By Amie Cooke
This summer, new professional theatre company Asheville Musical Theatre is launching its first, developmental season. Founder and executive director Ethan Henry, who has worked as an actor, director and costume designer on regional productions as well as on Broadway, film and TV projects, has been developing the organization for nearly seven years now. This year’s season will open with the company’s first professional production, Tick, Tick…Boom!, on Friday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 22, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Tina McGuire Theatre at Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, and will continue in the fall with a fundraising cabaret including a song list sourced by the Asheville community. “This has been my passion for as long as I can remember and I am just so honored that this is finally happening,” Henry says.
Born and raised in Asheville, Henry says he is looking to keep the company entirely local to the Western North Carolina area. He also hopes it will help elevate the region’s already vibrant arts scene and provide accessible exposure to the professional theatre industry for audiences.
Tick, Tick…Boom! cast member Kirby Gibson, who will play Susan, says she is excited for the new company since musical theatre opportunities in Asheville seem sparse to a “musical addict” like herself. “One usually has to commute outside of city limits to find those varied professional opportunities we artists need to survive,” she says.
“So not only am I excited that there will be more quality musicals to see here in Asheville, I am excited there will be more chances for support and recognition of my talented friends.”
The goal of this year’s developmental season is to get the word out and raise money for the organization. “I genuinely want to bring Broadway-level productions to Asheville but, of course, we have to start small,” Henry says. “This season is to lay down the groundwork for future success while telling an incredible and meaningful story.”
Henry selected Tick, Tick…Boom! because it will pack a punch while creating a small, intimate introduction for the new company. The autobiographical musical, which contains 14 songs and 10 characters while using only three actors and a band, follows Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning creator of Rent Jonathan Larson as he attempts to reinvent the theatre industry in the early 1990s. “From the development of art, self and perseverance, Tick, Tick…Boom! carries it all,” says Henry.
Gibson says she always enjoys shows like Tick, Tick…Boom! that tackle the artist’s struggle, and she is inspired by the composer’s fierce love for his friends. “Jonathan Larson’s work perseveres because love is the driving theme—love that comes from a real place of experience and loss, and acceptance of others.”
After laying a foundation for the company in 2023, Asheville Musical Theatre is looking toward many events next year. “We already have our hopes for our mainstage season using both the Diana Wortham Theatre and the Tina McGuire Theatre, and I feel like audiences are going to love the rhythm and beat of 2024 with our season of acceptance,” says Henry.
To learn more, find ticket information or donate, visit avlmt.org. Amie Cooke is The Laurel’s summer intern and a student at UNC–Chapel Hill.