BWW Feature: A mash note to OLYMPUS ON MY MIND 2002 at Barksdale Theatre
The first six week of the pandemic left me paralyzed, writing-wise. Others seemed more able to be productive and proactive--see Claire Boswell's heartfelt piece in Style Weekly or Jerry Williams' comprehensive Curtain Call podcast.
But here we are, a month and a half in, and I seem to be coming out of my stupor. And what's coming out with me are my fondest memories of Richmond theater
I came to Richmond in 2002 (from Stamford, CT), and I started writing reviews for the Times-Dispatch in 2004. I moved away (to San Diego) in mid-2015 and came back three years later. While I've lived here I've seen 30 to 40 shows most years. I've loved many of them. But some stand out in my memory.
So I'll be writing short recollections of these special (to me) productions, along with a few notes of regret about shows I missed but dearly wish I had seen.
First up is an easy choice--the first show I saw here. Before I moved in August of 2002, my husband Mike had already come down to start his new job at Capital One. He was living in an apartment in Twin Hickory. I came down for a visit over July 4th weekend, and one of the activities Mike had planned for us was to go see a show at Barksdale Theater.
We had seen "Olympus on My Mind" before, in New York. The original Off-Broadway production was at the Lamb's Theatre, and it starred Martin Vidnovic and Lewis J. Stadlen. With music by Grant Sturiale and lyrics and book by Barry Harman, it was a funny and charming musical about Greek gods.
Though I thought of myself as a theater maven and had written reviews for the Stamford Advocate from 1989-1994, I knew nothing about theater in Richmond. And I was worried.
But our evening at Willow Lawn was more than reassuring. Sitting close to the thrust stage, I grinned in happy recognition as I saw talented performers knocking this favorite show out of the park. I saw Chase Kniffen (soon to be one of Richmond's busiest directors) as a scantily clad chorus boy, and Scott Wichmann exuding his undeniable charisma in the Lewis J. Stadlen role. (He went on to play more Stadlen roles; in my opinion, he should play all of them.) The production values were impressive.
I knew I was going to be okay here. And that has turned out to be an understatement. My life in Richmond has been a very happy one, and the tremendous amount of high-quality theater to be found here will, I trust, continue to be a big part of that.