ABET to kick off 25th season with ‘Merrily We Roll Along’


The Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre kicked off its 25th season Sept. 9 with the premiere of “Merrily We Roll Along,” a musical about friendship, compromise and the high price of success.

With a book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, “Merrily We Roll Along” is a musical based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The musical was performed on Broadway in 1981 and won a 1982 Tony Award for Best Original Score.

“We at ABET are so excited to open our 25th season with ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ – a big musical with a cast of 18 and a six-person orchestra,” Managing Artistic Director Celia Frank said. “The music is absolutely thrilling and this will mark the first Stephen Sondheim show for ABET.”

Following the musical, ABET will produce its first-ever Shakespeare production with “Macbeth.”  With scenes such as the three witches’s infamous utterance: “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble,” Frank said “Macbeth” will be a perfect show for the Halloween season. 

For the Christmas holiday, the theatre will put its own twist on the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.” The 25th season will wrap up in 2017 with “Celebration,” “4,000 Miles” and “The Hallelujah Girls.”

“ABET's entire season of offerings – comedies, dramas, musicals, new shows and classics – perfectly exemplifies this milestone season,” Frank said.

Founded by Carson Merry Baillie, director emeritus, and three of her drama workshop graduates with a goal to bring more original scripts and challenging plays and musicals to the Jacksonville area, the not-for-profit ABET puts an emphasis on new and original plays as well as neglected classics. Many roles are race and gender neutral. The theatre focuses on developing new talent and offers drama workshops for adults and children wanting to hone their acting chops.

Remaining performance dates for “Merrily We Roll Along” are Sept. 15, 16, 18, 23, 24 and 25. Showtime for Friday and Saturday performances is 8 p.m.; Sunday performance showtime is at 2 p.m. Performances take place at the Adele Grage Cultural Center located at 716 Ocean Blvd. in Atlantic Beach.

In conjunction with the opening, the Shepherd Agency will present an exhibit of ABET show posters in the gallery which will be available for purchase. Since 2007, Shepherd has designed all of the ABET posters for main stage shows – a total of 70 posters. Several designs have won national awards.

Individual tickets for performances are $20. Season tickets, which allow season ticket holders to save 20 percent over individual ticket prices, are available for $96 for adults; $84 for seniors or full-time students. For tickets, call (904) 249-7177 or visit www.abettheatre.com.

Looking to get involved with community theatre? The ABET Guild -- a support group that assists with the box office, opening night receptions, website maintenance, or with special projects such as ABET’s annual Extravaganza and New Chair Drive -- is free to join and open to all. Volunteers also help with the many aspects of production, such as helping with costumes, props, lighting or sound.