After being largely shuttered for 18 months due to the pandemic, Neptune Theatre is getting ready to raise the curtain once again with four shows in what it is calling Act One of its two-act 2021-2022 season.
“I’m not going to deny there is an underlying concern as we embark on an actual season with actual productions, but this does feel different,” says Neptune Theatre’s artistic director Jeremy Webb.
On the phone before heading into the rehearsal hall as director for the company’s season opener, Fully Committed, Webb says their experience navigating the pandemic so far has them confident about bringing audiences back to the theatre under current restrictions.
“We know that as soon as, fingers crossed, 75% of the population gets vaccinated, it is going to make a difference going forward,” he says.
Until that happens Neptune is taking a cautious approach to re-opening with the first two shows at significantly reduced capacities. As Nova Scotia approaches the magic 75 percent and restrictions ease, the hope is that they can accommodate larger audience numbers as the company moves onto Act Two.
“For now, we want to make sure that not only the public, but our staff, front of house and those behind the scenes remain safe and are comfortable about returning to the theatre,” continues Webb. “It’s also important to start getting audiences back into this building as we get ready for our 60th anniversary season next year.”
Halifax audiences will get their first opportunity to see the inside of Neptune’s Fountain Hall in some time when Becky Mode’s Fully Committed opens on September 14.
A fast-paced comedy about the agonies of taking reservations at a popular, high-end New York restaurant, the solo show will feature Halifax-based actor, writer and comic Breton Lalama.
As Halloween approaches, the company moves from comedy to thriller in Stephen Malatratt’s stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel, The Woman In Black. It is a show Webb is familiar with, having seen it in London’s West End and performed in it at Festival Antigonish.
“It is the scariest, spookiest show without been gratuitous,” says Webb, who says the show is suitable for those 11 years and up.
“We don’t want audiences to take their kids to see something that’s too violent, but this is just a pure ghost story, the kind of thing that you get around a campfire,” he says. “It is all about the storytelling.”
As Christmas approaches, Neptune will present its perennial holiday favourite, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. “We’re moving it back onto the Scotiabank Stage, where it was created in 2003 and where I love it to be,” says Webb.
Based on the classic story of redemption and the spirit of Christmas, it is an audience favourite, serving Neptune well over the years. It is a show that even made an appearance digitally last season at the height of the pandemic as part of the Neptune at Home platform.
While Scrooge faces his three ghosts at the more intimate Scotiabank Stage, the larger Fountain Hall will no doubt have a tough time containing the latest of Webb’s panto shows, Alice in Pantoland.
“These shows are a great excuse for pulling together silliness, fun costumes, some silly sets, and some extravagant triple-threat performances,” says Webb.
A twisted take down the rabbit hole based on Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s tale, the show will feature all of the expected characters and a few surprises that Webb says may even include time travel. “I’m not going to lie, there are lots of 11 o’clock numbers,” he says with a laugh.
With the first four shows taking Neptune through the beginning of 2022, Webb isn’t giving much away about what to expect with the second half of the season.
“We already know what the shows are, but we’re working on the administrative side of Act Two right now and are planning to announce in October,” he says. “That will take us from January through to the season closer, which is traditionally a musical. And I see no reason, without giving anything away, why it wouldn’t be a musical.”
But while Webb hints at a musical closing out the season, it will likely not be the much anticipated Billy Elliot. Originally cancelled as part of Neptune’s 2020-2021 season just days before rehearsals started last year, Webb promises patient audiences that it will happen.
“I can say, as I said in the season launch event, we will be bringing you Billy Elliot if it kills me, which it might do,” says Webb with a laugh. “But the reality of Billy Elliot is it’s a gigantic show, and we need Neptune to be at full capacity to mount a show of that size.”
In the meantime, Webb reassures audiences that despite a little more elbow room due to physical distancing requirements, this season is going to look and feel just like any other season.
“The shows are going to look great, sound great and will feature some amazing local talent,” he says.
Tickets for the four shows in Neptune Theatre’s Act One are now on sale. Visit neptunetheatre.com for tickets and information.