theater masks on a wooden floor

Cheers to 20 Years: ASPI Proudly Presents its 20th Season

From its origins in the Abrams Town Hall, to the 2007 purchase of the church on Maple Street, ASPI is entering into its 20th season strong!

Ali Carlson, ASPI Board Secretary, remembers her first encounter with the theater and its impact in her life. Her story is like the stories told by so many other volunteers who found a second home at the theater.

“I remember walking into the theater for my first production, Seussical: The Musical. Coming from a theater background and family, I didn’t know what to expect. I was new to the community, having just moved to Little Suamico with my husband. That first show got me HOOKED! I was welcomed with open arms and never knew that this theater community could really feel like family, but also, I was able to fill my artistic cup! I still am able to fill my artistic cup! Performing, directing, and theater have always been an important part of my life, and it truly is my mission and joy to continue to bring theater to my local, rural community! So proud to be a part of ASPI and hope it continues for another 20 years!”

Brigette Finger, Board Member, tells about her experience at ASPI: “In many small towns, the local schools aren’t large enough to produce their own musicals. ASPI is so important for youth who are interested in theater, as it provides them with an opportunity to get involved and spread their wings. Anytime you join a nonprofit, you meet people who are passionate about similar things, but I believe community theater goes one level deeper. The people here at ASPI are indeed passionate about theater, but they are also welcoming, kind, dedicated, inspired and fiercely loyal. They are encouraging of all who walk in the doors of the Nancy Byng Community Theater.”

ASPI is so thankful for all of its supporters, actors, and crew. Whether you have been a supporter from the very beginning or are new to the family, your support has carried us through the highs and lows.

Despite such unprecedented challenges as the canceling of the production My Fair Lady in 2020 due to COVID restrictions, ASPI returned to the stage in September 2021 with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, an After Dark Production.

The year 2022 brought us three sensational productions: Beauty and the Beast Jr., The Foreigner, and White Christmas, and we have no intention of slowing down!

The 2023 season will include:

  • Gypsy – March 16, 17, 18, 19 and March 23, 24, 25, 26
  • Lustful Youth (an original play written by Mike Eserkaln) – June 8, 9, 10, 11 and June 15, 16, 17, 18
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jr. – November 30, December 1, 2, 3 and December 7, 8, 9, 10

The 20th season will not only bring new productions, but the theater also has an exciting new goal! By the end of 2023, ASPI has the goal of having 100 NEW Spotlight Sponsors. There are four different levels of Spotlight Sponsors with different levels of perks:

  • Silver Spotlight: $100 – $249
  • Gold Spotlight: $250 – $499
  • Platinum Spotlight: $500 and up
  • NEW! Corporate Sponsorships are available beginning at $950 per show

Plus, it is a tax-deductible donation! You can visit https://abramsspotlightproductions.com/ to set up your donation or call the Box Office at (920) 826-5852 to discuss the program that best fits you.

It is so exciting that ASPI has been successful in offering professional grade productions to Oconto County, and we are hopeful that ASPI will continue to be a staple of local theater in our community for many years to come! We also hope that the 20th season will bring new faces, patrons, and talent to the theater! Whatever your skill, ASPI has a place for you! As a nonprofit theater run completely on patronage and donations, we always need community support to keep the doors open. So, let’s keep the fantastic productions coming!

Bill Koehne, Board President, said: “ASPI isn’t just performances and shows, it’s about building a sense of community for everyone involved. Building relationships, fostering friendships, and supporting one another may not be the obvious mission of a theater organization, but it’s an important element of ASPI.”

Be sure to follow Abrams Spotlight Productions on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube so that you never miss an update!

Note: You can read more about the theater’s history, in the past blog post, “Before there were spotlights and solos… there were homilies and hymns!”

Gypsy: A Musical Fable

Come on out to audition for our spring production… Gypsy! This production is directed by Ali Carlson.

Come prepared with 24-32 bars of a song, preferably from a musical. You will also learn a short choreography routine.

This musical calls for male and female roles, age 8 years or older. No experience necessary… all are welcome!

Rehearsals will start first week in January and will be mainly on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday evenings

Questions… contact us at theater.aspi@gmail.com or 920-826-5852.

Gypsy will be presented March 16, 17, 18, 19 and March 23, 24, 25, 26.

TICKETS ON SALE JANUARY 16th

Become a Season ticket holder or a Spotlight Sponsor to secure your seats before the general public!


