matching funds. With that, opening night looked to be within reach.
Pardi and Watts began looking for a show – no small task since their royalty budget was nearly as small as their venue. She needed a fun show with a small cast that would lend itself to a theater with a tiny stage, no wings, no exit, and lighting that was either on or off.
Undaunted, Pardi and Watts pulled together a board, put the tap on David Manoguerra, husband of board member Beth Neudell, to build the sets and figure out the lighting, and began to call in favors.
“I hit up everyone I ever knew from my days as director at Pittsburg Community Theatre,” says Pardi. “I’ve called in favors for set design, equipment, music director and fundraising. We’re borrowing costumes and we figure if we can’t build it, make it or borrow it, we’ll just do without.”
Recalling the 1970s when Endeavor Hall jumped with live melodrama twice a year, Pardi wanted a show with somewhat the same flavor. “The Robber Bridegroom,” a bawdy Southern fairy tale set in eighteenth century Mississippi, has all the elements of a classic melodrama. “Bridegroom” is the story of the courting of Rosamund, the only daughter of the richest planter in the county, by the rascally, Robin Hood-esque Jamie Lockhart.
Thanks to an unconventional case of double-mistaken identity, things go predictably awry. Throw in an evil stepmother intent on Rosamund’s demise, her pea-brained henchman and a hostile talking head-in-a-trunk, and you have the recipe for a rollicking good time.
The cast is packed with locals. Hailey Herrera plays the lovely Rosamund with Kelly Hanson as the evil stepmother. At 16, Kayla Elwy is the youngest member of the cast.
Clayton musician, Santiago Martinez, stepped up as musical director and pulled together a talented band with a guitar, fiddle, banjo and bass to take on the rousing bluegrass country score.
The show, written by Alfred Uhry with music by Robert Waldman is based on a 1942 novel by Eudora Welty. When it opened on Broadway in 1975, the show received seven Tony nominations with Barry Bostwick named Best Actor.
“The Robber Bridegroom” previews on Oct. 16 and 17; opens Oct. 18 and runs through Oct. 26. Tickets are $12-$18 and are available online at brownpapertickets.com. For more information on the Clayton Theatre Company, go to claytontheatrecompany.com.