BENNINGTON -- Oldcastle Theatre’s four-decade nomadic adventure finally comes to an end, the nomadic part anyway. The beginning of the 41st consecutive production season also marks the grand opening of Oldcastle’s new home at 331 Main St. in downtown Bennington.
The new season, which begins tomorrow night at 8 p.m., launches with the world premiere of "Northern Boulevard" an original musical written by Kevin Brofsky, directed by artistic director Eric Peterson and musical director Jeffrey Bauchsbaum. The music and lyrics are written by Bennington native Carleton Carpenter, a veteran of theater who began working on Broadway in 1944 and has worked with Debbie Reynolds to create songs which went on to sell over one million copies such as "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" and "Row, Row, Row."
The new location is also the first time that Oldcastle has had a building to call its own. The new home is equiped with 134 seats, on-site rehearsal room, set shop, dressing rooms, and shower. However, the building is still under renovations, and following the close of "Northern Boulevard" on Dec. 23 the theater will close down while they complete additional work until March when they will have a "grander grand opening" with a production of "Around the World in 80 Days."
"Finally, we control our own space, and we just love that," Peterson said.
A large portion of the work and money which went into the renovations came from community donations, either in the form of labor or funds.
"We’ve had overwhelming support from the community," Liz Stott, Oldcastle director of marketing and development said.
"We think we’re going to be a vital part of the revitalization of downtown," Peterson, a founding member of the theater, said.
"Northern Boulevard" follows the story of Jerry and Roslyn, a young couple in 1941 who buy a deli together in Queens. The musical touches on moments in their lives for the next 40 years, covering both the large moments, such as Jerry’s enlistment in the World War II, and the minutiae of everyday life.
The story handles these large events succinctly, as to not break up the rhythm of the musical which clicks along at a pace of three to seven years between scenes, Peterson said.
"It’s the kind of play people of all ages can relate to," he said. "And a lot of it is just plain funny."
As the years go by the music begins to evolve along with the characters based on the decades, but always maintaining a connection to the melodic style of a Broadway show and lyrics that are drawn directly from the scene.
Carpenter prefaces that while it may seem old fashioned, this is the way he prefers to write musicals.
"I like melodies, and I like to say something with the lyrics and every song comes out of the scene," he said.
The idea for the show came about when Carpenter and Brofsky were discussing the prospect of working together on an original production and after three years of development "Northern Boulevard" came to fruition.
"We have the most wonderful cast ever assembled as far as I’m concerned," Carpenter said.
Carpenter and Brofsky developed the musical with the idea of making a show that could easily be performed by a small, local music company. And with that idea in mind, they decided to give the rights to the show to Oldcastle. Following the close of the show, the creators and directors hope that it will be picked up by other local theaters around the country who will want to do their own productions of "Northern Boulevard."