CHAZY - When Frank W. Langr and his wife, Kathie, hosted their first production of the Broadway musical "Annie," neither imagined how far the grassroots theatre group would go.
Twenty years later, Chazy Music Theatre continues to take the stage at Chazy Central Rural School each year, entertaining audiences that span generations.
"It's amazing how far we've come. When we started, I would call up people I knew and say, 'Hey, would you like a part in the play this year,'" recalled Langr. "They didn't even have to audition. We auditioned the children and the students, but the adults just sort of got invited and it grew from there."
Langr grew up in Westchester County, just north of New York City. It was there that he found his love for musical theatre as a teenager, he said. Over the years, his theatrical passion only grew, and upon taking his position as Chazy Central's instrumental music teacher more than 20 years ago, he decided to share his passion with the community.
The process has brought together students from neighboring school districts, and even helped bridge the generation gap by becoming more of a group the focuses more on including general members of the community.
"I've been a real believer that one of the really important things we've done is bring multiple generations together on one project," said Langr. "It's really significant when you have a 7-year-old and a 75-year-old working on the same project, that's unique. That kind of stuff doesn't happen very often."
While the productions have changed over the years, starting with "Annie" and including other hits such as "The Wizard of Oz" and "Children of Eden," one thing has remained constant - reaching audiences with stories involving life lessons and social themes, said Gilles Fortin, director of this year's production, Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."
"The neat thing is there's so much variety ... There are different aspects to every show," said Fortin.
Though putting on productions is very time-consuming and labor-intensive, the end result is worth it, Fortin noted.
"The story of 'Beauty and the Beast' is magical anyway, but it's been fun trying to figure out the technical aspects of how we're going to do this and how we're going to do that and the costumes, of course," he said. "It's been amazing."
In addition to the hard work of those involved with Chazy Music Theatre, the main way the group has been able to continue hosting productions is through ticket sales. The money raised from admission is imperative to the future of the group, and at only $8, Fortin said people are getting more than their money's worth.
When the group first started, admission was originally $4 per person, but the price slowly rose to the $8 charge seen today, said Fortin.
"So, over 20 years, we've only doubled our ticket prices," said Fortin, who added the group's theatrical productions are one of the most inexpensive forms of entertainment today.
Donations are always welcome, Fortin continued. Those interested in making a contribution to Chazy Music Theatre may do so by sending checks payable to the nonprofit organization to P.O. Box 412, Chazy N.Y. 12921.
The box office at Chazy Central Rural School, 609 Miner Farm Road, will be open daily from March 19 through Sunday, March 22. Evening performances are being held at 7:30 through Saturday, March 21, with 2:30 p.m. matinees being held Saturday and Sunday. The box office will open one hour prior to performances.
Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 846-6840 or 846-3500. Remaining tickets, if any, will be available for purchase at the door.