A photo of a scene in the Buckhannon Community Theatre's production of 'The Sound of Music' starring Diane Williams as Maria. Jamie O'Brien, pictured second from left in the back row, will serve as one of two emcees at the BCT's 50th Anniversary Celebration Dec. 10-11. / Photos courtesy Buckhannon Community Theatre

Buckhannon Community Theatre will present 2022 Knorr Award, release its 2023 season at 50th Anniversary show

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon Community Theatre has a half-century of live Broadway-style shows and a home of its own to celebrate this December, and you’re invited.

BCT will host its 50th Anniversary Celebration Dec. 10-11 at its new home base, the Colonial Arts Center, the renovation of which is nearing completion. The Saturday, Dec. 10 show is set for 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:15 p.m., and the Sunday, Dec. 11 matinee is slated for 2 p.m., with doors opening at 1:15 p.m.

BCT executive director and director of the 50th Anniversary Celebration, Risë Straight Hanifan, said musical samplings and recognizable scenes from shows produced in the 1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s and 2010s will be on tap. The production will even include an encore performance of the song “Let it Go” by Ella McNeish from the August 2022 children’s show, Disney’s “Frozen Jr.”

“Our first show ever was ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ so we will have something from that, and one of the people who will be singing in it was in the original show,” Hanifan said. “She wasn’t the star, but she was in it. There are people who were kids in the 1970s who are going to be in it. Craig Presar is going to be singing a song his dad sang in the ‘70s, but he was a kid in that show.”

A scene from ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ the BCT’s first live musical Broadway-style show / Photo courtesy Buckhannon Community Theatre

BCT members Jerry Leigh and Jamie O’Brien will emcee the show, which has been in the works for over a year.

“We’ve been looking at shows BCT has done over the past 50 years and looking at people who have participated and who will still participate now,” Hanifan said. “We got a few, and it should be a fun time.”

Other shows from the ‘70s include “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Finian’s Rainbow,” while 1980s selections encompass “Brigadoon,” “Man of La Mancha” and “Kiss Me, Kate.” “Annie,” “The Sound of Music” and “Oliver!” will represent the 1990s era, and past and present BCT members will perform vignettes from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Cinderella” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” all from the 2000s.

“The Secret Garden,” “Shrek,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Rock of Ages” will represent the 2010s.

Hanifan has served on the BCT’s board of directors since 2013, but she got her start as an ensemble member in the 1994 production of “Scrooge: The Musical” and later went on to play Oliver Madison in the female version of “The Odd Couple,” and Shelby in “Steel Magnolias” – by far, her favorite role.

“That was because I got to do a fun accent, and apparently, it’s the one accent I can do really well,” she said.

The BCT has had to navigate a few hurdles to make the 50th Anniversary Celebration happen, including the COVID-19 pandemic and delays in the renovation and rehabilitation of the former Colonial Theatre, now named the Colonial Arts Center. That means 2022 actually marks the 51st year BCT, which was chartered as an organization in 1972, has been producing live theater shows.

“It was planned for last December, but then there was a big COVID outbreak, so we had to postpone it,” Hanifan said. “We were going to do it earlier this year, but the Colonial wasn’t ready, and then we were going to do it in October, but we decided to do ‘Clue’ in October instead, so December seemed like a good time. People like to go to events around the holidays.”

The 2022 Knorr award, named for the late BCT founding member, performer and music educator James Knorr, will also be presented at the Saturday show.

“We look for somebody who has given a lot to BCT over their lifetime or over BCT’s lifetime – someone who has been involved behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, whatever,” Hanifan said. “We look for somebody who has given a lot to BCT, and this year’s recipient is extra deserving.”

The inaugural award recipient in 2018 was Keith Buchanan, and Nancy Hefner received the accolade in 2019. BCT members will announce their 2023 season at the anniversary show, too.

“We’re really excited for next year,” Hanifan said. “We will have permanent seating and better sightlines; people will be able to see the stage better. In fact, for this anniversary show, [West Virginia] Wesleyan has built risers in because they’re going to be in there the week before, so we contributed to the cost of the supplies, and then we’ll have those risers, so that we’ll have a better sightline for this show, and we can fit more people in for this show – about 150.”

The anniversary celebration is sponsored by St. Joseph’s Hospital and WVU Medicine, and although no admission fee will be charged, attendees are encouraged to donate $50 or any other amount to BCT. Money raised will assist with the BCT’s $25,000 pledge to the Colonial Arts Center for naming rights to the James W. Knorr Box Office and Lobby. A limited number of T-shirts – just 50 – listing all BCT productions will be on sale for $25 apiece.

From the BCT’s August 2022 children’s production of Disney’s ‘Frozen Jr.’ / Photo courtesy Buckhannon Community Theatre

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