Naples Dinner Theatre, a Southwest Florida institution between its debut in 1975 and its closing in 1997, relighted again in December 1999, luring audiences for dinner and drama under new management.
The non-Equity company is run by a trio of resident theatre professionals, including managing director Stuart Glazer (a producer and membership chair at the major area civic theatre, Naples Players), artistic director Michael Wainstein (former artistic director of Naples Players) and associate artistic director Barry Marcus (an actor known for work with Naples Players).
Wainstein told Playbill On-Line that Naples Dinner Theatre (in Naples, FL, on the Gulf side of the state) was popular as a producer of name-brand musicals (Damn Yankees, etc.) until the early 1990s. In its final years under late producer Jules Fiske, pre-packaged, cruise-ship-style floor shows and revues were staged. Fiske's health failed and the floor shows did not find a large enough audience.
The revived Naples Dinner Theatre has a new menu under executive chef Jacques Perry (Cornish game hen, salmon, etc.), an interior cosmetic facelift, new light and sound equipment and a return to recognizable titles: Forever Plaid was the inaugural production, Dec. 17, 1999.
Guys and Dolls begins performances March 8 and continues to April 23. The season includes How to Succeed in Business..., April 26-June 11; Little Shop of Horrors, June 14-July 16; Godspell, July 19-Aug. 27; Nunsense, Sept. 12-Oct. 22; The Odd Couple, Oct. 25-Nov. 18; and 42nd Street, Nov. 21-Jan. 6. Wainstein said the theatre may eventually have a relationship with Actors' Equity Association.
Who attends shows there?
"It's a mixed audience," Wainstein said. "It's mostly tourists and snowbirds. Naples is changing so fast that population seems to be doubling every couple of years."
In addition to mainstage shows, the company offers "Theatre Cabaret" performances such as Always, Patsy Cline and An Evening With Billie Holiday, plus a kids' theatre called "Ice Cream Theatre."
The staff for the year-round venture includes Naples Players veterans Marc Oberlin (resident designer/technical director) and wife Peg Oberlin (resident costume designer), Ethan Popp (resident musical director) and Jenny Labranche (production stage manager).
Show-only tickets are available. Mainstage dinner and show tickets range $32.50-$45.
Naples Dinner Theatre is on Immokalee Road, west of exit 17 (I-75), 1/4 mile west of Airport Road. For information or reservations, call (941) 514-STAR or (877) 519-STAR or try the website at www.naplesdinnertheatre.com.
Among other Naples-area arts organizations are The Naples Players, a group founded in 1953 and offering classic and new works in the two-venue Sugden Community Theatre in Old Naples, and the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts concerts, lectures, recitals and national tours.
-- By Kenneth Jones