The successful opening night performance of the Broadway musical, “42nd Street,” Sept. 14 by the new professional City Springs Theatre Company was the culmination of a lifelong goal for the company’s new musical director, Judy Cole.
The performance, which also helped launch the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center as a major Atlanta cultural destination, was something Cole had been working towards for the last 40 years.
“It’s a dream come true to work with a professional theater company in this way,” she said. “I wanted to do this ever since coming out of graduate school, but I didn’t want to live in New York.”
Not that Cole hasn’t been a busy musician and director for the last four decades. She’s a professor and artist-in-residence in the school of music at Kennesaw State University. There she has directed such productions as Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” and Alfred Uhry’s musical about the Leo Frank trial, “Parade.”
During the past two weeks she’s been even more busy as the instrumentalist at The Temple’s High Holiday services, where she’s been the regular pianist and organist for the last 14 years. On the eve of Yom Kippur, Sept. 18, she played Max Bruch’s classical concerto, “Kol Nidre,” with cellist Barney Culver at Shema Yisrael – The Open Synagogue – and accompanied her husband, Cantor Herb Cole, during the service.
But it is Sandy Springs’ new musical theater that takes up much of her time. She calls the current production in the new performing arts center first-class entertainment.
“This is truly Broadway-level entertainment,” she pointed out, with some pride. “It’s singing and dancing, with a spectacular production in a beautiful theater. It’s totally a class act from A to Z.”
The show, which was legendary producer David Merrick’s last major work, debuted in 1980, won a Tony award for best musical, and included almost 3,500 performances during its four-year run. It’s a song and dance fest based on the 1933 movie musical of the same name, which was the first musical blockbuster in Hollywood history.
It’s an old-fashioned story of show business success by a talented, starry-eyed young performer who comes to New York with big dreams and a pair of tap shoes, and makes it big on Broadway. The Sandy Springs production stars Tony award winner and Atlanta native, Shuler Hensley.
The company is led by award-winning producer and director Brandt Blocker, who spent 10 years as managing artistic director of Atlanta Lyric Theatre in Marietta.
During the past week, “42nd Street” has been playing to mostly sold-out audiences. It is the first of four productions planned for the coming year in the new Byers Theatre, which seats over a thousand theater goers. Other productions scheduled are “The Elf,” “Billy Elliot” and “Hairspray.” The productions are supported by a $500,000 grant from the Sandy Springs Foundation.
More than 4,000 season subscriptions have already been sold, which is just how eager the community is for professional theater, Cole said.
“Having this high caliber of theater in Sandy Springs has been matched by residents who have been incredibly supportive. This is such a great delight.” ■