John McHenry admits there's a lot riding on the 2018-19 Sudbury Theatre Centre season lineup he announced May 16.
The local professional theatre company's financial problems were so severe this past year that it asked for, and received, a $200,000 bailout from the City of Greater Sudbury.
McHenry, who became STC's new artistic director in November 2017, gave a shout-out to Mayor Brian Bigger and Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, who were on hand for the lineup announcement.
At one point this past year, STC was at risk of not being able to keep its lights on. Thanks to the city bailout, STC will end its current season with a small surplus, McHenry said.
The theatre company still has about $400,000 in debt which it needs to chip away at.
McHenry said he's confident the mix of musicals and comedies he's lined up for next season will be just the ticket to put the theatre on a more solid financial footing.
The shows on offer include two comedies and three musicals, opening Sept. 27 with The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, featuring tunes by the late Canadian musician with a special place in Sudburians' hearts (see the full lineup below).
McHenry said these shows are popular fare sure to attract audiences — patrons told him they want musicals and comedies.
“I hope people will come back and start to give us a second chance if they've stopped coming over the past few years,” he said.
To bring in extra cash, Sudbury Theatre Centre is launching a membership campaign this coming season.
Becoming a member allows by donating as little as $35 allows people benefits such as access to a members-only newsletter and votes at its annual general meeting.
McHenry said he's also excited about new partnerships with other arts groups in Greater Sudbury, including Theatre Cambrian, which has also been struggling financially.
Theatre Cambrian, which is in the process of selling its Eyre Street building, plans to produce its November and February musicals at STC, which it will rent out.
The community theatre company will likely be announcing its own 2018-19 lineup next month, said Theatre Cambrian president Chris Nash, who was on hand at STC Wednesday.
Nash said with new leadership at both Theatre Cambrian and STC, it was possible to work together in ways that haven't happened in the past.
These kinds of community collaborations are “so important,” McHenry said.
“Theatre Cambrian needs a big time slot,” he said. “We have to make it fit in with our season. We've managed to do it. They're really happy to be coming here, and we're happy to have them.”
2018-19 STC Lineup (see more at SudburyTheatre.ca)
The Ballad of Stompin' Tom (Sept. 27 to Oct. 13)
By David Scott. Songs and lyrics by Stompin' Tom Connors. This great Canadian icon's fascinating life story is presented as a concert with flashbacks to his early years on the streets, to his breakout success in Timmins. The show includes some of Stompin' Tom's greatest hits: Bud the Spud, Tillsonburg, The Hockey Son, and of course, Sudbury Saturday Night.
Plaid Tidings: A Special Holiday Edition of Forever Plaid (Dec. 6-22)
By Stuart Ross. The legendary Plaids come back to Earth in this truly “heaven-sent” holiday treat. Filled with classic music sung in perfect harmony, all tied up in a nifty package with a big Christmas bow on top!
Here on the Flight Path (Feb. 7-23)
By Norm Foster. From Canada's best-loved playwright comes a hilarious and touching look at modern-day relationships. Set on adjoining balconies in a big city apartment building, it follows John Cummings as he interacts with three women who become his neighbours over a three-and-a-half year period.
The Birds and the Bees (April 11-27)
By Mark Crawford. As an empty-nester and her daughter set about putting their lives back in order living under the same roof, they are visited by a strapping, young grad student who has come to study the declining bee population. Love, lust and poultry come together in a boisterous comedy with a huge, honeyed heart.
Across the Pond: The British Invasion (March 15-24)
Starring Sudbury native Leisa Way, along with Fred Smith, Bobby Prochaska, Nathan Smith, Sam Cino and Bruce Ley (The Wayward Wind Band). A celebration of over 50 years of British pop and rock music featuring hits of The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, Elton John, Petula Clark, Tom Jones, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Lulu and many more.