On June 6, Patti Grimes, executive director of The Freeman Stage, found herself staring at a blank performance calendar. After having to cancel a full slate of performances that had been assembled over the prior six months, she had now been given the go-ahead by the nonprofit’s Board of Directors for a “right-sized” season, one that would feature smaller audiences, local/regional acts and a stringent adherence to physical distancing and other health-related guidelines given the public health concerns around COVID-19.
“Once we received the word to move forward, our entire season had to be reprogrammed in a fraction of the time it normally takes,” said Grimes. “We were able to quickly book some local favorites like Lower Case Blues and the Stims, who were thrilled to be part of our season. We have a strong focus on diversity, not just in cultural terms but also in terms of musical genre. Our challenge was finding a nice variety of acts that could appeal to our broad audience base.”
What dropped in her lap later that day was a gem. Connie Bowman, a Bayside community resident and a children’s author, storyteller and actress (who will performed at the Stage’s Young Audience Series this summer), emailed Grimes to let her know that her daughter and son-in-law had recently relocated from New York City to Delaware during the pandemic. And they happened to be both be well-established Broadway actors, currently starring in the national tour of Disney’s “Frozen,” until it was forced to shut down in March.
Grimes quickly made contact with them and asked if they would like to perform at the Stage during this special season. The result is “Broadway Stars (under the Stars),” starring Caroline Bowman and Austin Colby, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 23 and Friday, July 24 at 8 p.m.
Two Broadway Stars Align
Caroline Bowman and Austin Colby — two seasoned, award-winning theater actors who met through mutual friends in the industry — navigated much of their courtship and early marriage separated by tour and show commitments in different cities. Bowman’s resume includes starring roles in multiple Broadway musicals, including “Fame,” “Grease,” “Spamalot,” “Evita,” “Wicked,” and “Kinky Boots.” Colby starred in the leading male roles in “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Jersey Boys.” When they both auditioned for the national tour of Disney’s “Frozen,” there may have been fingers crossed but no expectation that they might both be cast. But luck (and talent) was on their side, and in the fall of 2019, they began rehearsals.
“We literally sold our apartment in NYC, bought a car, and decided we were going to drive across the country with the tour so we could bring our 90 lb. German Shephard with us,” Bowman said. “We had been performing in Seattle and then Portland in late February when we began to hear rumblings about the pandemic. On March 11, we found out the tour was being postponed.”
The couple has been living in the Bayside community since early May — after driving back East and quarantining for a period of time — patiently waiting for the chance to return to what they love. “It was such an incredible experience for us to be cast in the same show,” said Colby. “I’ve gained such incredible respect for Caroline, watching her in rehearsals, talking together about character development and other aspects of the performance. It was a cool challenge and a chance for us to share what we love in a closer, more personal way.”
The cabaret style performance schedule for Thursday, July 23, and Friday, July 24, at 8 p.m. will feature songs from both actors’ Broadway shows, accompanied by Benjamin Rauhala, one of the industry's most trusted music directors and collaborators.
“We are really looking forward to telling our story musically and sharing some of the best musical numbers from today’s most celebrated Broadway shows,” said Bowman. “It’s going to be an amazing night!”
The Freeman Stage, which is located 4 miles west of Fenwick Island, Delaware, is a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, who partners to present memorable performances and provide inspired arts education for all. This program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com. For more information, visit freemanstage.org