A little about the show:

Regarded by many theatre professionals as the finest musical ever created, “Gypsy” is the ultimate tale of an ambitious stage mother fighting for her daughters’ success – while secretly yearning for her own. Set all across America in the 1920s and 30s, when vaudeville was dying and burlesque was born, Arthur Laurents’ landmark show explores the world of two-bit show business with brass, humor, heart, and sophistication.

The celebrated score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim boasts one glorious hit after another, including: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Some People,” “If Momma Was Married,” “You Gotta Get A Gimmick,” and “Together Wherever We Go.”

Gypsy is presented by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Tams-Witmark LLC

Fly On The Wall

ASPI is proud to present Larry Shue’s two-act comedy The Foreigner, running June 16-19 and June 23 – 26.

When audiences enter the theater, they will be transported to a fishing lodge in rural Georgia. There they will meet two Englishmen, army sergeant Froggy and proofreader Charlie. This tranquil retreat takes a turn when Froggy shares with the host and other guests that Charliedoes not understand a word of English. This means that Charlie is now privy to secrets and scandal galore, unbeknownst to the others! What could possibly go wrong? When Charlie overhears something that could change the future of the lodge forever, will Charlie be able to keep up his farce or will he have to expose his secret to save the day?

If you could be like Charlie for the day, able to listen in without being detected, would you? Where would you be a fly on the wall?

Below is a selection of thought provoking “would you rather” questions that are sure to leave you thinking that with great power comes great responsibility.

  • Would you rather, only be able to see 10 minutes into your own future anytime you want or be able to see anyone’s entire future but, not your own, 10 times throughout your life?
  • Would you rather, relive the same day, repeatedly, for a year or lose a year of your life?
  • Would you rather have magical powers in the normal world and not be able to tell anyone or live in a magical world of your creation but there’s nothing magical about you?
  • Would you rather be able to forget any of your past memories at any time or be able to make someone forget their memory but when they do, you acquire it as your own?
  • Would you rather have to say exactly what you’re thinking all the time or be able to read minds but only the bad things people are thinking about you?
  • Would you rather know all the mysteries of the universe or know every outcome of every choice you make?
  • Would you rather know, without being able to change it, when you’re going to die or how you’re going to die?
  • (Question Source: The Odyssey)

This is one production you don’t want to miss! It’s sure to end with a BANG! Buy your tickets NOW. Any questions? Contact the Box Office at (920) 826-5852. Tickets also available online at Www.abramstheater.com.

white christmas - snow and trees

White Christmas

December 1, 2, 3, 4 and December 8, 9, 10, 11

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is a timeless tale of joy and goodwill about a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and falling for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written. 

The dazzling score features “Blue Skies” and of course the unforgettable title song, “White Christmas.” Give everyone the gift they’re dreaming of with this merry and bright holiday musical. 

Liz Jolly

Be Our Guest

We are bubbling over with excitement to feature our Beauty and the Beast, Jr. director Ms. Liz Jolly!

This March we invite you to be our guest for APSI’s production of Beauty and the Beast, Jr. Beauty and the Beast is ASPI’s second “Jr.” production, the first being Elf Jr. when it graced the Abrams’ stage in December 2019.

You may be wondering, what is a Jr. production? A Jr. production is a chance for young and aspiring actors to have a meaningful learning experience and to foster a lifelong love of theater. For the upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast, the cast will range in age from 5-17 years old.

“We have an abundance of extremely talented and ‘hungry for theater’ kids. The middle school and elementary school kids might not have a theater program. The high school kids might have one, but the amount of kids is too large and the funding too low to have as meaningful/tailored of a learning experience… ASPI also has an abundance of very talented and trained leader/teachers available to the kids. Without listing everyone’s credentials, many people on the production team have studied, trained, or worked extensively in their area,” explains Liz.

The production of Beauty and the Beast offers the fantastic opportunity for characterization, which Liz thinks is a great chance for young actors to deepen their skills, whether acting, singing, or dancing.

“The cast has been great – so much enthusiasm shown so far… We have some actors who have never been on stage before and I’m so excited to see them grow, connect to their characters, and hopefully love it,” shares Liz.

ASPI is in a special position to provide a unique theater experience to its cast and crew:

“I love performing but more than that I love bringing and sharing a love of theatre to/with my hometown community. I think the most special thing about ASPI is the amount of full families we have involved in our group. There aren’t many spaces for full family involvement that put children and parents/grandparents/aunt and uncles/etc. on the same level like acting on a stage or working on a crew together can. I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that my parents won’t be around forever so I try to never take for granted each dance step I get to do with my mom and each nail I get to hammer in or moment on stage I share with my dad,” expresses Liz.

Audiences should be ready for a very magical and immersive experience when they take their seats in March!

“It’s called DISNEY’S Beauty and the Beast, so the tech director David Jolly (my dad) is aiming for Disney level sets, environment, and detail. Our challenge is to match that on the cast side, and based on rehearsals so far, we’re going to blow it out of the park! … I don’t want to give anything away but we’re pulling out pretty much every theater magic we can! Katie Jackson, the costumer, has done sketches of the costumes and they will be some of the best and most elaborate (adult or kids show) Abrams has done. We also have a professional makeup artist, Lance Williams, volunteering his time to help with the Beast,” Liz shares.

When not on the stage or directing, Liz is the Senior Marketing Specialist for Heritage Hill State Park. She enjoys reading, cooking (especially making soups), and venturing back into sewing. She recently joined her first Dungeons & Dragons “campaign” with friends from Guys and Dolls!

Liz holds a BA in Theatre Studies and Classical Studies from St. Norbert College and completed a 2 year conservatory program in acting from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Liz has been involved with ASPI since 2010. Off stage she has directed Meet Me in St. Louis and Elf Jr. Her on stage roles include Psuedelous in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Miss Hannigan in Annie, Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, and The Chaperone in The Drowsy Chaperone. Liz’s theater experience also includes work with Theatre Z, PlayByPlay Theatre, Evergreen, Green Bay Community Theatre, SNC Summer Music Theatre, and appearances in Drunken Shakespeare at Comedy City in De Pere.

Put our service to the test! Showtimes for Beauty and the Beast, Jr. are March 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 at 7pm and March 6, 12, 13 at 1pm. Tickets are already selling fast! So take a seat and we’ll provide the rest!

Beauty and the Beast art

Tale as Old as Time

But just how old is the tale?

Beauty and the Beast is a tale that has dazzled audiences since Walt Disney Pictures released the animated musical classic in 1991.

But the tale of Beauty and the Beast has spanned generations and across countries! The tale that is now as old as time first originated in 1740 as a French fairy tale, La Belle et la Bête, by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Villeneuve set out to write this “salon tale” to stress to noble born girls the importance of marrying within their class (more specifically arranged marriages). While Villeneuve’ La Belle et la Bête is the oldest known tale, variations of this classic tale can be found around the world.

In 1756, French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont shortened the tale for middle class children. Beaumont rewrote the original French tale so that it was a tale of moral instruction. This is the most known and retold rendition of Beauty and the Beast.

For those unfamiliar with Beaumont’s tale, let us go to provincial France, where there may not be singing cutlery, but it is nonetheless magical:

In Beaumont’s tale, Beauty is the youngest of six children to a wealthy merchant. When the family loses their fortune, Beauty and her three older brothers and two older sisters, along with their father, must move from the city to a small country home. While Beauty takes on their new life gracefully, her sisters do not, and they are jealous of Beauty’s looks and her kindness. On a trip to restore his family’s fortune, the merchant asked his daughters what gifts he could bring back for them. While the two sisters requested lavish gifts, Beauty only requested a single rose.

The merchant went on his trip to no avail, and on his return home he became disoriented. Lost in the snow and rain, the merchant came upon a magical palace. No one was home, but the table was set with an abundance of delicious food, a fire was roaring, and a bed awaited him.

After a restful night, the merchant intended to return home, but not before he cut a rose for Beauty from the palace garden. That is when the palace’s resident, the Beast, stormed in demanding the merchant send his daughter to live in the palace for the attempted theft.

When Beauty goes to live in the palace, the imminent death she feared never came, instead the Beast showered her with books and other luxuries. Every night the Beast would ask Beauty to marry him, and each night Beauty would decline.

One gift the Beast gave Beauty was a looking glass. Through the looking glass Beauty was able to see that her father was sick. Magic transported Beauty to her ailing father, but the Beast warned Beauty that if she didn’t return to him in one week, he would surely die without her.

Reunited with her family, Beauty’s father’s health was restored, but Beauty’s sisters were jealous of her fine things and good fortune with the Beast. They were so jealous they tried to trick her into staying away from the Beast longer than a week, in hopes that she would lose her good fortune.

But Beauty is able to see through her looking glass that the Beast is dying, so by magic she is transported back to the palace where she declares that she loves the Beast and wants to marry him. After declaring her love, the Beast is turned back into a handsome prince and the two are married. And you know how it goes, they live happily ever after!

