Great Plains Theatre Artistic and Education Director Mitchell Aiello couldn’t wait to finally release the 2022 season of possibilities line up. 

Recently, the GPT released the schedule for its upcoming season.

“Our season of possibilities includes shows that fall into the realm of people achieving goals or characters achieving goals and all that between our kids shows & adult shows,” Aiello said. 

Madagascar: A Musical Adventure Jr. - February 11 - 20 

“Our first show of the season is a Great Plains Players Youth Academy Show,” Aiello said. “We will be producing Madagascar: A Musical Adventure Junior. It’s based on the hit DreamWorks animated film following Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman as they brave on through the adventure of a lifetime alongside our plotting penguins and lovable lemurs.”

Aiello held auditions for ages 5 to 18 on Wednesday Nov. 10 in which candidates needed to prepare an acapella song for 60 seconds and learn a small dance routine. 

The big challenge for this show’s production focuses on making sure to push youth members to learn new skills. 

“With each youth production that I have done thus far, I try to level up in every show, not only for myself or the team in the challenges, but also for the youth members,” Aiello said. 

“The other wonderful thing about this show as a challenge is that the cast that I’m hoping to select is going to be asked not only to play the couple of leading roles, but all of the supporting and feature roles are also distinctive between the Monkeys, the Lemurs, the Fossa and the penguins. It goes on and on that everyone is so essential to the story, but it’s such a specific character that you can recognize and pinpoint.”

The Ugly Duckling - March 5 - 12 

“It is a part of our live literature series with target audiences of preschoolers through fifth grade audiences,” Aiello said. 

“It’s an educational show following the heartwarming tale by Hans Christian Andersen, so right off the fairy tale takes us on a journey of hope and friendship,” Aiello added. “But the show does address topics of diversity, growth and positive self esteem, which is something that I know is very important for our educators and administrators in the school system.”

For the school tour groups, Aiello created special packets with activities and questions that instructors to use as guide learning with the performance. 

Aiello sees the biggest challenge in the production of the Ugly Duckling comes from the smaller sized cast. 

“It’s a very small cast show,” Aiello said. “So in the show, there are five actors that are going to portray the whole musical…It is taking five actors and a few crew members just to mount what seems to be a full production. When you come to the theater, we want you to feel like you experienced it all, but somehow with a group of less than 10 people making it all happen.” 

Footloose - June 3 - 12 

“We are ready to kick off our Sunday shoes…the musical is based on the movie about inspiring a town through the importance and power of love and dance while witnessing the power of wisdom and forgiveness,” Aiello said. 

Sadly, Kevin Bacon, part of the cast of the original movie, will not be making an appearance on the stage. Even without ‘the Bacon,’ Aiello can’t wait to get his cast on their feet and learning dances to all the pop culture classics. 

“With the choreography, we want to portray these characters in this story,” Aiello said. “We’re going to have some converse and some dancing shoes, but we’re also going to have the cowboy boots when they’re line and square dancing. The dance styles are so specific to the movie, so without copying the exact dance moves from the movie. We want to be able to pay tribute to the movie without copying the exact dance moves that were in the movie.”  

Matilda - June 24

- July 3 

“It is following the classic Roald Dahl story of an astonishingly witty girl with special powers that teaches us to use our extraordinary imaginations to change our destiny,” Aiello said. “Oftentimes, Matilda can be seen as a naughty girl or someone who doesn’t follow the rules, but really her imagination and powers and strength that she has to change her life.”

With a cast and crew of both adult and youth Great Plains Theatre members, Aiello knows it will be a challenge but students will get guidance from the professionals. 

“The best way for our youth members to learn is to put them in an environment in which there are people that do this for a living,” Aiello said. “When you mash that all together, it is learning by example, experience and role models.”

Jersey Boys -

July 15 -31 

“Join us for the international musical phenomenon that takes you behind the story and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons…the challenges, the rise and the ultimate triumph of a group’s music that becomes a symbol of a generation. If you know Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, this is a jukebox musical, which means all of the songs are actual songs that played on the radio, on vinyl, on CDs and probably also on Apple Music.”

Aiello knows that he will need to make sure the actors take on the dynamic personalities of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeViot and Nick Massi are ready for the challenge.  

“The challenge of the show is finding the four guys to portray these characters, not only in their voices and how they sound musically, but in honesty what they bring to the story…This is the most mature storyline of the summer mainstage seasons. In regards to the audiences, it is the most mature story because of these Four Seasons. We know them for their incredible music, but every famous group has their ups and downs.”

Wonderland High - August 18 - 21

“As school begins, please fall down the rabbit hole to celebrate the writing and wit of Lewis Carroll and this original show filled with jokes, puns and zany characters as drama and fun ensue at this modern high school,” Aiello said. “We follow our main character, Arthur, as he moves to a new town and goes to this new high school called Wonderland High.”

On the production side, Aiello finds this to be the most complicated on creating sets and costumes for each character. 

“I think the challenge is going to be the technical side of not just having them in the exact Alice in Wonderland costumes or not setting it in Wonderland,” he said. “It is set in a high school, so how to take the pictures from Alice in Wonderland and apply that to a high school set of lockers and classrooms. How do you twist those iconic costumes to look like it would be something that someone would wear to high school.”

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery - September 9 - 25

“The classic literary character of Sherlock Holmes is teaming up once again with John Watson and over 40 other characters to solve a kooky and educational who-done-it,” Aiello said. 

“Ken Ludwig took the story of Hounds of Baskerville and made it the funniest comedy I’ve read in quite some time,” Aiello added. 

The show was originally for the 2020 season before the pandemic hit, so Aiello decided the 2022 season would be the perfect time to add it once again on the line-up. He plans to treat this play the same as the Ugly Duckling with some shows being for school groups with packets for students to complete.

The biggest challenge for the who-done-it comedy comes for the actors playing multiple characters throughout the show. 

“These characters all play boys, girls, old and young, they play everything on the spectrum,” Aiello said. “The excitement of this show is staying true to the Hounds of Baskerville while also telling a crazy comedy, while also identifying these three actors and how they can strongly distinguish themselves as a set of different characters. It is so funny, some of their characters are on for one line and they’re gone. Some characters are on for five scenes.” 

The Christmas Schooner - December 2 - 18 

“This holiday treat will have you leaving the theatre with warm fuzzies about a story of the Great Lakes, voyages of Christmas tree ships and a family’s positive spirits to share the power of classic inspiration and Christmas miracles,” Aiello said. “This show is the only show out of the whole next season that has been done at the Great Plains Theatre before, it was a crowd favorite.”

With the show coming back for another run, Aiello wonders how it will change with the new sets and cast. Will it still be a locally beloved show?

“I think the challenge and something exciting about the show is that it will be the one show that has been produced by GPT before,” Aiello said. “What will be different for our audience? What will be different for the production team? What will be different about it now that it is back?”

How To Buy Tickets 

After hearing about all the unique shows planned for the 2022 line-up, customers may want to go buy tickets to one or more of the plays. 

People can go online at www.greatplainstheatre.com, call 785-263-4574 or visit the GPT located at 215 North Campbell Street to buy season tickets now or individual tickets after Jan. 31. 

 

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