Renton Civic Theatre greases skids on its 25th season
By DEAN RADFORD
Renton Reporter Editor
September 13, 2012 · 1:29 PM
“Grease” kicked off in a big way Renton Civic Theatre’s 25th Anniversary season last weekend, one of the audience-pleasing shows planned for this milestone year.
The audience averaged about 130 people a night. “It’s the biggest opening weekend we’ve had in a while,” said Bill Huls, the theatre’s artistic director.
“Because it’s ‘Grease,’ plain and simple. Everybody wants to see ‘Grease’,” he said.
And expect more.
This season’s lineup is “all classic big-name shows that people want to see,” he said.
The Renton Civic Theatre is having a good run of its own, although like other suburban theaters, it is struggling financially. It received $50,000 in government grants to help pay off its mortgage, but not an additional $100,000 it had expected.
But the theater’s doors aren’t near closing, Huls said.
“It’s great that we’ve reached the Silver Anniversary,” Huls said. “I can see where this place is going to go more and more. I can see it growing in the future.”
The Renton Civic Theatre was founded in 1987 by Carl Darchuk, in the classic building on South Third Street that before housed the Roxy movie theater. Darchuk went on to found the Village Theater in Issaquah and then left for Hollywood.
In those 25 years Renton Civic Theatre has presented on a live stage the staples of community theater, from comedy to farce to musicals to dramas more consistently than any other venue in South King County.
Again this year it will host for the second time the screening of all the entries in Renton FilmFrenzy filmmaking competition. It has taken the lead in presenting the annual Renton Summer Teen Musical.
Huls is renting out the theatre more, to help pay the bills. In October, the lineup includes belly dancers, women singing acapella and a country music show.
Huls has a theory about booking each theater season: Present five familiar shows, including ones the theater has already done and usually comedies and musicals, then do one “serious” show or one it hasn’t presented before in April.
“It seems to work,” he said, and helps to draw younger audiences to the theater. Last season, Renton Civic Theater presented “Crossing Delancey,” a romantic comedy.
This year Huls will direct “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which he describes as an “important show.”
This year’s season also will include “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Annie,” “The Foreigner” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Showing through Sept. 22 is “Grease,” which was the second show Renton Civic Theatre presented in its first season, according to Huls.
It’s directed by Alan Wilkie, who grew up in Renton. He’ll also direct “The Foreigner.”
The stage version of “Grease” is similar to yet different from the popular 1978 movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
“Everybody comes expecting the movie, but that’s not what they are going to get,” said Huls.
The play is set in 1959, when “greasers were still a big thing,” Huls said. The slicked-back hair was a sign of rebellious youth. It’s an era that many of Renton Civic’s older patrons lived through, he said.
The stage version goes beyond just telling the story of greaser Danny and good girl Sandy, two Rydell High School students who fall in love. The songs are different, although theater-goers will hear “Greased Lightning.”
“Grease,” Huls said, “is a lot of fun.”
Renton Civic Theatre's 25th anniversary
Renton Civic Theatre is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a season full of fun and favorites, with a serious look at one of history’s most inspirational stories, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” The season has kicked off with “Grease.”
Tickets are available online at rentoncivictheatre.org or at the box office, 507 S. Third St. in downtown Renton. The phone number is 425-226-5529.
Contact Renton Reporter Editor Dean Radford at email@example.com or 1-425-255-3484 (ext 5050).