‘I can’t believe it,’ Strand Theatre Executive Director Jenifer Hill tells me. After unveiling a year’s worth of significant, Broadway-quality song, comedy, dance and theater, the number one seller on the night of the season unveiling was ‘Mutts Gone Nuts,’ a vaudeville-type show featuring amazing dogs and their entertaining humans.
We could have told Jenifer the dogs would win the night, but she’s got more than the one winner on her hands for the 35th Season, which includes a bit of both 2019 and 2020.
The season kicks off on Friday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. with singer Richard Marx and goes from there:
Friday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m. Comedian Yakov Smirnoff
Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m. The Color Purple
Thursday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. A Christmas Carol
Friday, Jan. 24, 8 p.m. American Girl, Live
Saturday, Feb. 8, 8 p.m. Finding Neverland
Friday, March 6, 8 p.m. An American in Paris
Friday, March 27, 8 p.m. Beautiful- the Carole King Musical
Saturday, May 2, 2:30 p.m. Mutts Gone Nuts
Saturday, July 25, 8 p.m. One Night of Queen
Hill, mistress of understatement that she is, says she is ‘pleased with the season.’ As tickets continue to sell, she should be downright big-grin happy. Already, several friends have expressed Strand-season delight and one-almost stranger stopped me on Marshall Street to tick off the different shows he has already purchased tickets for (Queen, Beautiful, A Christmas Carol, Richard Marx). That’s the kind of thing Hill wants to hear, only more of it.
There’s a lot that goes into the selection of a special season, a sort of magic sauce that Hill says blends a number of factors including the biggest, ‘Will it sell?’ If that were the only issue it would be oh, so easy. Hill also has to look to see if the production is available to play only one performance, whether it’s touring when she needs it, can the price can be kept reasonable given the number of theater seats; is there a booking date other than a Wednesday? There’s also the magic that goes into the particular mix of shows. “Broadway is our bread and butter – this area loves it,” says Hill. “But for a season, we need variety. Season 35 has a comedian, 2 concerts, a back-to-our roots Vaudeville type performing rescue dog show, a Christmas show, a children’s show, specifically, little girls, and our beloved Broadway musicals.” If the shows are the icing, the Strand is most definitely the moist, yummy cake. Hill stresses the ease of getting to the Strand and the fact that every seat in the house is a good one, unlike some theaters in which the ‘cheap seats’ are set squarely behind columns or so high up that the nosebleed occurs on the trek up.
Let’s face it, the Strand is our own personal treasure. It may be The Official State Theater of Louisiana (designated such by the Louisiana Legislature who in a very lucid moment did something very right), but in reality it is ours, smack-dab in the middle of historic downtown Shreveport and built by Shreveport pharmacists Abe and Julian Saenger. When completed in 1925, it was the ‘Million Dollar Theater’ with its own orchestra and pipe organ. Like downtown, it had great times, then bad, now good again, but Hill stresses that all good things can come to an end without help. In order to continue to be here for the community, Hill stresses the need for ongoing community support. “We need community support by purchasing tickets, gifts to Friends of the Strand, and corporate sponsorships,” she says. They also need funds to keep the 94-year-old gal in top shape. They have $50,000 in funds to match for a $100,000 goal to be used specifically to protect and preserve the building. That sounds doable, but consider that they have identified $900,000 worth of work that they know needs to be done.
We can all do a little. Buy a single ticket. Buy a season ticket. Make a small donation. Make a large donation. Become a corporate sponsor. Come to shows. Post glowing things on Facebook. Go to Tripadvisor.com and add to the Strand’s 5-star rating. This is our treasure, let’s keep it shining bright.