NCT executive director William Jones announced Cabaret (Feb. 25-March 5, 2006), South Pacific (April 29-May 7, 2006); The Wizard of Oz (July 7-16, 2006) and The Music Man (Nov. 3-12, 2006) for the mainstage slate.
As in the past, stars are expected to be invited to Memorial Auditorium to play such choice roles as Sally Bowles, Harold Hill, Nellie Forbush, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and more.
In September, Debby Boone was in town as Guenevere in Camelot (a title that launched NCT in 1984), and recently Lou Diamond Phillips played the King in The King and I, Sheena Easton was the Narrator in Joseph… and Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell starred as the title characters in Beauty and the Beast.
The company performs eight weeks a year at the 2,300-seat Memorial Hall. The productions are directed and cast specifically for Raleigh, but sets and costumes are rented.
"We don't have the facility to build [physical productions]," Jones told Playbill.com. "Since it's a city-owned building we're only in here two weeks — four days of tech time and the rest for the run. If we had our own building it would be a whole other ballgame." World premieres and new works are a future goal, but difficult for the troupe, which relies heavily on single ticket sales.
Jones said, "We have not gotten to that point, but we've been approached by producers about new work. The problem is, we've got a big building — 2,300 seats — and we've got stiff competition from touring shows, so right now we've got to do shows that are very well known and can bring in a lot of people. Thirty-two percent of our ticket sales is from single tickets, and that's a huge part to depend on. Season ticket holders would love something new and something different but single ticket buyers right now are shopping for [familiar] titles or stars."
Jones, 42, whose friends and colleagues call him "Wally," took over operation from his now-retired mother, De Ann S. Jones, NCT's founder. Wally Jones started as a company manager, moved up to production supervisor and eventually inherited the place.
"My mother co-founded Theatre in the Park, a local community theatre, so I grew up on stage," Jones said. "It was easier for her to put me in a show than find a babysitter — she knew exactly where I was gonna be!" Jones laughs at the memory, but his work with his mother led to his adult career. "She put us in the shows, me and my sister, so we kind of grew up on the stage," he explained. "I don't know how to do anything else. I'm glad she created this avenue for me and that the board agreed that it was the right thing to do."
The Raleigh native said, "I got lucky that this happened around me, growing up, and I fell into it. I love it. It's nice to be able to live in Raleigh and do what you love to do — to do theatre on this level. I always figured I'd be in the theatre somehow."
NCT was created out of a hope by city leaders that downtown Raleigh could be rejuvenated by luring people there.
"Like a lot of downtowns, it was deserted after 5 PM," Jones said, "City manager L.P. Zachary's vision was to have enetertainment downtown."
The symphony was in Memorial Auditorium 30-40 nights a year at the time, and De Ann Jones ran a small touring company called Carolina Regional Theatre, out of Chapel Hill. She was asked to create a new company for Raleigh, and partnered with local artists (such as Broadway's Terrence Mann), business leaders, government officials and individuals to make it happen.
The 1984 season saw productions of Camelot, West Side Story and Shenandoah.
"We proceeded to start a professional theatre but not really knowing how to do it," William Jones said. "As my mom said, 'The reason it succeeded is because we didn't know that we didn't know how to run a theatre.' Raleigh didn't have a strong professional theatre where you could see high-quality revivals. [Audiences] ate it up. We grew from there."
NCT also has a year-round education program offering theatre classes, and stages an annual non-Equity production performed by young actors. The 2006 title is tick, tick…BOOM! (Jan. 20-29, 2006), performed by actors in their teenage years or older. That bonus show will be performed in the adjacent 600-seat A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Arts.
Tickets are now on sale for the 2006 season. For more information, contact NCT box office at (919) 831-6950, or visit www.nctheatre.com.