Celebrating with Pride

Richmond Triangle Players celebrates more than three decades of theater with “The Best of Times,” a cabaret retrospective.

There is a mishap at Richmond Triangle Players that has been dubbed “The Great EDM Massacre of 2023.”

During a performance of “Head Over Heels,” a musical that takes place in a fictional land and features the music of the Go-Go’s, RTP’s lighting board overheated after the theater’s air conditioning unit failed.

“Everything started to strobe at the beginning of act two,” explains Lucian Restivo, Triangle’s artistic director. “We had to call ‘hold’ for the show, then, unfortunately, cancel the remaining performance.”

This humorous incident is one of many that will be recounted during “The Best of Times: A Musical Celebration of Richmond Triangle Players.” The musical retrospective will celebrate the theater company’s 30-plus years of producing local work by swapping stories, staging scenes and performing songs that relate to RTP’s history.

From its founding at Fieldens, an after-hours speakeasy on Broad Street, to its current position as an anchor of Scott’s Addition, RTP has become a mainstay of the local theater scene, racking up numerous commendations from the Richmond Theatre Community Circle in the process (full disclosure: Griset is an RTCC voting member).

Starring Chloe Green, TeDarryl Perry, Shannon Schilstra and Doug Schneider, the show’s dialogue is crafted from the performers’ own personal stories, interspersed with scenes and songs from prior RTP shows and videos from other Richmond actors.

Each weekend will feature a different special guest performer: Lanaya Van Driesen (June 12-15), Jim Morgan (June 20-23), Brian Baez (June 27-30), Kelsey Cordrey (July 5-7) and Georgia Rogers Farmer (July 10-13).

“We wanted to incorporate the really big names that we’ve worked with and the community favorites that have graced our stage,” explains Restivo, one of the show’s co-directors. “It’s never going to be the same show. It’s very cabaret-based in that aspect. There’s definitely a different section per weekend that audiences will get to experience, so we’re urging people come back each week because it will be a different show.”

Musical numbers will include “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret,” “Dressing Them Up/ I Draw the Line” from “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and “Inner White Girl” from “A Strange Loop;” RTP will stage the latter show next season.

Kendall Walker, the show’s other director, says “Best of Times” is a great introduction to the theater and its mission.

“Whether you know us very well or this is your first time, you’ll walk out of it knowing what RTP is all about at its core,” Walker says. “Both kinds of patrons are going to get a valuable experience from seeing the show.”

Phil Crosby, RTP’s executive director, says the theater company originally planned to do a retrospective for its thirtieth anniversary, but they got too busy producing other shows.

“It was ripe with a lot of possibilities,” says Crosby of staging a retrospective. “We’ve done some terrific work and [we thought] it would be really nice to revisit some history and songs in a very personal way.”

There’s one notable scene from RTP’s history — involving male nudity onstage — that will not be reenacted.

“We’re not doing the locker room scene from ‘Take Me Out,’” says Crosby, referencing a Tony Award-winning play that RTP staged locally in 2010. “Hopefully no one’s looking forward to that.”

From its salad days in the attic of Fieldens to finding a permanent home on Altamont Avenue in 2010, RTP has both morphed with the times and remained the same, Crosby says.

“The mission’s never really changed,” Crosby says. “The delivery of the mission has changed. When we started, we were gay folk doing gay plays for other gay folk in a very safe space.”

Over time, Crosby says their appeal has broadened to include both the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Noting the recent backlash to drag performers and other news events impacting the LGBTQ+ community, Crosby says there’s been discussion at RTP about performing work that’s more overtly political in nature.

“There’s always work to be done,” Crosby says. “We will never stop having to do the work, which is why we’re here.”

Asked why Richmond audiences should see the show, Restivo has a timely response: “What better way to celebrate Pride month than to be joyous in a gay theater celebrating gay work?”

Richmond Triangle Players’ “The Best of Times: A Musical Celebration of Richmond Triangle Players” runs through July 13 at the Robert B. Moss Theatre, 1300 Altamont Ave. For more information visit rtriangle.org or call (804) 346-8113.

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