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Thriving South Carolina Dinner Theatre Forges New Ground in Entertainment
NarroWay Productions Accomplishes Rare Milestone with 20th Anniversary
The thriving South Carolina theatre, has been forging new ground since its incorporation. Taking original, large-scale, Broadway-style shows, with up to 140 performers on stage, into a dinner theatre setting, NarroWay has created its own brand of "Broadway-style dinner shows." Couple that with a faith-based message, and it is clear to see the unique niche NarroWay has carved over the past twenty years as "The Broadway of Christian Entertainment."
With this 20-year milestone, come a host of accomplishments. Among all dinner theatres in South Carolina, NarroWay currently ranks second on TripAdvisor only to Dolly Parton's Pirates Voyage in Myrtle Beach. In 2015, more than 32,000 guests attended shows at the NarroWay Theatre and the company is on pace to exceed that mark in 2016. NarroWay has entertained guests from every state in the union as well as many foreign countries. And, despite not being a "traveling theatre," they have taken major, Broadway-style shows to both Myrtle Beach and Lake George, New York.
"Twenty years ago, we stepped out with absolutely nothing - no facility, no cast, no money," says co-founder Rebecca Martin. "We did it just because we believed God told us. Since then, He has provided a cast of more than 400 tremendously committed and talented performers, a one-of-a-kind theatre in a dream location and funds to pay the bills and stay on the cutting edge."
"Part of our success is attributed to the fact that we are unique," says co-founder Yvonne Clark. "The 'NarroWay Experience' is like no other. We're so grateful to our terrific audiences for communicating that to others."
NarroWay is unique in many respects. Founders Martin and Clark are also writers and directors. Together, Martin and Clark have written twenty original shows for the NarroWay stage. Ten of those include entirely original music scores. For those unfamiliar with this daunting task, legendary composer Stephen Schwartz notes that it took him "about four years" to compose the score for the hit musical Wicked (stephenschwartz.com)
"The fact that our directors are also writers and producers adds authenticity,"
But NarroWay is not content to rest on the uniqueness of its shows. "We go for the full experience,"
In the early days of The Barn Dinner Theatre franchise, the oldest dinner theatre company in America, actors and actresses also served as wait staff. That practice quickly died out and is rarely seen today. But it is a practice embraced wholeheartedly at NarroWay. "We want everyone who enters the doors to experience southern hospitality at its finest!" says Martin. "So all of our cast, from the smallest child to the leading characters, have preshow responsibilities serving the audience."
Perhaps one of the most distinguishing attributes of NarroWay's cast is its sheer size. In total, more than 400 performers - plus 12 live animals - make up the complete NarroWay cast. On a typical weekend, anywhere from 65 to 140 performers are on stage for each original, Broadway-style show. "That number of performers is rarely seen in any live theatre, much less a dinner theatre setting," notes Phillips. In fact, Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Ken Davenport points out that of all new musicals to open on Broadway in the 2000's, less than 27% had a cast size larger than 30 performers (theproducersperspective.com)
Incorporated in South Carolina on September 17, 1996, NarroWay opened its first outdoor drama production in May 1997. By 1998, the company added a winter dinner theatre. In December 2005, after opening six different outdoor dramas and two different dinner theatres, NarroWay performed its last outdoor show and prepared to move indoors permanently. The NarroWay Theatre opened in July 2006 and continues to entertain guests with original dinner shows in a year-round schedule.
NarroWay is located on the South Carolina / North Carolina border at I-77 exit 90. Tickets and information are available online at narroway.net or by calling the box office at 803.802.2300. Currently playing is "The Gospel According to Tennessee," a musical set in East Tennessee and based in part on a true family story.
Lora McCoy, Theatre Manager