For those of you who made it to the end of the enchanting tale, were there any surprises? Beauty not being called Belle? No singing candlesticks and clocks? Beauty’s father being a wealthy merchant not an inventor? Beauty having two evil sisters?

While Beaumont’s rendition was the inspiration for Walt Disney Pictures’ 1991 animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman added the musical magic! The film starred Broadway actress Paige O’Hara as Belle, actor Robby Benson as the Beast, and actress and Broadway star Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts. It was a success! The film was a 1992 Academy Award winner for Best Original Score (Alan Menken) and Best Original Song for “Beauty and the Beast” AND a 1992 Golden Globe Award winner for Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score- Motion Picture, and Best Original Song- Motion Picture for the song “Beauty and the Beast”. In 1993, the film was a Grammy Award winner for Best Album for Children and Best Pop Performance by a Group or Duo with Vocal for Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson’s duet to the song “Beauty and the Beast”.

But that isn’t where the tale ended! In 1994 the musical Beauty and the Beast debuted on Broadway! All songs from the 1991 animated film were used in the musical, and composer Alan Menken along with lyricist Tim Rice composed six new songs for the musical. One song in particular, “Human Again” didn’t make it into the cut for the 1991 film but is now one of the musical numbers featured in the musical. Beauty and the Beast became Broadway’s tenth-longest running production! The musical was Tony Award nominated for Best Musical and was a Tony Award winner for Best Costume Design.

Fast forward about 20 years, Beauty and the Beast hits the big screen again with the 2017 live-action remake starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. In this adaptation Belle is an empowered young woman and bibliophile desperate for adventure outside of her small town. This live-action remake does not include the songs written for the Broadway musical but instead features four new songs including “Evermore”, sung by the Beast as he holds onto hope of Belle returning to him. And once again, Celine Dion is featured as she lends her vocals to the new original song “How Does a Moment Last Forever”, a nostalgic ballad.

You can catch this timeless musical as Beauty and the Beast, Jr. debuts on the Abrams’ stage March 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 at 7pm and March 6, 12, 13 at 1pm. Tickets are on sale NOW! We cordially invite you to BE OUR GUEST!

Youth to audition for Beauty and the Beast Jr.

Abrams, WI Dec. 7, 2021: Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. will bring a stunning Disney musical to life with its junior performance of “Beauty and the Beast.” “Beauty and the Beast” is the story of an arrogant prince cursed to become a terrifying beast unless he finds true love. The production is directed by Elizabeth Jolly, and show dates are March 3-6 and 10-13.

The musical calls for a variety of roles, both male and female, 18 years old (must be in high school) and under. Auditions are scheduled 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 28, or Wednesday, Dec. 29, at the Nancy Byng Community Theater, 5852 Maple St., Abrams.

Those wishing to audition should prepare to sing 16-32 bars of a song from a musical (not “Beauty and The Beast”). They may sing a cappella or play a karaoke track on their phone. Individuals will also do a short, unrehearsed reading and learn and perform a short dance. Kids who audition are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes and shoes that they can dance in. 

No previous experience is required, and no commitments are made by auditioning. Masking is optional, and social distancing will be in effect. Youth who are busy or not feeling well on the audition nights are encouraged to email theater.aspi@gmail.com for instructions on how to submit a video audition.

Children who feel a little shy about performing are invited to help behind-the-scenes. Contact volunteers.aspi@gmail.com for more information.

Rehearsals are tentatively planned for 5-8 p.m. Sundays and 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays starting the first week of January. Not everyone will be required to be at every rehearsal. However, all cast is required to participate in all performances and attend rehearsals the weeks of Feb. 20 and 27.

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.

Abby Frank

Abby Frank to Make Directorial Debut

Abrams Spotlight Productions, Inc. is thrilled to introduce Miss Abby Frank as director of the upcoming production Guys & Dolls!

You may recognize Abby as Dorothy Gale, Ariel, or Philia from ASPI’s productions of The Wizard of Oz (2015), Footloose (2019), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2021).
Miss Frank has been involved in ASPI since 2015, her sophomore year of high school, and she brings with her 12 years of theater experience.

Abby currently works as a nanny and in the Fall of 2022 she will begin classes at NWTC to become an automotive service technician. When not acting, Abby can be found on the stage at the Green Room in De Pere, as she has gotten back into comedy. Outside of theater, Abby also takes pole classes at Aerial Dance in De Pere.

