ABOUT TOWN: Treading the boards in April

We have lost the Lyric Theatre, but the popularity of musicals endures

The Metro Atlanta Arts Community: Signatories to the ‘Open Letter.’

The Atlanta Lyric Theatre announced Mar. 7 its doors will close after 42 years, citing “a significant drop in overall attendance in the wake of the pandemic.” This season’s remaining shows — Pippin, The Best of Broadway and the Cabaret series — have been canceled. “Despite our best efforts, we have arrived at the point where we must face facts: our financial resources are not sufficient to finish the current season, or embark on the next, which would have been our 43rd. Consequently, the Board has voted to dissolve the organization,” board co-chairs Monica Gwinn and Patti Schoettler said in a statement. For the past decade, the Lyric presented its shows at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre in the Cobb Civic Center. Jono Davis, its artistic director, told ArtsAtl, “Audience attendance is still low around town, and some theaters are surviving one show at a time. I think the best we can hope is for people to continue supporting their local theater companies as best they can. Business, organizations and local governments can do the same by partnering and sponsoring productions. We need to support art, or else we’re going to lose art.”

In the wake of the Lyric’s closing, the Metro Atlanta Arts Community issued an open letter proposing “a five-pronged approach to fundamentally change how arts and culture are supported in the city and move the industry forward not based on scarcity but instead on a model designed to let the arts thrive as a core value of our city and state.” (See below).

Other venues in the area are pushing ahead with new shows or revivals and hoping for solid turnouts. Below are a few recommendations for the month of April, including musicals inspired by Donna Summer, Jimi Hendrix, Cyrano de Bergerac and, yes, menopause. Also, the decadent Moulin Rouge makes a splashy debut at the Fox.

Now Through Sun., Apr. 9



SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical, Aurora Theatre — Donna Summer was the first artist to have three double albums reach the top spot consecutively on Billboard’s album chart, and the first Black woman to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. After the decline in popularity of disco music in the 1980s, Summer switched gears and had a massive hit with the single “She Works Hard For the Money.” The song became an anthem for women’s rights and was followed by a string of successes up until 2008, when her final album spun off three No. 1 dance/club hits. Summer died in 2012 at age 63; the Library of Congress shortly afterwards declared her 1977 electronic dance tune “I Feel Love” was to be preserved in the National Recording Registry and described the piece as “culturally, historically (and) aesthetically important.” In 2018, a biographical musical titled SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical began running on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre after premiering at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. In this regional production, three actors — Jessenia Ingram, Desiré Gaston, and Marliss Ameia — will take on the role of the diva at different stages of her life.

“Aurora Theatre is led by fierce women, so who better to bring to our season than one of the fiercest female hit-makers that’s ever lived?” says Director Ann-Carol Pence. “So many know Donna Summer’s music but don’t know the steps she took to get there and the barriers that she had to tear down. It is with great pride that we get to bring her story to Lawrenceville.” The show uses flashing strobe lights, theatrical haze, and fog, and may not be suitable for children under 12 due to adult themes and drug use.
$21+ Aurora Theatre at Lawrenceville Arts Center. 147 East Crogan Street, Lawrenceville, 30046. 678-226-6222  tickets.auroratheatre.com

