One by one, musicians carrying cases slipped into the darkened theater. As the cast and crew began to assemble, Gail Butler stood among the rows of chairs, listening intently.
A gunshot rang out from the overhead speakers.
“Oh yes, we want a very loud shot,” she said with a smile, nodding toward the sound effects booth.
The energy and excitement was palpable as the group prepared for one of their final rehearsals before the curtain goes up on their production “Showstoppers.” It will kick off with several showings this weekend.
Butler, the director, has been guiding the 20-plus member cast and crew through the Broadway styled routine since rehearsals began back in the fall. While the exact numbers that will be staged is a closely guarded secret, Butler expects audiences to be wowed by what they see.
“What we’re doing is a review of Broadway tunes. It’s pretty diversified, but it’s great fun and it’s been fun bringing them together,” Butler said.
While the tunes the actors will share are varied, the same is true for the cast itself. Butler is a stickler for drawing talent from across the community to put on a unified production.
“You know, I go to some shows and it’s just whites and I go to others and it’s just blacks ... that is not what I wanted to do. I would never do a show without both together because that’s what it’s all about,” Butler said. “I started doing it with our last show ‘Smokey Joes Cafe’ and continued with this one.”
Zerik Samples has been involved with both shows and feels the diversity among the crews helps to create a solid show. For his part, he grew up singing in church, which he continues today. He is the worship minister at Philadelphia Overcomers Church of Deliverance. His foray into community theater has given him the chance to step out of his comfort zone and try something new.
“It’s a bit of a stretch,” he said with a laugh. “This is my second show with Gail, and she’s a phenomenal director. She’s hard, but she’s great. She is definitely ready to push you quite a bit. But this was my first time doing community theater since high school.”
The same was true for cast member Sheri Munshi. Fairly new to the Golden Isles, she has been thrilled to get back under the spotlights, and rekindle her craft.
“I moved here a year and a half ago from the D.C. area. Now my kids are older so I have time now, but I hadn’t done a show since I was in my 20s,” Munshi said. “I did two shows with the Island Players. This is my third.”
While it’s an avenue for each of the cast members to flex their creative muscles, it is also a way to connect to others with whom they share this passion.
“I think it’s the camaraderie and the ability to create something people will enjoy. It’s the creation ... bringing something to life,” Munshi said.
Sharing that creation is also Dakota Garf’s favorite aspect of the production. The Brunswick High School senior grew up on show tunes and even plans to pursue acting in college.
“The lady doing lights, Amy Lovin, got me into it. I’ve been doing it for four years,” she said.
While she may be a young cast member, Dakota certainly understands the importance of sharing these types of productions with the community. She feels it’s a way to offer a taste of another world within the four walls of the Brunswick Actors Theatre.
“The show has every spectrum of Broadway. You have the slow dramatic side and the fast, jazzy Rockettes style dancing ... everything in between. It kind of captures what New York is in a sense. For people who live here, they don’t get to see that ... it lets people travel, in a way,” Dakota said.
While the actors have worked tirelessly to give their audiences a stellar evening, they hope that the community will reciprocate with support. Each member feels that supporting the arts in one’s community is crucial.
“I think we’re quick to support things in surrounding counties or cities ... but if we don’t support ourselves — who will? It is vital that we continue the arts,” Samples said. “But to appreciate it, you have to be exposed to it.”