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Broadway on the prairie: Post Playhouse amps up to bring the house down in 51st season

May 27, 2018 GMT

CRAWFORD — For five decades, Post Playhouse has brought Broadway to the prairie entertaining audiences filled with locals and tourists alike.

This summer’s repertory theater combines high-caliber talent with a historic backdrop to create a unique experience for travelers to the Panhandle.

For this 51st season, producing artistic director Tom Ossowski worked with a group of others who help with the casting process to sort through 3,000 headshots, resumes and videos to choose around 300 actors and actresses to invite for live auditions in New York City. Out of these 300, a select few received a callback for a dance audition. After that audition, Ossowski then cast 18 actors to be a part of the 51st season of Post Playhouse.

The full company at Post Playhouse this season consists of 51 people of all ages — including 11 local children.

Children from surrounding communities including Chadron, Crawford and Hemingford can audition for youth roles that are available that season. The youth roles are all in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” The lead child roles in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” are doubled up, with two boys cast for the male part and two girls for the female part. These children will alternate performance nights and have equal opportunity to perform. The other, smaller child roles are not shared, and the children with those roles will be in all performances of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Since May 14, the cast and crew at Post Playhouse have worked from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., meticulously reviewing choreography and harmonies in preparation for opening night.

This season, Post Playhouse will perform “The Little Mermaid,” “Footloose,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Urinetown” and “42nd Street.”

Ossowski has several factors he must keep in mind when selecting shows each season. Actors are contracted for the entire summer, and for all five shows. Therefore, each of the actors needs to have a role for each show. The same two actors cannot be the leads for all five productions, and there needs to be equal vocal parts for the shows to create a more ideal balance between voices.

“I can’t have a show of all tenors and then one baritone,” Ossowski said.

Like seasons in the past, this season is repertory, meaning the shows are on a rotating schedule.

This summer is no different, except for the rate at which these shows are opening.

In previous seasons, each show would have about a week of rehearsals solely for that production before adding another show into the mix.

This season, however, rehearsals for all five shows being produced began on day one.

The cast and crew had a strict schedule to follow. They watched call times closely because several shows were rehearsed simultaneously in different locations.

One of the benefits of running shows concurrently is allowing different actors to take on lead roles.

Additionally, the amount of downtime for the company is lessened. This gives each of the performers a chance to work on their solos or parts for another show, instead of finding ways to waste time before rehearsals for their show later in the summer.

“It eliminates the number of people sitting around waiting,” Ossowski said.

But, it takes diligence from the company to stay on track and be aware of what show is being rehearsed when.

“Sometimes I’ll look at the back of someone’s book just to see what show we are doing,” Ossowski said.

A new addition to Post Playhouse this summer is more technological elements to step up the quality for performances. One of the newest technological additions was a television wall. Using moving images, underwater scenes for “The Little Mermaid” will come to life and make the audience feel as if they are under the sea with Ariel and Flounder.

The new technology will also allow the car to fly in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

For the 51st season, three of the women and four of the men are Post Playhouse alumni from last season.

However, it is not uncommon for alumni to return to the Post Playhouse stage once again, which allows the theater to boast a high retention rate.

These familiar faces appeal to regulars of Post Playhouse.

“That’s the number one question: how many people are coming back from last year?” Ossowski said.

The first show of the season, “The Little Mermaid,” opens 8 p.m., Friday, June 1. Tickets can be purchased at the box office by calling 1-888-665-1976 or by visiting postplayhouse.com. Tickets may also be purchased at Post Playhouse, but shows may be sold out.

Because of the theater’s location — in a Nebraska state park — a parking permit is required for entry.