Sat., Apr. 1 - Sun., Apr. 16



The Boy Who Kissed the Sky, The Alliance Theatre — Set in Seattle, Idris Goodwin’s musical is inspired by the early life and influences of guitarist Jimi Hendrix. A young boy learns to find harmony inside the challenging noises of his life, the synopsis explains, guided by the spirit of music itself. Goodwin, a break beat poet and essayist, says his project is “about all young dreamers who vision themselves in flight yet feel like their feet are nailed to the earth. It is a love letter to our ancestors, and (embraces) the best of what they pass on to us.” Directed by Tim Bond, the cast features Aishé Keita as Donna, Cedric Lamar as J Sonic, Brandon L. Smith as The Boy, and Adam Washington as Mel, with Deborah Bowman, Alexandria Joy, and Mike Spee as Shapeshifters/Feedback. Christopher Moses, an associate director at the Alliance, says the act of creating is not reserved just for a few rarefied talents. “Each of us harbors some particular gift that we contribute to the whole of humanity. But discovering that gift, listening to that muse, takes practice, and nurturing, and a whole lot of hope, reaching for what might seem impossible.”
See website for ticket prices and times. Families in Atlanta Public Schools are invited to see the shoe free of charge during spring break, Apr. 2 – 8, using the promo code that corresponds to their school cluster. Limit 6 tickets per family. Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta 30309. 404-733-4649 alliancetheatre.org

Sat., Apr. 8



Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox: Life in the Past Lane Tour, Atlanta Symphony Hall — This is not just any old cover band. What began as a bunch of friends jamming in a Queens basement in 2011 now  features 70 different performers and and has toured six continents. Pianist and arranger Scott Bradlee came up with the idea of fusing contemporary pop hits with classic singers of the past, forming the rotating Postmodern Jukebox ensemble that has to date accumulated more 1.9 billion YouTube views and 5.8 million subscribers. Miley Cyrus got turned into The Platters; Bruno Mars was converted to Frank Sinatra; The Spice Girls morphed into The Andrews Sisters; Guns ’n’ Roses became Bessie Smith. You get the idea. Under the banner “Today’s Hits Yesterday,” Bradlee and his troupe are stopping by Symphony Hall for one show before jetting off to Ireland the next day as part of yet another world tour. Bradlee, once a struggling musician on the New York City club circuit, is also the author of Outside The Jukebox: How I Turned My Vintage Music Obsession Into My Dream Gig.
$42 - $190. 7:30 p.m. Atlanta Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta 30309. 404733-4800 aso.org/events

Tue., Apr. 11



An Evening with Jason Robert Brown, Alliance Theatre — Composer, lyricist, conductor, arranger, orchestrator, director and performer Jason Robert Brown is best known for his scores to several contemporary musicals, including the “generation-defining” The Last Five Years, his debut song cycle, Songs for a New World, and the seminal Parade, winner of the 1999 Tony Award for Best Score. With a book by Alfred Uhry, the latter is a dramatization of the trial and lynching early last century of Jewish-American Leo Frank in Georgia. Brown will be interviewed by the Alliance’s Executive Director Joe Alterman and Associate Producer Amanda Watkins, covering topics from the recent rise anti-semitism, his Jewish background, songwriting philosophy, influences and a behind-the-curtain understanding of the music he’s written, the theater states. Live musical performances will be interspersed with all the chit-chat. The New York Times refers to Brown as “a leading member of a new generation of composers who embody high hopes for the American musical,” while the Philadelphia Enquirer calls him “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim.”
$20 - $75. 7:30 p.m. Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta 30309. 404-733-4600 alliancetheatre.org

Fri. Apr. 14 - Sat., Apr. 29


CALVIN BERGER: CONFUSION AND DECEPTION RULE (Clockwise from top left: Josh Baldwin, Kinsey Bosher, Ben Cole, Magda Roub, Caty Mae Loomis, Triumph Gardner). PHOTO CREDIT: COURTESY OF RACHEL RUDD.

