Bill Hanney would never call himself a hero but to musical theater fans in this region, he’s the man.
It was Bill Hanney who saved the venerable North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly from extinction. If not for the dynamic leadership and vision of Hanney, NSMT would likely be home to a major chain store today.
Hanney is entering his fifth season as the owner and producer of all NSMT productions and events. The theatre had been dark for one year before Hanney purchased it in February, 2010.
“We had our first show, “Gypsy,” on stage in July,” said Hanney. “We had four shows and “A Christmas Carol.”
The decision to stage “A Christmas Carol” with noted actor David Coffee was a major decision on Hanney’s part. “They didn’t do it the last year the theatre was open. They did “High Musical 2” instead and it really destroyed them.”
Needless to say, the popular Christmas classic will be back for the holiday season once again in 2014.
There’s that hero label, again. For not only was an instant hero for reviving the theatre but fans flocked to see the return of “A Christmas Carol.”
“This show is so beloved with David Coffee,” said Hanney. “John Kimble came back and directed it. Every year the show comes back and it doesn’t miss a beat.”
Hanney said his first three seasons were not moneymakers. NSMT turned the corner in Season 4.
“Last year we had one of the best seasons ever for the theatre,” said Hanney. “And we are substantially ahead of last year.”
As the 2014 season gets underway next week with “Anything Goes,” Hanney attributes NSMT’s growth and popularity to some distinct factors.
“We have the confidence of the people knowing that the shows we put on the stage are quality,” said Hanney. “Another key factor is that the people love the show’s selections. The hardest thing that I do in this business is picking the shows that I know people are going to want to buy tickets for. I have to come up with five shows that I think people will really want to buy a subscription or single tickets to.”
Hanney, who also owns Theatre-By-The-Sea in Matunuck, Rhode Island, has beautified the entire grounds and renovated the lobby area at NSMT during his tenure. He also re-designed the restaurant and came up with ‘the secret” to its newfound success.
“It’s the buffet,” said Hanney. “We figured it out -let’s give people a really good buffet so they can eat at their own pace and be ready for the show. We have a host restaurant for each show. The restaurants come in with their own menu. The food is really terrific.”
With season subscription sales up and tickets flying out of the box office for individual shows, Hanney is confident that 2014 will be another banner year for NSMT.
“This will be the most successful season that the North Shore Music Theatre has ever had,” predicts Hanney.
For a schedule of shows and concerts this season, please visit www.nsmt.org