WOB's 25th Anniversary Season Concludes With Summer Production
The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre's 2018/2019 Season has been a landmark for what has become a staple of the region's theatrical community. As the season opened this past September with its production of the family-favorite Annie, Way Off Broadway kicked off its 25th year of bringing live entertainment to the stage.
It was 1995 when The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre first opened its doors. Located on the Golden Mile in Frederick, the theatre first opened as Keynote Dinner Theatre in 1990. It was the partnership of Bear Warfield, Pete Peterson, and Jim Watkins that renamed the theatre Way Off Broadway which, to this day, remains the Frederick area's only year-round professional producing theatre. In 1996, Way Off Broadway expanded and opened its one-of-a-kind Children's Theatre, ensuring entertainment for all ages. With the 2002 Season, Way Off Broadway was acquired by the Kiska family and began another phase of expanding its productions and operations. With a growing demand for quality youth theatre classes, the Way Off Broadway Actors' Studio was formed, giving young actors and actresses the opportunity to learn about theatre and performing.
Each season, Way Off Broadway's Mainstage produces five Broadway-style productions. Over the years, shows such as 42nd Street, Damn Yankees, Oliver!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The King & I, Annie, Steel Magnolias, Guys & Dolls, Nunsense, Oklahoma!, Grease, Fiddler on the Roof, A Chorus Line, The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Evita, CATS, The Full Monty, All Shook Up, South Pacific, Hairspray, Jekyll & Hyde, Legally Blonde, Les Misérables, The Addams Family, Monty Python's SPAMALOT, and Disney's Beauty & the Beast have all found homes at the Frederick Theatre.
Way Off Broadway has also become known, and has made a name for itself, by producing regional and area premiere productions. These include the first time Frederick productions of Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl - The Musical, Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles, Mel Brooks' The Producer, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Drowsy Chaperone, Dolly Parton's 9 to 5: The Musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In 2009, Way Off Broadway was also one of the very first theatres in the country to receive the rights to produce a regional production of the musical comedy The Wedding Singer.
With each production running from two to two and a half months at a time, the lights are always burning at the theatre with a show that is already open and running or one that is in rehearsals. In fact, as one season opens, the next season is already in the planning stages. Quite often, the theatre's producers put out a survey to see which shows audience members would most like to see come to the stage.
"Getting to hear from our audience always helps us put together a season that has a little something for everyone," says Justin M. Kiska, one of Way Off Broadway's owners and the theatre's President & Managing Director. "Putting together a season is one of the hardest things we have to do every year."
Over the last twenty-five seasons, The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre has seen a great number of changes. Production sizes and values have increased, performance schedules have expanded, and audiences have grown. In 2018, for the first time in its history, over half its audience came from outside of Frederick County. At any given performance, there are guests from Northern Virginia, Montgomery County, West Virginia, and Carroll and Washington Counties.
"We're very proud that our productions bring people from all over the surrounding area to Frederick," says Kiska.
Along with Annie, Way Off Broadway's 25th Anniversary Season also included productions of the original Christmas musical Silver Bells, a regional premiere of Gilligan's Island - The Musical, and the Lerner & Loewe classic My Fair Lady. The season begins to draw to an end on June 14th when Way Off Broadway's final production of the season - a new staging of the international musical sensation Mamma Mia! - opens.
As the Silver Anniversary Season starts to wind down, the theatre's producers are already at work on Way Off Broadway's 2019/2020 Season, which will include six productions instead of the usual five.
"We thought we'd shake things up a bit after 25 years," Kiska says of the new six show season. "Plus, there were so many great titles out there, it was hard to settle on just five."
Way Off Broadway's 2019/2020 Season, which was just recently unveiled, include productions of Little Shop of Horrors, Stage Door Christmas, Little Women: The Broadway Musical, Ken Ludwig's Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Disaster!, and Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins. The new season begins on Friday, September 20th.
To learn more about The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, or any of its productions, as well as behind the scenes information on the theatre, visit www.wayoffbroadway.com or contact the theatre directly as (301) 662-6600.