Children’s Theater Series Set To Launch

WHEELING – Starting this fall, enjoying an evening at the Capitol Theatre won’t necessarily mean placing a call to the babysitter first.

Theater management gathered Tuesday to announce the venue’s first-ever Children’s Theater Series, a venture they hope will encourage young people to develop a lifelong appreciation for the arts and build a loyal audience base for a new generation.

The first series will consist of three shows, kicking off Oct. 30 with “Charlotte’s Web,” based on the classic children’s book by E.B. White. Additional shows planned for spring 2015 include “Young Abraham Lincoln” and “Pinocchio,” with dates to be announced.

“This is an exciting opportunity to offer area children and educators the opportunity to attend educational theatrical events at an affordable price,” said Kyle Knox, events manager for the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority, which operates the Capitol.

Each show will feature both morning and evening performances, Knox said, catering both to school groups and families.

Also announced Tuesday were dates and shows for the 2014-15 Broadway at the Capitol series. The series will open with “Camelot” on Dec. 7, followed by “Million Dollar Quartet” – a dramatization of an impromptu 1956 jam session involving music legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins – on Jan. 20; “Sister Act,” based on the hit 1992 movie, on Feb. 15; “Flashdance” on March 3; and the return by popular demand of “Beauty and the Beast” to the Capitol stage on April 27.

New this year will be a series of three “house shows” showcasing local talent, described as “a throwback to the (Wheeling) Jamboree with a current twist.” Performance lineups are still in the works, with shows planned for Nov. 8, Nov. 22 and Dec. 12. This, Knox said, presents a great opportunity to bring those who come to the area for the annual Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park to extend their stay in town and dine in local restaurants.

“When people come downtown to the theater, they want to make a night of it,” Knox said.

Frank O’Brien, executive director of Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it’s hard to believe it’s been five years since the CVB purchased the historic theater, after the building had sat dark for more than two years due to numerous safety code violations. Since then, more than $3 million in both public and private funding has been invested in restoring the theater to its original 1928 appearance, inside and out.

The CVB borrowed $1.6 million to purchase and repair the historic theater. According to O’Brien, the bureau should make its last payment in April 2019 – which, at $22,500 per month, adds up to a total of about $1.3 million more to be paid.

“There will be a lot more we can do when the debt’s retired,” O’Brien said.

Major projects since the initial investment include a $1 million interior renovation completed last year and a $400,000 facade restoration which is expected to be finished by the time the theater schedule ramps up this fall.