by VICTORIA HENLEY
First opened in 1871, the Springer Opera House was officially named the state theater of Georgia by then-Governor Jimmy Carter, just in time for its 100th anniversary season.
The stunning venue was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1978 for its architecture and state of preservation. The Springer Opera House has hosted many iconic performers and public figures throughout its history, including Ethel Barrymore, Oscar Wilde and Agnes de Mille, just to name a few.
Performing arts enthusiasts have traveled far and wide to The Springer season after season for the world class performers flawlessly executing classic works of theater in arguably one of the finest performance venues in the nation.
Of course, the year 2020 threw an unexpected curveball to us all, especially the performing arts community, with many theaters and venues deciding to cancel performances and postpone seasons indefinitely.
Fortunately, the intrepid and determined team at the Springer Opera House decided to pivot their plans and reformat their planned season to take place at a socially-distanced, outdoor theater setting, providing a COVID-safe, personalized, and intimate experience for guests.
I got to experience a few of these shows including the wildly popular performances, “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Cotton Patch Gospel.” Let me tell you how you can experience this legendary theater for yourself.
“Singin’ in the Rain.”
The splashiest song and dance musical in Broadway history returned to the stage in March and April due to popular demand under the masterful direction of director/choreographer Shane Hall (who also stars as Don Lockwood).
Based on the lighthearted and glamorous movie starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, the live stage adaption features all your favorite moments including dazzling song and dance numbers, striking period piece fashions, and a string of Hollywood’s most beloved musical numbers, including, “Good Morning,” “Make ‘Em Laugh,” “All I Do is Dream of You,” “Beautiful Girl,” and of course, the show’s namesake, “Singin’ in the Rain.”
The casting director of The Springer’s stage adaption deserves major props as each cast member, both principal and ensemble, seemed tailor made for their respective roles.
Hall played the leading man with great aplomb, shining and seamlessly transitioning between his many song and dance numbers throughout the musical, and Jacob Nixon brought humor and spot-on comic timing to his role as Lockwood’s trusty confidante, Cosmo Brown.
Brooke Myers’ vocal quality and dancing skills are effortless. Hannah Kuykendall brings to life one of the most comically layered, nuanced and brilliant performances of Lina Lamont that I have ever seen in an adaption of this musical.
Fashion enthusiasts will delight in the dazzling Hollywood glamour and film noir styles donned by the cast members as shimmering Roaring 20s-style flapper dresses, sweeping red carpet gowns and dapper three-piece suits grace the stage in each act.
The show’s wardrobe was created and curated by the Springer’s resident costume designer, Sandy Dawson, who was met with the challenge of styling one of the Opera House’s largest productions to date.
“Cotton Patch Gospel”
“Cotton Patch Gospel,” based on the book “The Cotton Patch Gospel of Matthew and John,” is a musical retelling of the story of Jesus set in modern day, rural Georgia.
The musical, relatively unknown to much of the general public, originally ran off-Broadway at the Lamb’s Theater for 193 performances beginning in 1981.
The Springer Opera House’s production of “Cotton Patch Gospel,” under the expert direction of Paul Pierce is an emotionally jarring, yet lighthearted, humorous, yet tragic, and unapologetically unique retelling of “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
Keith Patrick McCoy gives a layered and gripping performance as Matthew (also narrating key roles such as Joseph, Jesus, and numerous additional Biblical figures) with emotionally and physically intensive scenes and commands the stage throughout the duration of the two-hour show.
The ensemble five-piece band (Including Justin Belew on guitar, Michelle Justice on fiddle, Isiah Harper, vocalist, Jeff Snider on banjo and Dean Justice II on bass) fills the air waves with cheerful, traditional gospel and bluegrass, playing an array of instruments with great aplomb, while also carrying the great emotional weight of one of the most powerful stories ever told.
If you missed either of the above shows at The Springer, do not despair, as the outdoor theater experience will continue throughout the summer with a new , exciting line up of musicals and plays throughout the holiday season.
Due to distancing requirements, tickets are extremely limited, so be sure to book your seats while they are still available!
Phone: (706) 327-3688
Address: 103 East 10th St., Columbus, Ga.
Also, if you are an aspiring actor/singer/dancer seeking to hone your craft, give the academy a call at 706-324-1100.
Victoria Henley is the host of Backstage Pass on IHeart Radio. She also is a former contestant on “America’s Next Top Model.”