Calvin Berger, Marietta Theatre Company — Edmond Rostand’s play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” written in 1897, is turned into a contemporary story about four high school seniors with punters calling it “hilarious and heartwarming.” Calvin Berger, a dork with a big nose, is smitten by the beautiful Rosanna, who in turn is attracted to the good-looking newcomer Matt. Confusion and deception ensues. “It has some of the most beautiful music,” says Director Blaine Clotfelter. “Ever since I heard it, I’ve been excited to share it with our patrons. The writing is excellent, the actors are fantastic, and I just believe our audiences will fall in love with it.” The cast features Atlanta actors Josh Baldwin, Kinsey Bosher, Magda Roub, and Ben Cole, with Caty Mae Loomis and Triumph Gardner in secondary roles. Composer and playwright Barry Wyner tells the Boston Globe his inspiration came from “Roxanne,” Steve Martin’s cinematic take on Rostand’s original tale. “I find the emotions beautiful and real. What I relate to most in the story is his insecurity about his physical features. The place where that insecurity is most heightened is in high school. That was the impetus there.”
VIP tables for four at $135 include a bottle of wine; regular tables for four are $110 and high-top tables fortwo are $60. Marietta Theatre Company, 12 Powder Springs Street, Marietta 30064. mariettatheatre.tix.com  #mariettatheatre

Tue., Apr. 18 and Wed., Apr. 19



Menopause The Musical, Byers Theatre at Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center — This funny farce has parodies of popular songs and covers the meeting of four women at a lingerie sale in Bloomingdale’s who, while fighting over a black lace bra, rant about memory loss, hot flashes, night sweats, chocolate binges, wrinkles, plastic surgery, hormones, and sex, or the lack of it. The late Cindy Williams (of “Laverne & Shirley” fame), who spent three years in the cast of Menopause at Harrah’s on the Vegas strip, said the show takes a depressing subject for women and sends it up. “Everyone feels great when they’re leaving,” Williams told KLAS-TV in an interview, adding that men should see it as well. Producers describe it as “A raucous celebration of womanhood inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine.”  The Boston Globe  called it “A rollicking girls’ night out” and the  Los Angeles Times  hailed the musical as “Fresh, funny, and simply terrific.”
$50 - $70. Byers Theatre at Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs 30328. 770-206-2022  citysprings.com

Wed., Apr. 19 - Sun., Apr. 30



Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Fox Theatre — The stage version of Moulin Rouge comes with a heavy pedigree, replete with splendor and romance, eye-popping excess, glitz, grandeur and glory, the hype proclaims. Direction is by Alex Timbers with a book by John Logan; choreography is by Sonya Tayeh and music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements are by Justin Levine — every one of them an award winner for their work on the musical. It’s based on the extravagant 2001 movie by Baz Luhrmann about the goings-on inside the turn-of-the-century cabaret and music hall venue in Paris that was immortalized on canvas by post-impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Its main protagonists are the lovestruck young composer Christian and Satine, the object of his affection and starlet at the club. The original locale, which at times served as a bordello, was ravaged by fire in 1915 and eventually reopened in 1989. Its shows these days on the Boulevard de Clichy are tame, nay, downright respectable compared to those of yesteryear, yet tourists still flock to its Belle Epoque decadence, and the infamous can-can dance is still performed at every revue. Celebrating more than 160 years of music — from Offenbach to Lady Gaga — this staging features many of the iconic songs from the movie and includes more recent hits as well. The show is the winner of ten 2021 Tony Awards including Best Musical, two Drama League Awards including Outstanding Production of a Musical, five Drama Desk Awards and ten Outer Critics Circle Award Honor citations including New Broadway Musical.
$31 + Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree Street, Atlanta 30308. 404-881-2100 foxtheatre.org

An Open Letter from the Metro Atlanta Arts Community

ATLANTA, GA – March 14, 2023 – The Managing Leaders Group, a group of managing directors and leaders from numerous Atlanta arts organizations came together during the pandemic to discuss strategies to strengthen the arts in our community.  Following the devastating news this past week regarding the Atlanta Lyric Theatre shutdown, the Managing Leaders Group reacted to the news by writing an open letter from our Metro Atlanta Arts Community.

The letter reads, “On Tuesday, March 7th, we were devastated to hear that the Atlanta Lyric Theatre has shut down after 42 seasons. Not only is its closing a loss for our vibrant industry, it is also an indicator that if left unchecked, the crisis in the theatre and arts sectors caused by the COVID-19 shutdowns will continue to ravage our community.

