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BWW Interview: Sierra Rep's Jerry Lee Says They are Back and Better Than Ever

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Sierra Rep Boasts an Impressive 2021 Lineup

BWW Interview: Sierra Rep's Jerry Lee Says They are Back and Better Than Ever

In the Sierra foothills are a cluster of quaint towns full of Gold Rush history. Two of these, East Sonora and Columbia, house the venues that make up Sierra Repertory Theatre (Sierra Rep). Main stage shows, cabarets, and youth workshops can be seen in the original East Sonora Theatre and in the Historic Fallon House Theatre in Columbia State Historic Park. Lucky for us, they are back to making history beginning in September with their new, in-person season! Broadway World spoke with Jerry Lee, Associate Artistic Director (and Shrek himself!), about what we can look forward to at Sierra Rep.

Sierra Rep is back! How did last year's shutdown affect the theatre and artists in your community? It decimated our local arts scene. Slowly, organizations and music groups began to crawl their way back into their own programming but it was really difficult to navigate for all of us. Live theatre was the first mass gathering event to close and the last to come back. It seemed like it took forever for the state to offer any guidance on mass gatherings as they pertain to live theatre. The words "live theatre" weren't even used in the California Blueprint for Re-Opening until the end of the year. But on the flip side of that, it was incredible to actually see and feel the support of our audience. The SRT community was so strong and committed to making sure that the theatre did not become a casualty of the state's mandated closures.

What will this season look like for Sierra Rep? Will patrons be able to expect a pre-2020 theatre experience?

We wanted to be sure to create a season that was celebratory because we knew that was what our audience needed and wanted when we were able to open again. We chose three titles: Shrek The Musical, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, and Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play; and a tribute series that includes tributes to the music of Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, and Joni Mitchell. Our commitment to excellence hasn't changed. Audiences will still be treated to exceptional professional theatre on both our stages. Though, while we're still in the pandemic, audiences will be required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test from within 72 hours). Frankly, we're not interested in bombarding our audience with constantly changing rules. Actors will appear unmasked.

Can you tell us about the shows that you have lined up for the season?

We've wanted to bring Shrek to Sonora for a long time. We're so lucky to have Valerie Rachelle directing and choreographing the piece. It's such a terrific book by David Lindsay-Abaire, with plenty of fun and a fantastic journey for the younger audience, and great humor and romance for the adults. And a stellar score by Jeanine Tesori... It's an everything-you-could-wish-for kind of production.

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is devilishly fun and our cast is unbelievable. This show is selling really, really well already. I think audiences are excited for the twists and turns of solving a murder case as well as luxuriating in 1930's glamour. And of course, the big question of everyone's mind is... how are they going to build that train?

Our Producing Artistic Director, Scott Viets, has always wanted to get Meet Me in St. Louis on our stage. We were delighted to find Joe Landry's version, Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play, which tells the story through the lens of a 1940s holiday radio hour. It's going to be beautiful to experience and (I think) really touching and poignant this year. As our Board President said when she first heard these titles: "How can you go wrong with closing out the season with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"? You just can't."

Please tell us about your youth program and what is being offered this fall.

We've stayed committed to bringing education to our local youth throughout our closure. We offered digital workshops with Sierra Boggess and Lulu Lloyd; recorded a production of The Sword in the Stone, which would have been our touring school production; offered in-person workshops geared towards Ensemble Storytelling; and most recently, produced Annie KIDS, a 30-minute youth production of the classic musical. This fall, our students will have the opportunity to work with some fabulous choreographers from our roster of professional guest artists, and then close the season with a yet-to-be-announced holiday program. We are so supported by our region and local community, it is an absolute pleasure to be able to give back with stellar youth programming.

What else would you like your patrons to know about Sierra Rep?

We're just so happy to be back in rehearsals, building our productions, and sharing them with our dedicated audience. Obviously, we're hardly "back to normal" but we're getting closer every day as long as we support each other, stay calm, remember to breathe and trust the process.

Broadway World is also happy that Sierra Rep is back in business and is looking forward to the first show of the season, Shrek the Musical, starting on September 2. For more information, please visit sierrarep.org or call the box office at (209) 532-3120.

Photo credit: Bill Herbert


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