February 9, 2019
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The Alchemy theater troupe rehearses for its upcoming performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Cross Community Church in South Point in 2018.

HUNTINGTON — Here in the heart of the semester, Johan Botes, assistant professor of piano at Marshall University, is up to his elbows in classical performances — from his own to playing on faculty and student recitals by the scores.

But when Bruce Rous asked Botes to lend a hand — well, actually two hands — to accompany the fresh new theater company Alchemy in a night of Broadway cabaret, he couldn’t refuse.

Botes, a South African native who has performed with orchestras around the world, is the guest director and accompanist for the one weekend only — An Alchemy Cabaret that begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8 and 9, at the catering space at the Union Pub and Grill, 1125 4th Ave., Huntington.

Botes will be accompanying regional talent singing a wild array of songs. Singers include Nora Ankrom, John Campbell, Bryce Dale, Jesse Donahoe, Brooke Fisher, Josie Fisher, Hillary Herold, Stephanie Jackson, Alli Knight, Jinnie Knight, Mary Olson and Chris Sizemore.

Tickets are $15 each and may be reserved by emailing alchemytheatrewv@gmail.com. Reservations are strongly encouraged, as seating is limited to 60 each night.

“I have always had a good love for Broadway and that was basically my reason for doing this,” Botes said. “Bruce did this last year and we were having wine one night, and as all of these ideas happen over a glass of wine, he was like ‘They are doing this cabaret again. Why don’t you play this year?’ and I was like ‘OK, it sounds like a very good idea.’”

Botes, who has been known on the international classical piano scene since he won the 2007 First Prize Winner of the Third UNISA/Vodacom National Piano Competition, said it has been fun to dive into some Broadway and to create a night of many emotions.

He and the singers have been working on the show since December when they held auditions.

“We had about 15 to 20 people audition and we chose 12 or 13. Most of them will do a solo piece and we have two or three groups in the concert as well,”

Botes said. “It’s ended up being a lot of fun and a lot of variety as well. I had to basically hear everyone’s voices and then think about what pieces would work for them.

While there are some very familiar voices to regional theater, such as Mary Olson and Chris Sizemore, a Marshall graduate and professional singer who has chalked up a bunch of shows at Washington D.C.’s famed Ford Theatre. There is also some brand new talent making their Alchemy debut, including Bryce Dale, a junior vocal performance major at Marshall. He has not only starred in two operas in Marshall’s music department, but also performed at Cedar Point last summer in “Lusty Lil’s French Revue.”

Also making her debut with Alchemy is Alli Knight, an aviator and member of the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 130th Airlift Wing. She will be singing with her mom, Jinnie.

Botes, who was last a musical director for theater in 2013 for the show “Next to Normal” at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas, said it’s been a lot of fun to come out and collaborate with Alchemy.

“It will be loads of fun. It is the classic definition of a cabaret evening with everyone coming in and having a glass of wine and hearing a whole bunch of different and talented vocalists,” Botes said. “For me, it is very good in a place like Huntington that we have companies like this that are really trying to do good things for the community. It is good for me to give this back to Huntington. We need more of this.”

Go online at https://www.facebook.com/alchemytheatretroupe/ for more information about Alchemy.

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