Like a theater version of The Odd Couple, the dark and edgy Theater Artists Olympia and the song-and-dance-fueled Broadway Olympia Productions are sharing a home. The theater companies, both sidelined since the pandemic, will each produce work in Broadway Olympia’s black box theater in Capital Mall.
The partnership — kicking off Aug. 12 with a TAO-led production of the comic The (One-Act) Play That Goes Wrong — doesn’t mean either company will change its artistic vision. Rather, the unlikely collaborators will coproduce shows, with Broadway Olympia contributing space and administrative support and TAO sharing its technical expertise. “We sat down together and said, ‘Hey, we think we can help each other out,’ ” said Kyle Murphy, Broadway Olympia’s managing director.
Murphy calls the partnership a “soft merge” intended to strengthen the prospects of both companies, which are planning more shows for the fall and a full season for 2023. “Our season will ideally be split between TAO and BOP productions, which we hope will appeal to a large audience,” said Michael Christopher, president of TAO’s board.
“We are also hoping to attract other theater companies to use the space,” Christopher said. That’s in line with Murphy’s original vision for the theater, located across from Old Navy. Broadway Olympia has been renting it since Aug. 2018, using it as rehearsal space and more recently to host comedy shows and other events.
While the companies tend toward very different kinds of shows — Broadway musicals and other family-friendly fare for BOP, eclectic and often surprising choices for TAO — Play That Goes Wrong could fit either company’s aesthetic, Murphy said.
The show won London’s Olivier Award for best new comedy and the Audience Choice Award from Broadway.com. It’s been touring London since 2012 and premiered on Broadway in 2017, and the Laughs Across America tour has been touring the U.S. since 2018. It’s The Play That Goes Wrong — or, in the case of the combined BOP-TAO production, directed by Pug Bujeaud and starring George Blanchard, Marko Bujeaud, Heather Christopher, Sebastian Cintron, Xander Layden, Robert McConkey, Josh Palmer and Andrea Weston-Smart — The (One-Act) Play That Goes Wrong.
Like more comedies than one can count with an abacus, it’s about a company producing a play in which everything goes wrong. Disasters pile up: doors stick, props fall from the walls, floors collapse, actors forget their lines. The play within a play is The Murder at Haversham Manor, a 1920s murder mystery.
Bujeaud said, “Back when the Cuban missile crisis was happening, The Beverly Hillbillies was the number-one-rated television show in the nation. I think there was a reason for that — escapism as a respite from the anxiety that was facing us every way we turned.”
Bujeaud, who saw the full-length The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway, said: “It may very well be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. … We all feel like we need a good laugh, a little respite. When looking for funny, this is where we landed. Unfortunately, what I saw on Broadway required a two-story set, and that simply would not fit in the BOP space. But the good news for us was that Michael Christopher discovered the play was originally conceived as a one-act and brought it to the table.”
“Maybe Agatha Christie meets Noises Off might be a good way to describe it,” Bujeaud continued. “We have Michael and Marko [Bujeaud, Pug’s husband] putting together all the moving pieces needed for the set. … The laughter that ensued during auditions, and then during our first read-through, gives me the confidence in this cast that this is going to knock it out of the park.”
Heather Christopher said, “This show is going to be so much fun. It’s exactly the kind of comic distraction you might be craving in these interesting times — pure hilarious entertainment. I play Sandra, a very serious talented actress who plays the role of Florence Colleymoore in the play within the play. Sandra is clearly the best actress in the company and often plays the lead female role. She is very excited about future opportunities this production could lead to — perhaps even in Hollywood. What could possibly go wrong? You’ll have to see it to find out.”
Another actor in the play, longtime Olympia Little Theatre stalwart Andrea Weston-Smart, said simply, “I’m excited to work with this talented cast and crew, most of them for the very first time.”
Other shows under consideration for the fall and into 2023 include a revival of TAO’s The Head That Wouldn’t Die and the Lin Manuel Miranda mini-musical 21 Chump Street, which BOP was rehearsing before the pandemic shuttered theaters. Other possibilities: The Last Five Years, Next to Normal, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Mystery Plays and Company, currently making a splash on Broadway. “Our goal is to announce a full 2023 season by October,” Murphy said.
The (One-Act) Play That Goes Wrong
7:30 p.m. Aug. 12, 13, 18-20 and 25-27;
2 p.m. Aug. 14, 21 and 28
Broadway Olympia Productions’ Black Box Theater,
625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia