One of the marquee attractions of the four-year-old Lexington Theatre Company is that it brings in professional actors, most Broadway veterans, to top the casts of its locally-produced summer musicals.
But filling out the casts of those shows are many local performers, from students getting their first professional stage experience to adults who live and work here but can hold their own with top-tier talent. And that's never been more true that with The Lex's production of "The Music Man," which takes the Lexington Opera House stage July 12 to 15.
It will be the biggest show ever produced by the company, according to artistic director Lyndy Franklin Smith.
"It’s just sort of overall a very gigantic collection of talent," she said.
And though it represents the company's largest cast of professional actors, it also features the largest cast of local actors as well. Smith said the intention was to stage a show that could showcase more local talent than ever in the company's fourth year, with nearly 30 apprentices.
For many of the Lexington college students associated with The Lex's productions, it is a jumping off point that prepares them for the professional theater scene in New York and elsewhere. That includes putting a show together fast.
"We’re putting a month and a half into ten days. You have to come in prepared," said Nathan Fister, a 25-year-old member of the ensemble.
"I think that’s what people are so amazed by with The Lex — the caliber, what they see in such a short amount of time," said Audrey Belle Adams, a University of Kentucky vocal performance major who plays Ethel Toffelmeier.
The Lex also provides a professional theater experience for actors and other theater artists who have made their lives in Lexington. Paul Thomas and Karyn Czar, who have both taught at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, play Mayor Shinn and his wife Eulalie Shinn.
"It was always a challenge to show [students], ‘I can do this. I don’t just teach it, I can do it,'" Thomas said.
"My theater training has led to everything that I do, and I approach everything with my training as an actress," said Czar, who is the morning news anchor for WUKY-FM 91.3. "I’m in radio because of theater."
And the stars enjoy working with the local artists.
"They're all so good, and it's so much fun to see them all together in one place, working on this," said Mara Davi, a Broadway and screen veteran who is playing the lead role of Marian, the librarian.
Although the company brings in actors from all over the country, the local talent is valuable because it is truly theater for the community, Smith said.
"We’re so education-focused here. After the rehearsals we have master classes, we have lectures," she said. "For us, it’s all about being generous with our gifts. Whatever we have, how can we serve someone else with it?”
"They know that they were in our shoes one day and they’re just helping us become what they are," Adams said.
"You sort of feel like you don’t have to reach as far," said Elizabeth McGuire, a member of the ensemble. "They’re the stars, but they feel relatable."
Another first this year is that the Lexington Theatre Company is producing two shows this summer. Quite a few members of the cast and crew will remain to work on the early August production of "A Chorus Line." But that will be a smaller ensemble than cast of dozens currently preparing for "Music Man."
"This production is one of a kind," Smith said. "This production is being crafted for Lexington, for the Opera House. This particular group of human beings is coming together this one time, and we’re going to do this show for five very special performances, and then everyone else is off. I can’t stop smiling because it’s like nothing else."
If You Go
"The Music Man"
When: 8 p.m. July 12, 13, 2 and 8 p.m. July 14, 1 p.m. July 15
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W Short St.