Theater Off Broadway debuts with “rave reviews”

by Benita Fuzzell

Erin Hancock resides in Fulton with her husband, Sam, and their six children.

But at any given time, her mind may drift away to the big city and musical theater.

She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio enjoying the arts through dance as well as theatrical productions.

In 2008, she opened a dance studio in South Fulton, as an instructor, and then in 2011, when the former location of Office Outfitters on Walnut Street in Fulton came available for purchase, she relocated her thriving enterprise, Broadway Dance.
A major transformation took place with that move, as the dance company’s clientele increased to 175 students who make weekly visits from Fulton and South Fulton as well as Mayfield, Graves County, Dresden and Martin, Tenn.

Her staff of seven teachers works closely with children and youth, ages 2 through seniors in high school.

In 2019, the “Woman’s Club” building, just next door to Broadway Dance and then owned by the City of Fulton, became available for purchase.

“It just seemed to go together, dance and theater. Although, they are completely separate, “ Hancock said, as she explained her new endeavor, Theater Off Broadway, at 401 Walnut, will be designated as a 501(c)(3), a non-profit, unlike the dance studio, which provides financial support to her family.

“I didn’t know how the community would embrace a theater. It would need support on a yearly basis. The Rights to shows, alone, can be over $1,500. But we have received great community support and positive responses. We offer a number of levels for sponsorship, from Friend of the Theater, at $50 to chair sponsorship and Patron of the Arts, at $100, all the way to Producers Circle at $2000,” she said.

Those interested in supporting the theater financially, which may include scholarships, may visit the Theater Off Broadway facebook page where a link may be accessed to review the opportunities for sponsorship.

There is a fee to participate in the theater productions.

The lobby area has now been completely revamped and the main stage expanded to 40 ft. by 20 ft., a standard for large productions, and includes make-shift “wings” on either side.

The stage area features modern, state of the art dressing areas and restroom facilities have been completely remodeled.

The 158 seats were filled to capacity for the Feb. 25-26 production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr., featuring a cast of 27, including all the well known and well loved Little Mermaid stars, Ariel, portrayed by Mia Hancock, Ursula, portrayed by Kataya Chapel, Rebecca Jones as Sebastian, Jeremiah Britt as Prince Eric, Elijah Dickenson as King Triton, Alana Gattis as Flounder, Olivia Fulcher as Scuttle, Cara Capps as Gimsby, Ellie Robertson as Flotsam and Gage Hancock at Jetsam. Ensembles featured Ellie Matheny, Ava Dixon, Kaelyn Williams, Gabriella Bullard, Addison Janes, Heather Wilson, Katy Gordon, Joshua Jones, Arianna Williams, Whitley McCuiston, Maddie Kate Workman, Mavis Brewer, Poppy Hancock, River McCord, Birdie Cardwell, Evie Jones and Nora Jo Mike.

When a scene called for a song, there were no recordings, only live performances from each character.

Staging and props were created and painted often by cast members, dance studio students and parents.
Erin said plans are underway for the next production, in late May or June, for a presentation of Frozen Jr. Auditions will be publicized, as will opportunities to purchase tickets.

Long range goals include the purchase of a sound system, however Erin said the acoustics in the historical facility, once used as a library and then as a gathering place for the female professionals in the community, are good, and the theater is currently using a donated system.

If time, and funding allows, Erin said adult productions could be a possibility in the future.

For more information about Theater Off Broadway, visit the facebook page, and leave a private message, as the page is monitored and responses are made in a timely manner.