For the past 6 years, ASPI has been a second home to Abby. One special memory Abby holds is from her junior year in high school when she was part of ASPI’s production of Annie. Unfortunately, one of the showtimes was on the same day as her junior prom. Though she tried to make it work to attend both, she ended up having to miss the prom. When the rest of the cast, crew, and production team found out, they all threw a ‘prom’ at the theater for her. Everyone put on big dresses from the costume room, played music, and Abby was named “prom queen”, tiara and all.

Abby, with her experience both on and off the stage, along with the talented cast and crew, are ready to transport audiences to the streets of New York to meet a gambler, a crap game manager, a showgirl, and a missionary. Will opposites attract? Place your bets!

“I’m honored to have such a wonderful cast, crew, and production team behind me as I make my directorial debut. And I can’t wait for everyone to see it [the production]!” – Director Abby Frank
So, guys and dolls, join us at the Nancy Byng Community Theater located on 5852 Maple Street in Abrams on Dec 2-4, 9-11 at 7pm, Dec 5 and 12 at 1pm. Purchase your tickets for this romantic musical comedy NOW!

For more information or any questions, please contact the Box Office at (920) 826-5852.

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Meet the Director: Gillett Local Brings Musical Comedy to Abrams Stage

Playgoers, I bid welcome.
The theatre is a temple, and we are here to worship the gods of comedy and tragedy.
Tonight, I am pleased to announce a comedy.
We shall employ every device we know in our desire to divert you.

Comedy Tonight

We have the great honor of introducing Wayne Strei, director of ASPI’s upcoming production A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. This will be Mr. Strei’s debut in ASPI, but he is no stranger to theater and the arts! 

Mr. Strei was born and raised in Gillett, WI and is a 1972 Gillett High School graduate. While his theater experience began in middle school, his higher education brought him to San Francisco, CA! In 1977, Mr. Strei received his B.A. in theatre arts from San Francisco State University. 

Mr. Strei’s time in San Francisco was filled with performances and directing of numerous shows, as well as being a regular on People are Talking and Good Morning, Bay Area, both of which were local television in San Francisco in the 1980’s. But that’s not all! Mr. Strei was also a longtime food and entertainment writer and critic in the Bay Area. 

In 2001, after 25 years in San Francisco, Mr. Strei returned to Wisconsin to care for his parents. Since his return, he remains living on his family’s farm in the house where he was raised.

Mr. Strei’s theater career hasn’t slowed down! He has since directed a number of community productions at Gillett Secondary School. And seven year ago, Mr. Strei portrayed the role of Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, as directed by Ben Burish, former director of band for Oconto Falls High School. Who better to direct ASPI’s current production than Pseudolus himself! Other shows he has under his performance and director belt include Our Town, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Godspell and a number of musical revues. 

Currently, Mr. Strei is semi-retired and serves as church musician at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Gillett. He also judges forensics and accompanies musicians in local high school performances. 

When A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum hits the ASPI stage in September, it’s guaranteed to leave our audiences in stitches!

“I think everyone who likes to laugh will love this show! It’s irreverent, bawdy, politically incorrect and one of the true musical farces in Broadway history. It moves along quickly and there’s a guffaw every minute,” explains Mr. Strei.

With this being Mr. Strei’s first performance with ASPI, and rehearsals and production well underway, the cast and crew have already left an impression! 

Mr. Strei shares, “I have met so many talented and wonderful performers and technicians with ASPI, some with lots of productions here and in other theaters under their belts and others brand new to the group or even to being on stage! Our youngest performer is in middle school and I think the oldest is a month younger than myself. So about 43. Okay, 50.” 

Still undecided if you should purchase tickets to this upcoming production? Let Director Wayne Strei share with you why this is one production you do not want to miss!

“I know you will enjoy this crazy romp through Rome in 200 B.C. The music is charming and humorous and I think you will be humming some on your way home. Downton Abbey it ain’t, but it doesn’t need to be to introduce you to the wacky citizens who live and love in Rome during this very interesting (and funny) time period. The scenery and costumes are colorful and imaginative.  But mostly come for the singing and dancing and a wonderful script performed by some of the talented and funny people I have worked with in years!”

Showtimes are September 16-18 and 23-25 at 7pm, September 19 and 25 at 1pm. Tickets are on sale NOW and can be purchased at abramsspotlightproductions.com. Please call the Box Office with any questions or for more information, (920)826-5852. 

Please note A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is an After Dark Production, this means the musical is rated PG-13.