Recent hurricane activity has postponed the start of the Lutcher Theater’s new season for a couple of weeks, but the staff is excited about this year’s offerings and has spruced-up the place.

During the summer, workers made improvements that brings the theater into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. This was a voluntary renovation according to Jim Clark, managing director and president of the board of directors. The theater predates the 1994 act and was not required to make the changes.

One of the most welcome changes for patrons may be in the restrooms. Workers took in some of the second floor lobby, installing three additional stalls and removing a few of the lavatories in the ladies room. “We installed granite sinks,” said Clark. They also changed the traffic flow. The doors have been removed and a separate entrance and exit has been installed.

“The men’s room was also expanded,” said Clark. A family restroom was also added.

“The concession stand was lowered, and we upgraded all of our equipment,” he said, referring to the counters lowered to a height that could be reached by someone in a wheelchair. Also replaced were soft drink machines and other concession equipment.

There are now rails at all the stairs and along the walls in the auditorium, plus they have removed a few seats to make room for more wheelchairs. Outside, they have installed a ramp with rails on the side of the building, whereas before you had to use the driveway to get a wheelchair into the building.

All the work was completed in two months. “We’re still finishing up,” said Clark, but the building was open in time for the Lamar-Orange August graduation.

Clark is excited about the upcoming season, calling early ticket sales “ … extremely strong.” During the season ticket sales, the musicals took the lead, but when single ticket sales opened, shows more toward the end of the season took the lead. This will be the fifth performance of Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight!”

“It has sold out every time,” said Clark.

“The Drowsy Chaperon” is well on its way to being an early sell-out. The last show of the season, set for May, has already sold 1,000 of the 1,400 seats available.

“The Ten Tenors” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” ticket sells have also been brisk.

The season was supposed to start on Sept. 19 with “Tuna Does Vegas,” the forth installment in the “third smallest town in Texas” saga. Clark was privileged to see the new show recently. “The first act is hilarious, one funny line after another. They’re having fun with it,” said Clark, referring to Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, the only two actors in the performance. “As each character comes out, the audience applauds.”

With the active hurricane season, “Tuna” has been evacuated and will not be in Orange until Oct. 31. That moves “The Pajama Game” into the season opener role, scheduled for the Lutcher’s stage on Oct. 14 with one performance.

Clark is also very proud of the Lutcher’s program for children. With eight productions, two shows each, serving 13,000-15,000 students, it is the second largest program in a four state area. Second only to San Antonio, Clark has been told Orange’s program may be the largest from here to Florida.

Students come from as far as Jasper, Burkeville and Lake Charles to see top notch entertainment from around the world. With corporate subsidies the tickets are only $3.50 for each program. “That’s lunch money,” said Clark. The identical show could be seen else where and cost up to $35 a ticket. This year’s performances come from London, Scotland, Nova Scotia and the Kennedy Center.

This season is just getting started, but Clark is already working on the 2009-10 schedule. He will be out of town later this month, finalizing most of the bookings for next year.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.