Atlanta is a great theatre city, unique from any other in the nation. Its theatrical ecosystem encompasses small entrepreneurial companies led by exciting young artists, a vibrant community of midsized theatres who specialize in creating programming that reflects the community in and around Atlanta, and large theatres nationally recognized as hot spots for producing new plays and Broadway tryouts. Through it all runs an entrepreneurial spirit, a commitment to new work, and the will to broaden audiences and expand what it means to be an artist, a southerner or even a person.

Our local theatre is a remarkable opportunity to hone the craft of artists. Steve Yockey, Danielle Deadwyler, Jennifer Garner, Donald Glover, Amy Adams, Julia Roberts, RuPaul, and Kenny Leon, among many more, started their careers on and around Metro Atlanta stages. It is this commitment to finding and supporting local southern talent that makes the theatre industry so vibrant and allows us to provide the strong foundation that the TV and film industry have built upon so spectacularly. Marvel Studios, Tyler Perry Studios, and Netflix have all found a home here in and around Atlanta, in large part due to generous funding via tax breaks that they receive from the Georgia government but also because of the talent the local theatre cultivates year after year.

Our theatre community’s vibrancy is mirrored across the city’s non profit arts sector. Anywhere you look in Metro Atlanta you will find dancers, singers, musicians and visual artists creating and defining a new cultural vocabulary that is unique to our metro. Beyond the creativity and joy this industry brings to our city it is also an economic and job creating power house. The Atlanta Regional Commission in 2017 estimated that the non profit arts sector on its own was a $719.8 million dollar industry that supported more than 23,000 full time jobs across the city, more than Home Depot, Piedmont Health Care or Publix, and that the Atlanta arts community contributes more than $65 million to local and state government revenue through taxes every year. The economic impact of patrons who attend arts programming is even greater. Each patron spends between $23 and $48 every time they attend an event, almost all of which is spent at local businesses. In 2015 the Arts and Economic prosperity report estimated that the combined impact of the non profit arts sector and the patrons who attended events was more than $600 million dollars in Metro Atlanta. This remarkable impact is in addition to the immeasurable cultural enrichment that theaters and arts venues provide to their communities, especially to students whose schools rely on theaters and cultural institutions across Atlanta to curate artistic programming that inspires children to dream, explore and reach for something new through art.

Arts and Theatre Companies across the country are at an inflection point. Now is the time to act to ensure theatre and the arts stay at the center of Metro Atlanta communities.

COVID-19 was the biggest disruption to the American Arts sector in history, and the most destructive since the Great Depression. And it is still threatening our industry. From the increased costs we have all seen since returning to work, audience members’ ongoing health concerns, and rolling shutdowns as company members test positive for COVID-19, the industry is still in turmoil. Because of this turmoil, nationwide only about half of pre-pandemic audiences have returned – severely limiting earned revenue as the industry rebuilds its audience base.

Coupling lower than average attendance with the fact that arts funding is the smallest fraction of philanthropic giving means that there are simply not enough resources available for the short term health and long term viability of the Metro Atlanta cultural arts community. Unfortunately, the challenge has been exacerbated post pandemic as community funders and foundation leaders who previously funded the arts have significantly delayed releasing funds, have not focused on the arts during the pandemic and recovery or have ended their arts support altogether. Midsize and small companies are even more challenged by the current funding landscape because they are less able to navigate disruption in funding.

