As their theater careers have developed, Lyndy Franklin Smith and Jeromy Smith have spent their summers at theaters like Music Theatre Wichita, the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma and Casa Manana in Fort Worth, Texas.
"When we were college students, we started performing in the ensembles of their productions, and not only did we learn an exponential amount of information, but it gave us connections and experience to launch our professional careers," Lyndy says. "When we moved to New York, we were able to watch what these organizations do for the performers that they employ and what they do for their communities.
"As we have been experiencing it together, we have thought, this is something Lexington needs."
So the Smiths, who now live in Lyndy's hometown of Lexington, are launching The Lexington Theatre Company, a professional theater company that will present musicals in the summer at the Lexington Opera House.
The company, which will produce one show this coming summer, July 23 to 26, will use actors from New York and Los Angeles as well as auditioning performers from Kentucky and Oklahoma. While the actors may not be marquee Broadway stars when they are here, the Smiths say they expect to bring seasoned professionals who will be up for leading roles and Tonys in the near future.
They are launching the effort with a Jan. 10 concert at the Lexington Opera House featuring three stars of the Broadway stage and your TV screen: Lexington-native Laura Bell Bundy, a Tony Award nominee for Legally Blonde — The Musical who now stars on FX's Anger Management and The CW's Hart of Dixie; Jonathan Groff, a Tony nominee for Spring Awakening who was the voice of Kristoff in Frozen and was featured on Glee; and Mara Davi, a veteran of the Broadway productions of Drowsy Chaperone and the revival of A Chorus Line and was featured in season two of NBC's Broadway drama Smash.
They will perform with a cast of area performers, sharing numbers that have been influential in the growth of their careers. The performance will end with the announcement of this summer's show.
Tickets for the concert will go on sale Friday.
To the Smiths, The Lexington Theatre Company is their contribution to the theater scene in Lexington.
"This particular model of theater doesn't exist here in Lexington or in the region," Lyndy says. "So we felt like it was a niche we can fill with our combined expertise."
The couple met while they were students in the prestigious Oklahoma City University musical theater program whose graduates include award-winning stage and screen star Kristin Chenoweth. Lyndy went on to perform in the Broadway productions of A Chorus Line and The Little Mermaid, as well as three seasons in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Jeromy was in national tours of Swing!, which came through Lexington in 2002, and 42nd Street, and in New York he worked with several major Broadway management firms that had him involved in shows such as the Tony Award-winning production of August Osage County, Blithe Spirit starring Angela Lansbury, November starring Nathan Lane and many other shows.
The Smiths married in 2008 on the stage of the Lexington Opera House, where Lyndy's mother, Luanne Frankin, is the general manager, and in 2010, they relocated to Lexington where they have served as part-time instructors in the University of Kentucky theatre department, choreographed four-seasons of the annual It's a Grand Night for Singing concerts, and run Paris' Town and Village School of Dance, which Franklin founded. They have also been spending summers in Wichita, choreographing productions such as Finian's Rainbow, Sunset Boulevard and the U.S. premiere of Betty Blue Eyes in 2013.
The Smiths recognize that distinguished résumés alone don't make for a successful theater company. They say they were encouraged by positive responses to their plan from arts leaders including University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey and UK Theatre chair Nancy Jones, as well as Hilliard Lyons sponsorship of the Jan. 10 event, billed as "Concert with the Stars."
"We're out there raising money," Jeromy says. "It's an exciting time to be out there talking about what we can contribute to the Lexington theater community."