NextStop Theatre is celebrating its 30th year, a history that took root as the Elden Street Players in 1988, when the newly-formed community theatre took over a Herndon-based warehouse and created an ideal black box space.
The company kicks off its season by paying tribute to the Elden Street Players’ 25 years of excellence before the organization re-branded in 2013 as the professional company, NextStop Theatre. Starting with Michel Legrand’s musical Amour, NextStop is calling on some of its past notable actors and creative members to take part.
Many in the cast and on the creative team were involved with Elden Street Players, starting with Gloria DuGan, the veteran director who helmed Art, Accomplice, Blood Brothers, Wit, Flowers for Algernon and Red at the theater.
Back is Ryan Khatcheressian, starring as Dusoleil, the hero of the story.
“He’s an average Joe who goes to his boring job at the post office every day, and one day realizes he can walk through walls,” he says. “He is in love with a local girl, Isabelle, but doesn’t have the courage to strike up a conversation with her. But thanks to these crazy circumstances, they get to meet.”
What follows is a fun, sometimes Gilbert and Sullivan H.M.S. Pinafore-like musical fantasy, filled with beautiful music and romance. Though Amour was nominated for five Tony Awards in 2002 and starred notable actors Malcolm Gets, Melissa Errico and Norm Lewis, it ran only 48 performances on Broadway in 2002.
“It’s a musical that not a lot of people have seen and this is the first time it’s being done in our area because the rights just became available,” Khatcheressian says. “I was a fan of the cast recording because I was interested in Malcom Getz, the original Dusoleil, but never had the chance to see it. I figured if I can’t see it, I may as well be in it.”
A marketing teacher at Potomac Falls High School, Khatcheressian played Mark in Elden Street’s production of Rent back in 2010, and is excited to be doing his first show at NextStop.
“I’ve wanted to work here and am thrilled to be getting the chance with this incredible show,” he says. “I am also excited to be working again with Gloria. She gave me my first show out of college (Jekyll & Hyde at the Arlington Players in 2002) and knowing she was coming back to do a show I’m told she always wanted to do, I couldn’t say no. I was excited for the chance.”
Seeing many of those he had known from his original Elden Street experience has been great as well. “As an actor, there’s always a trust factor when working with those you have worked with before—you know their strengths, you know what they can bring to the table—and it’s always fun to see everybody back knowing how their processes work,” he says. “The familiarity is a nice thing.”
Molly Hicks Larson is also back on stage in the black box for the first time in more than decade. With Elden Street, she played Lucy in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in 2002 and Catherine in Boston Marriage in 2007, winning a Washington Area Theater Community Honors Award for her performance. She’s stayed involved with NextStop, doing hair and make-up for their City of Angels in 2016.
Larson also worked with DuGan before, playing the lead in Vienna Theater Company’s 2004 production of Evita, and she was excited to work with the director again. She plays two roles in Amour.
“Gloria being involved is the first thing that attracted me to this project,” she says. “I just love her style, approach and the master that she is. Her production teams are just fantastic. She’s coming out of semi-retirement to do this show and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Besides, she has been “waiting forever” to be on stage for NextStop and felt this was a great opportunity.
“I studied it and knew I wanted to be the characters I was awarded from the start because of the comic focus on the Whore and the challenge of playing her,” she says. “I love that it’s an operetta without being operatic. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
at NextStop Theatre
August 3 – 26, 2018
Details and tickets
She also plays Claire, who she describes as being an office mate of Dusoleil who is not very kind.
“She has labeled him the nerd, and she is one of four office mates who tease him a lot and none are very proficient workers,” Larson says. “Once she and another female worker find out his secret identity, they try and seduce him. It’s a very comedic character.”
Being back with some familiar faces has also been a blessing for her.
“I always say that community or regional theater is just one dysfunctional family—we all know each other and it feels like you are coming home,” she says. “The level of bonding that occurs in a show is so extreme; you see people at their highs and lows and witness their processes and how everyone puts 125 percent into it all. This will always be the same black box and have Elden’s energy in it.”
The thing she expects audiences to enjoy most about the musical is just how much fun it is. Plus, unlike some other shows, this one lets everyone have their moment to shine.
“Each ensemble member is featured in their own story and has a chance to be spotlighted, which is something refreshing and everyone here is extremely talented,” Larson says. “We also break the fourth wall—that’s how campy and fun it is—so we make the audience a member of the story and will bring everyone into this little town of France with us.”
Khatcheressian agrees that with everything that’s going on in the world today, Amour is a great show to help people get away from it all.
“That’s the joy of the show,” he says. “It’s such a fantasy musical you can forget all of your cares and have fun. It’s a fun, fun show.”