Five-pronged approach:

  • We propose a five-pronged approach to fundamentally change how arts and culture are supported in the city and move the industry forward not based on scarcity but instead on a model designed to let the arts thrive as a core value of our city and state.
  • First, we will ask major philanthropic foundations and area philanthropists to make a transformational, one-time gift to every arts organization in Metro Atlanta. In cities across the United States individual philanthropists and foundations have realized that now is the time to act to stabilize local communities of arts organizations. We need that leadership in Atlanta.
  • Second, we will propose doubling the grant making capacity of the city, county, and state arts offices across the metro while simultaneously cutting red tape so that awarded funds can be accessed quickly. According to ArtsATL, Georgia still ranks near the bottom of arts funding, ranking 49th out of all states. By adding less than 10 million dollars combined across all state, county and city budgets to the grant funding arm of arts agencies local organizations would have more consistent funding available, more organizations could receive funding and funding levels could be increased. This deeper investment is a win-win, funding provided to local arts companies comes back to the granting government agencies by a factor of at least 3 to 1.
  • Third, we will ask the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta to hire an arts program director quickly and give that person adequate staff and resources to develop new artistic resources from national funders, not just shepard existing funds. For too long the arts have been relegated to an underfunded and understaffed department at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and at foundations across the city. To change the system we need a metro wide advocate who is active in the national philanthropic community while also being committed to a thriving local arts scene.
  • Fourth, we will ask that the production tax credit enjoyed by the film and television industry be extended to non profit arts organizations headquartered and producing live performing arts productions in Georgia. Without us providing the training and year round opportunities, the film industry would not have the access to talent they so rightfully enjoy.
  • Fifth, we will call upon production and media companies based in Georgia to join us as we advocate for increased arts funding while simultaneously creating deeper working relationships between for-profit and nonprofit arts organizations. Strengthening the symbiotic relationship between the film and media industry and local artists will ensure that both thrive.

Help as a patron:

How can you help as a patron:

  • If you have not attended since the shut down, come back, we need you. Ticket sales are vital to our health but so is word of mouth marketing and engaged audiences. If you can’t afford a ticket please ask about discounts and special codes. Nearly every company in town has special performances and admissions that are discounted to ensure anyone who wants to can get in. We are all trying to keep our ticket prices low to remain accessible to the greatest number of people possible, even in the face of inflation and rising costs.
  • If you’re someone who can afford a little more, consider adding a donation each time you purchase tickets so that we can continue paying artists fairly.  And consider joining the thousands of people who have donated time and money to the arts throughout the shutdown and recovery. Without the remarkable support of donors large and small the arts would not have survived, we thank you for all that you have done for the industry.   
  • If you have been coming, tell your friends and family about the work you see on stage. Advocate for the arts at your company, post to your social media accounts and bring up the last show you saw when you are out with friends. The best marketing we have is word of mouth — and we need you to get the word out.
  • Discover new theatres.  Explore a new genre. With more than 30 theaters and hundreds of arts companies in the city there are likely at least a dozen you have not attended, or a genre you have not seen recently. From puppets to improv and from Shakespeare to world premiere new works, you can find anything on stage in Atlanta. Not to mention choral music, modern dance, indie movies and lectures by famous artists.

Commitment and promise:

What we promise:

  • With your support we will continue to produce work fueled by our community. Queer youth, a woman struggling with mental health, black entrepreneurs, and young women seeking a closer relationship with God were all portrayed onstage last weekend across Atlanta stages and we pledge to continue to represent this city and all the facets that make it great.
  • We commit to amplifying exciting new voices and showcasing remarkable, diverse talent that reflects our region. The Metro Atlanta arts community’s ability to nurture rising talent on local stages before launching it onto the national stage means that our next generation of tastemakers will have deep ties to Georgia.
  • And we promise to continue bringing our community together. To entertain, to explore and to sit a while in another world, in another person’s truth, and maybe become just a little closer.

Your help is critical to our future, but together we can only go so far. We need community funders, philanthropic leaders, and political leaders to join us. With their support, we can chart a new path forward for the arts in Atlanta by seizing the opportunity presented during this challenging time and to rewrite the way arts and culture are funded and supported. If we can accomplish even a fraction of what we propose here, we can write a new future for the arts in Atlanta and Georgia, solidifying our status as a center for arts and culture in America.

Support our work:

Thank you,

The Metro Atlanta Arts Community