ALT returns to live shows

The Albuquerque Little Theatre is swinging open its doors with a summer series.

The trio of productions includes “Barrymore,” “The Belle of Amherst” and “Barefoot in the Park.”

The shows are ALT’s first to be produced live on stage in 15 months.

“We’re doing small cast shows for summer,” executive director Henry Avery said. “Audience response has been incredible.”

Christopher Plummer won a Tony Award for his portrayal of John Barrymore in the acclaimed Broadway production of “Barrymore.” ALT’s Mario Cabrera (of “Amadeus”) plays the title role.

The play opens with Barrymore down on his luck and in rehearsals for a revival of “Richard III.”

“He was an alcoholic and had a lot of personal issues,” Avery said. “Growing up in a theatrical family – it was a hard life to live up to those expectations.”

Usually cast as the handsome leading man, the actor was seeking more substantial work.

“Mario is brilliant,” Avery said. “He impersonates about 25 people.”

The one-person show “The Belle of Amherst” opens July 22. Based on the life of the poet Emily Dickinson from 1830-1886, the show makes use of her work, diaries and letters to recount encounters with the important people in her life. Balancing the agony of her seclusion with brief bright moments, it stars Ronda Lewis in the title role.

Opening Aug. 19, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” ends the summer season with laughter. The play follows newlyweds Paul and Corie Bratter. He’s a straight-laced lawyer, while she is a free spirit always looking for fun. Their too expensive new apartment, with its leaky plumbing and peeling paint, is her latest find. After a six-day honeymoon, they get a surprise visit from Corie’s loopy mother and decide to play matchmaker with their neighbor-in-the-attic Velasco. Chaos ensues.

The show stars Abby Van Gerpen and Michael Weppler.

ALT survived the pandemic-triggered financial crisis through donations, grants and federal funding. They produced nine viral productions before returning live.

“We’re not trained for that,”Avery said of the latter. “Everybody had to jump in and learn new skills.”

A viral TV interview drew $9,000, he added.

“The season renewals are out there now and people are sending in their money.”

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