EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 4, 2012

Theater troupe readies new digs for holiday show

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The North Regional Theatre Workshop arrived here in 2002, a self-described gypsy troupe trying to find a long-term home in several area communities, and settled into a small stage at Nevins Memorial Library on Broadway.

But after 10 years, the workshop has to move on once again. Fortunately, it isn’t moving too far. This weekend, the workshop, now in its 35th season, will perform its Home for the Holidays musical celebration at Dupres Center at Presentation of Mary on Lawrence Street.

Denis Webster-Greene, a member of the workshop’s board of directors and a singer and actor in the company, said the group has cultivated a following here that inevitably required it find a bigger space.

“We love the library, but it was just time to spread our wings a little bit,” Webster-Greene said.

The available space at the library limited the orchestra that could fit to a few pieces, and the stage was cramped during scene changes. At Presentation of Mary, Webster-Green said they can bring in a larger orchestra, 10 to 15 pieces, the back stage area is larger allowing for a shorter time between scenes, and they can hold a larger audience.

“And from directorial standpoint, its been a more challenge to our founding director Paul Webster-Greene,” Denis Webster-Greene said. “He’s going to have bigger stage to work with, bigger pit, and it’s got his creative juices flowing a little bit.”

Paul Webster-Greene, Denis’ husband, was a founding member of what was then the North Reading Theatre Workshop. The troupe performed a number of shows including Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady and Oklahoma! in its early days. After years in North Reading, a high school renovation project forced the workshop on the road. In the following years, it performed in Andover, Middleton, Melrose and Wilmington.

Finally, after years of being a gypsy troupe, according to the workshop’s webpage, it found a home in Methuen, Denis Webster-Greene’s hometown. Over time, the shows have evolved from full musicals into concert-style musical productions.

“We’ve been in a whole bunch of surrounding communities, but Methuen is a great town for us,” said Sharon Fluet, a singer with the theater workshop. “They welcomed us with open arms.”

The workshop approached Presentation of Mary about using the Dupre Center, and PMA Head of School Rose Maria Redman said she was happy for the opportunity.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer it to them and to have the community see our venue,” Redman said. “I thought it would be a good fit because it’s the ‘Dupres Sports and Arts Center.’ We wanted to be able to instead of just using it for sporting events, we can let the people see it in a different light.”

Workshop members spent the weekend setting up the stage for the first time, and Fluet, interviewed late last week, said she was excited to see what the new space could offer.

The NRTW will perform two shows, an evening show on Saturday and a matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $25 for the show, or $50 for dinner and a show. Dinner Saturday is at 6:45 p.m., and the curtain goes up at 8. Sunday dinner is at 12:45 p.m., with a 2 p.m. curtain. There will be a cash bar at both shows.

Tickets available by calling (978) 683-3600.

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