LUMBERTON — This year marks the Carolina Civic Center’s 85th year of existence, but according to Richard Sceiford, the center’s executive director, the 2014-15 season will be business as usual. Or rather, “show business” as usual.
“Every year I am really excited about the season we put together but in the terms of quality and diversity of styles this is the best season we have ever had,” Sceiford said. “This is the kind of season that any theater around our size would be proud to have.”
The first change Civic Center regulars will notice will come with the season’s opening show, ‘Country Royalty: Hank Williams and Patsy Cline Tribute,” on Sept. 27.
“We have increased our tributes this year, and increased the quality by having them performed using live bands,” Sceiford said. “No tracks this year, I wanted us to up the ante. A live band gives the entire show a more energetic feel, the sound is better and it is right there and direct. It is a ‘tribute concert’ versus what was ‘just a tribute.’ It is more expensive, but we just wanted a higher quality.”
The show will feature covers of some of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline’s most celebrated songs as performed by Obie award winner Jason Petty and Grammy nominee Carolyn Martin.
On Oct. 24, just in time for Halloween, the theater will bring to life a horror movie classic with “A Symphony of Horror! Mallarmé Players Accompany Nosferatu Silent Film.”
The Civic Center will be hosting a special screening of the 1922 classic silent film “Nosferatu,” one of film’s first representations of a vampire, with the musical accompaniment of Durham’s Mallarmé Chamber Players.
Composer Eric Schwartz has crafted original music for “Nosferatu,” which Sceiford said will have audience members on the edge of their seats.
“It really adds a lot,” Sceiford said. “I have seen the film before. It is a very creepy movie, the imagery is really stunning. It isn’t just lots of people mugging, it is really scary stuff.”
On Nov. 2, the Civic Center stage will once again be put to use by the internationally acclaimed Raleigh Ringers, an advanced community of hand-bell choir performers that was founded in 1990.
“The Raleigh Ringers only perform outside of Raleigh every other year at a given place and we had them two years ago,” Sceiford said. “When we saw they were available, we knew we had to bring them back. They totally sold out their last show with us.”
The Civic Center will continue what is quickly becoming a holiday tradition Dec. 12 through Dec. 14 with the third annual production of “A Robeson County Christmas.”
Sceiford said that this year’s production will feature live performances of some of the holiday season’s most beloved music, by some of the area’s most talented performers, including former Miss North Carolina 2013-14 Johna Edmonds, singer Tyler Cole, and performance artist Jef the Mime.
“Each year we try to make sure it stays fresh and new for people,” Sceiford said. “We make it snow inside and outside the theater using snow machines. You hear the squealing of kids as they walk up and it is really fun. We really want this to be one of Robeson County’s most exciting traditions.”
On Jan. 24, the Civic Center will be starting 2015 with a little soul when it hosts the “Masters of Soul” tribute concert.
The show will feature early 1960s Motown music performed live. Among the artists whose music will be featured are The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and The Jackson Five.
“We have had Motown tributes in the past but this is a really high energy Motown tribute, like never before,” Sceiford said. “This is straight ahead Motown with synchronized dancing, the works. They perform all over the country and really have to be seen.”
Just in time for the birthday of one of the nation’s most celebrated presidents, Abraham Lincoln, the Civic Center will be inviting the United States Air Force Outreach Performance program to do a special show on Feb. 12 for a free concert, entitled “Heritage of America Band.”
Also in February, the Civic Center will host its third tribute concert of the season with a Feb. 28 performance of “Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters.”
The concert, which Sceiford described as timeless, will include some of The Carpenter’s most acclaimed music, which Sceiford believes will attract a wide variety of music lovers, whether they fell in love with the rock band’s sound during its late 1960s debut or more recently.
On March 27, the Civic Center will be inviting back the Birmingham Children’s Theater for a performance of “Play to Win: The Jackie Robinson Musical.”
The hour-long musical tells the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson, who famously broke the color barrier in Major League baseball.
“They put on such great theater with children in mind, and I think these are great shows for everyone,” Sceiford said. “We would love to get homeschooling families out to the show, as it is something really great they can do outside of the house.”
Another great way to get the kids out of the house might be the “My Time to Shine 2 Talent Competition,” which Sceiford describes as a kind of sequel to last year’s popular “My Time to Shine” production.
This season, the show, which will take place on April 4, has expanded to include new categories besides singers, including dancers, musicians, jugglers and whatever else makes it past the initial audition phase.
Winners will receive cash and gift prizes.
“Talent competitions seem to be very popular in this area and we try to add a lot of extra quality to ours,” Sceiford said. “There is projections, there are effects, lighting, top quality sound equipment. I love how surprised people are at the great quality shows we put on. Last year’s was really popular.”
The season will wrap with the return of the “WKML Singer-Songwriter Showcase,” which as in previous years serves to highlight the lesser known artists who write the hits sung by some of country music’s biggest stars.
“These are national singer-songwriters, these are the people who write the songs for the stars,” Sceiford said. “These are the people who write the hits, they write the songs for Toby Keith and artists like him. It is a neat show because they tell the story about the songs they wrote. People just love it.”
Besides the theater’s main-stage shows, Sceiford says that it will continue its newly established Friday Night Film Series throughout the year.
“There is just something for everyone,” Sceiford said. “We are a full cultural arts center. We are showing movies and hosting art exhibits as well as putting on these great live shows. We are very excited.”