TUPELO • After a slight delay, Tupelo Community Theatre’s 51st season is ready to start.
TCT’s opening show for the 2020-2021 season, “Little Shop of Horrors,” will be presented two months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final show of the 2019-2020 season, “Spamalot,” was postponed four months before it took the Lyric Theatre stage in August.
“’Little Shop’ should’ve been when ‘Spamalot’ was,” said Tom Booth, TCT’s executive director.
“Little Shop of Horrors” begins the TCT season Oct. 22-24. The season then returns to its normal schedule of a five-production season with its remaining four shows:
• “Elf The Musical” (Dec. 3-5)
• “Arsenic and Old Lace” (Jan. 28-30)
• “Crimes of the Heart” (March 18-20)
• “Something Rotten!” (Apri 29-May 1).
“We didn’t lose anything, just delayed,” Booth said.
This season’s schedule features three musicials (“Little Shop of Horrors,” “Elf” and “Something Rotten!”), a timeless comedy (“Arsenic and Old Lace”) and a Southern drama (“Crimes of the Heart”).
Booth said it’s rare for TCT to do three musicals in a season.
“We always try to do two comedies, two musicals and a drama,” he said, “but with the opportunities we have this year to do three musicals, we decided to jump on it.”
“Little Shop,” the horror comedy musical featuring a hapless floral shop worker and his flesh-eating plant, is making its first appearance on the Lyric stage.
Booth said “Little Shop” will be the first TCT production to feature puppets like its Audrey II plant. The production also carries over the use of recorded musical tracks, which TCT did for the first time in “Spamalot.”
“In ‘Spamalot’ we did things we’d never done before,” Booth said. “We did a projection. We did tracks. We delayed the show for four months.”
“Elf,” the musical stage version of the popular Christmas movie starring Will Ferrell, is also making its TCT debut.
“The musical changed a few little things, but if you know the movie and love the movie, you’ll love this,” Booth said. “It’s the same basic storyline with Buddy trying to find where he came from.”
TCT likes to bring back past productions for another staging, and it’s doing so this season with “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “Crimes of the Heart.”
“Arsenic and Old Lace” previously was presented in 1974 and 1987. “It’s one that’s been done thousands and thousands of times, but we’ve haven’t done it in years,” Booth said of the comedical murder mystery.
“Crimes of the Heart,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Jackson native Beth Henley, was first staged by TCT in 1988. It tells the story of the three Magrath sisters who reunite at Granddaddy’s home in Hazelhurst.
Booth said he saw “Crimes of the Heart” in New York City. “It’s a great story, but they totally missed the mark,” he said. “They do not understand Southern people. We’re looking forward to bringing a true-to-life feel to it. If we can’t do Mississippi in Mississippi, who can?”
The season wraps up with “Something’s Rotten!,” which Booth said will be the first production of the musical comedy in Mississippi. Set in 1595, the story follows the Bottom brothers who struggle to find success in the theatrical world.
“I saw it on Broadway, and it is similar to ‘Spamalot’ in a sense that nobody’s going to know any of the music,” Booth said. “It’s not like ‘Guys and Dolls’ or ‘The King and I’ where they know the songs, but they are going to love it. I think it was the only show I saw in New York that got a standing ovation at the end of Act I. It’s so great. Very funny.”
TCT will continue the COVID-19 social distancing seating and protective mask guidelines it put in place last season.
Patrons must wear masks when entering and approaching their seats in the Lyric, and there will be some separation between them in the seating area. There will be 150 seats made available in the 477-seat theater for each performance.
Booth said the guidelines will remain in place until the state- and local-mandated restrictions are eased.
“We’ll continue to do that as long as we have to,” he said. “Obviously, we’re anxiuos to get back to whatever regular life will be.”
Because of the delayed start of its season and the pandemic restrictions, TCT will not host its annual Haunted Theatre this year. The Haunted Theatre gives hundreds of visitors a spooky tour of the Lyric throughout October.
“We don’t know how to do Haunted Theatre safely this year,” Booth said. “We just can’t figure it out, so we’re going to concentrate on ‘Little Shop’.”
Productions of TCT’s Off Broadway theater on Franklin Street are also on hold. Booth said social distancing would limit Off Broadway’s seating to just 30 people.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which plays to a sellout audience at Off Broadway every Halloween, is moving to the Lyric this year.
In addition to the production, the “Rocky Horror” evening will include contests for Best Costume and Best COVID mask. The doors open at 7:15 p.m. for the 8 p.m. showing; tickets are $20. No one under age 18 will be admitted.