Little City Musical Theater was formed in July 2008 by local musician-performers Robbi Kenney, Ralph Prentice Daniel, and Adam Johnston. Since then, the company’s presented a series of hit-and-run shows in venues across the city, including the revue piece Songs for a New World and a zesty version of The Rocky Horror Show. Artistic Director Kenney has also played with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Ballet Theatre, the New Music Collective, and other local organizations. Additionally, she’s worked as a musical director for Charleston Stage and the Footlight Players. During its one-year existence, it hasn’t had to change its tactics: producing edgy shows that are heavy on original musical arrangements with strong choreography and acting.
Sometimes it pays to be small, fast, and mobile. While larger local theatre companies have become more reliant on box office than ever to stay afloat, the Little City Musical Theater is continuing proof that size doesn’t matter — it’s your performance that counts. “I feel strongly that the 70-year-old model of funding non-profit organizations is outdated,” she says. “It’s great to go after government and NEA grants, but as an artist and community member, it’s important for me to prove myself in the real world.”
Kenney believes that rather than relying on handouts, an organization should be able to stand on its own feet. To do that, the performers have to be flexible enough to switch venues, market themselves properly and give audiences what they want. So far for Little City, that means providing low-scale, high quality musicals and dinner theatre.
“That’s what live performance is all about,” says Kenney, “connecting with the audience. I love dinner theatre because of that, and I’m quite happy playing jazz violin in a restaurant. It’s the quality of the personal exchange that matters, not the greatest, fanciest smoke and mirrors or the lighting design. Just reaching and challenging people in an attempt to enlighten them.”
With this credo, Little City has successfully coped with the recent hard times. In the coming year, the company aims to build on its fledgling reputation with similar shows. “I can see myself having the same season as last year,” Kenney muses, “with medium sized shows, small shows, and really small things like our dinner theatre productions with just five people.”