SUMTER, S.C. – The trumpet craftsman who spent three decades as the band leader for “The Tonight Show” under the late Johnny Carson will open the Sumter Opera House 2015-2016 season, kicking off the second performance season in decades at the downtown historic venue in September.
Doc Severinsen, who was a sideman to Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman but became a household name as Carson’s musical frontrunner, will bring band to Sumter to play Ellington and Basie standards, pop, jazz, ballads, big band classics and, of course, The Tonight Show theme. And, Lorrie Morgan, the country star with 25 singles, including three chart toppers, will also perform this season, as part of an eclectic array of musical tastes.
Seth Reimer, the Opera House’s cultural manager, announced Monday (Aug. 3) the upcoming performance of the two stars with the arrival of the first half of the line-up for the new season.
“Considering this is only the second performance season held here in decades, I couldn’t be more excited about where we are headed as a growing part of South Carolina’s arts community,” said Reimer, who also begins his second year at the helm. “The fall line-up is filled with impressive artists that will offer our patrons a rich variety of performance experiences in our intimate Opera House.”
Reimer also announced the seven acts that will take place at the intimate 550-seat theatre, including:
- Doc Severensin Big Band – Sept. 13
- Disney Junior’s Choo Choo Soul – two performances on Sept. 26
- Warehouse Theatre from Greenville, SC presents Hamlet – Oct. 30
- Tom Mullica performs one of his final tributes to Red Skelton – Nov. 8
- US Army Jazz Ambassadors concert – Nov. 16
- Country music star Lorrie Morgan – Nov. 20
- Beach music band The Embers brings the spirit of the holidays – Dec. 10
- New Year’s Eve Comedy event – Dec. 31
Reimer said there will be an average of two shows a month. Also during the first month of the performance season, Disney Junior’s “Choo Choo Soul,” featuring Genevieve Goings, will perform two shows on Saturday, Sept. 26. The show has toured with Imagination Movers and has been honored with a Parents’ Choice Award for children’s television. They tour regularly across the United States and Canada, but this is currently their only stop scheduled in the Southeast.
“While the songs are targeted to children, parents and children alike will enjoy the contagious and soulful music focused on trains and learning,” said Reimer, who suggests that both shows will sell out quickly.
The season continues on Oct. 30 when Warehouse Theatre returns to the stage to present Hamlet. Last year’s season featured Warehouse Theatre and received such great reviews that they are returning again this year. The college troupe from Greenville provides a show to high school students during the day and opens the show to the general public for its evening performance.
The Warehouse Theatre group modernizes the performance to appeal to a wider audience, yet keeps the plot and language of the original play. It is the perfect play to examine teenage angst, the awkward reality of combination families, and working through troubled relationships. Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy spurs conversation and thoughtful reflection about how parental actions can shape a young adult’s life.
Tom Mullica will be performing a sweet and funny tribute to wonderful comedian Red Skelton on Nov. 8. Reimer said that Mullica’s ability to embody the various characters that Skelton created will have the audience believing it is Skelton himself performing.
He is the last performer granted permission by Red’s estate to perform his well-known characters such as Clem Klediddlehopper, Gertrude and Heathcliff, Guzzler’s Gin, and Freedie the Freeloaded.
This year is the final year that Mullica will be performing this tribute, as he has announced a return to magic shows full-time in Las Vegas.
The Jazz Ambassadors return to Sumter to perform a free show for Sumter residents of some of America’s greatest original art form, jazz, on Nov. 16. The 19-member powerhouse is the official touring big band of the United States Army and has received great acclaim both home and abroad. The band’s diverse repertoire includes big band swing, bebop, Latin, contemporary jazz, standards, popular tunes, Dixieland, vocals, and patriotic selections, many of which are written or arranged by members of the Jazz Ambassadors.
The third show in November will be country superstar Lorrie Morgan, gracing the stage on Nov. 20. The youngest person ever to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, she has spent more than 25 years as part of the country music community. Her success is defined by her love of a great song and the ability to sell it, combined with the fact that her music is a reflection of her heart and life. This show promises to be an intimate acoustic evening spent listening to the sultry, flawless vocals of a country legend in the historic Sumter Opera House.
The Embers will help bring the spirit of the holidays and family traditions to town on Dec. 10. Although best known for laying the groundwork for what has become known as “beach music,” they are in their ninth consecutive season of doing Christmas shows. Original presentations of favorite Christmas classics and some Embers originals promise to warm hearts and help bring the joy of the season to fans.
Mark your calendars now and get ready to see every show this year! Individual tickets for the fall line-up will go on sale August 10th at 10 am and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 803-436-2616 or by visiting www.SumterOperaHouse.com. Tickets can also be purchased by going to the Box Office located on the second floor of the Sumter Opera House located at 21 North Main Street in downtown Sumter.
Along with the fall line-up, Reimer plans to incorporate membership subscriptions, corporate sponsorships, artist meet and greet sessions, and additional educational opportunities during this season. Each facet is designed to increase accessibility to the arts for all members of the Sumter community.
The Sumter Opera House is located in downtown Sumter, just 40 miles east of Columbia. It was rebuilt in 1895 after a fire destroyed the original building. In 1973, it was officially listed on the National Register of Historical Places but closed a decade later. Capitalizing on the national growing movement toward downtown revitalization and historic preservation, the city reopened the Sumter Opera House in 1987 in its present form. Used primarily for rentals and graduations, it wasn’t until 2014 that an effort was made to present a series of concerts as part of a performance season.