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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY STAGEDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY“In The Heights,” opening June 5, Northampton Community College Summer Theatre. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY STAGEDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY“In The Heights,” opening June 5, Northampton Community College Summer Theatre.
Bill Mutimer, Northampton Community College Summer Theatre Producing Artistic Director Bill Mutimer, Northampton Community College Summer Theatre Producing Artistic Director

Curtain Rises: Northampton Community College Summer Theatre doubles audience

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

The third time’s the charm for Northampton Community College Summer Theatre.

Attendance more than doubled from the first season to the second season and is poised to increase for the summer 2019 season.

“I think we’re moving forward. We grow each year, which is great. The quality of work is really strong. We’re putting out a solid product that I’m really proud of,” says Northampton Community College Summer Theatre Producing Artistic Director Bill Mutimer, now in his fifth year as Chair of the NCC department of theater, succeeding Norm Roberts, who retired.

“The reception we’ve gotten from the community has been a really warm reception. People appreciate what we do and are supporting us,” Mutimer says.

You can’t argue with the figures. Attendance increased from 3,800 for the first season in summer 2017 to 8,000 for the second season in summer 2018, with pre-sales for the third season in summer 2019 outpacing that of the 2018 season.

The NCC Summer Theatre 2019 season and opening dates, with each show having a two-week run, are: “In the Heights,” June 5; “Falsettos,” June 19; “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” July 3 (with a picnic and performance July 4); “Jesus Christ Superstar,” July 24. The children’s show, “The Perfect Dog,” opens July 10 for a four-week run (a portion of ticket sales proceeds will be donated to Animals in Distress, a Coopersburg area no-kill shelter).

Mutimer directs the shows, with the exception of the childen’s show, directed by Clair Freeman.

“We were looking for an eclectic but mainstream season to appeal to a wider audience. And this season we are continuing that, but also with a sense of community,” says Mutimer.

Mutimer talked about the 2019 summer season in terms of community:

“‘In the Heights’ is the heartbeat of the community as one and not just individuals.

“‘With Falsettos,’ we look at a family, but it’s a nontraditional family.”

“‘Buddy’ takes us through how music can form community worldwide. He crosses generations, culture. He’s really the first intercultural pop star. He toured with Ritchie Valens and black artists.

“And then with ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ we’re talking about the world community that religion can bring.”

The 2017 season was “John & Jen,” “Disaster!,” “13,” “Ragtime” and “A Year with Frog and Toad.”

The 2018 season was “Newsies,” “A Dog’s House,” “1776,” “Dreamgirls” and “How I Became a Pirate.”

When asked about the genesis of the NCC Summer Theatre, Mutimer says, “I had been thinking about doing it for a while, with the bent of having people network and mentor each other. Our students would get a chance to work with students from other colleges.

“Local high school kids and local actors would get to work with these students. I would bring in New York talent and Equity union talent, so that they could all work together and learn from each other.”

There will be 75 actors over course of the summer 2019 season. “Everybody who doesn’t live locally is housed in the dorms. Everybody’s paid. No one’s getting rich,” laughed Mutimer.

Mutimer cast actors in New York City in January at the All-In-One for Equity, non-Equity and college students, and at the StrawHat in March for open auditions. “I pulled a large number of actors from each of those,” says Mutimer.

There were two Equity actors for summer 2017 and two Equity actors for summer 2018. There are four Equity actors for summer 2019, including Kennedy Kanagawa, a Muhlenberg College graduate, who is in “Falsettos.”

The 2019 season includes several DeSales University students and graduates: Diedrik Ramos, Alliie Vazquez, Victoria Scoven, Jonathan Cruz, Sabrina Joseph, Matt Camardo and Josephine Latorres.

Cedar Crest College students include Siena Rehatt, Kiana Clarke and Emma Gerstein.

Mutimer arrived in the Lehigh Valley from Atanta, Ga., in 1995, to become artistic director of Main Street Theatre, Quakertown, which he headed until 2005. Prior to heading the NCC theater department, he was an adjunct professor there and at Muhlenberg College.

The 2017 season was supported by NCC and the NCC Foundation. It’s now supported by NCC. “They stand 100 percent behind us,” says Mutimer, citing NCC President Dr. Mark H. Erickson and NCC Vice President, Finance and Operations. CFO James F. Dunleavy. “They’re both huge supporters of the summer theater,” says Mutimer.

Tickets: Lipkin Theatre Box Office, Northampton Community College, Main Campus, 3835 Green Pond Road, Bethlehem Township; ncctix.org; 484-484-3412

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater and stage shows. Email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com