Livin' Lyric

Musical and acting abilities can lurk in the most unlikely places in the small communities of Vermont, where talent runs deep. This notion is the principle that has guided the Lyric Theatre Company through decades of successful productions, while relying on over 250 volunteers to make it all possible. As Executive Director Syndi Zook said, one day someone is delivering your mail, the next hes belting out tunes center stage at the Flynn Theatre! Although Lyric Theatre began from modest beginnings in 1974, it has since grown to become the largest all-volunteer community theatre in the United States, as well as a staple of the local, thriving arts scene. With their 70th production opening next week, April 12-15, Lyric Theatre is hoping to make the Broadway hit, Guys and Dolls its best yet. With classic numbers from the 1950s musical, Luck be a Lady, A Bushel and a Peck,and Sit Down Youre Rockin the Boat, notorious gamblers Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson take a chance on luck and love--although they dont necessarily go together. From missionaries and generals, to hot box girls and crap shooters,the 36-member cast who hail from all walks of life, and from many communities throughout Vermont, rehearses with dedication to perfect scenes, dances, and songs at the Eagles Club in Burlington. Meanwhile, an additional group of over 200 volunteers can be found working on sets, sewing costumes, designing props, and all of the other various tasks needed for such a large undertaking at Lyrics warehouse in Williston. Syndi Zook said that each production costs upwards of $100,000 to put on, and thats with an all volunteer cast and crew! We have a very high standard, and high production values, she said. If we paid everyone, we would have a million dollar show. But the beauty of community theatre, said Zook, is that because volunteers come together to create a performance of such high caliber, Lyric Theatre is able to bring high quality theatre to the community for a $20 ticket--quite a bargain, judging on the snippet of a recent rehearsal I attended. Lyric Theatre shows have also always taken place at the Flynn Theatre, and its the scale of this setting that Zook said also sets them apart. While its a privilege to work in the large setting, they have to sell 1,400 tickets per night--no small feat for any community theatre group. But creating something out of nothing is the task for the many artistic people who make each production work, said Zook. And, as is often the case with small, non-profit groups, each person tends to wear a lot of different hats. This year, Executive Director Syndi Zook by day is also doubling as the musicals artistic director by night. Although she admits it is bit overwhelming to be in both roles at once, Zook said, Im living Lyric and loving it! Although Zook has been the executive director for two years, she has been a member of Lyric Theatre Company since 1981. Her favorite part about directing this years musical is working with the actors, while her least favorite part of the process is casting. So many wonderful people come and put their hearts out on a string. Theres so many talented people; trying to pick is agonizing, she said. While she wont be the artistic director of another musical for some time, Zook is more than happy in her role as executive director. There are not too many jobs in theatre in the state of Vermont. Im lucky to have one, she said. Im really happy to step up and help the organization in this way. Although there is so much work that goes into each production, the organization and its dedicated volunteers have to keep moving from one show to the next. While Guys and Dolls will have taken a year-and-a-half from planning phase to production, Zook said after the curtain closes on April 15, the very next day she will start gearing up for West Side Story, next on Lyrics long list of to-dos. Another agenda item on that list is to look for a bigger warehouse space than the one they currently have in Willistons Production Park. Ideally, the warehouse space would be home to both Lyric Theatres rehearsal space and technical space for set building and costuming. Weather its the music, the dancing, the gamblers, or maybe the hot box girls that has your attention piqued, this production of Guys and Dolls is not to be missed. Catch at least one of six performances between April 12-15 at the Flynn Theatre. Tickets are available through the Flynn, at 802-86Flynn, www.flynntix.org, or at the Flynn Regional Box office in Burlington. They are also available through Copy, Ship, Fax in Essex Junction. For additional information, visit www.lyrictheatrevt.org, email office@lyrictheatrevt.org, or call 658-1484.

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