Mercury Theatre Company Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Pierre-Jacques Brault and Brian Marshall were still college students pursuing musical theater degrees at Baldwin Wallace when they decided to create their own company in the summer of 1998.
Two decades later that company, Mercury Theatre, continues to stage acclaimed musicals while employing more than 50 people during the summer.
The company's first season took place at The Civic in Cleveland Heights, which was not accustomed to hosting Broadway-style musicals or summer productions.
"We were really young and we thought, well we should try and air condition this un-air-conditioned room by stacking box air conditioners," Marshall said.
Despite the heat and the company's shoe-string budget at the time, the two learned a lot during those first few seasons.
"It forced us to be our most creative selves by not having that [big] budget," Marshall said.
During its two decades of summer musical productions Mercury staged shows in Cleveland Heights, Parma, Bedford Heights and, now, South Euclid at Notre Dame College's Regina Auditorium.
But the most memorable stage for the company was the historic Brooks Theatre at the former Cleveland Play House complex at East 85th Street and Euclid Avenue.
Mercury was the last theater company to perform at the Brooks before it closed its doors when CPH moved to Playhouse Square in 2011.
"There was just something special about it. The final performance of 'Show Boat' you could feel all the theater ghosts," Brault said.
While Mercury stages traditional musicals like "Godspell," "Ragtime" and "Camelot," the company developed a relationship with the British composing team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
"Their work is my all-time favorite," said Brault. "What I love about their work is they take mainly fairytales that we know and love and turn them on their [heads.]"
Over the years Mercury's staged Stiles and Drewe's "Honk'" (based on "The Ugly Duckling"), "Just So" (based on Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories") and a recent adaptation of "Peter Pan," with a boy in the role of Peter.
"They wrote this song 'Never Land,' but it's about never letting yourself land, staying up and keeping your spirits soaring. It's different than just Neverland the island. It's never land, never settle, be the best you can be. Their lyrics bring so much to everything we do," Marshall said.