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McGregor Hall’s Popularity Continues to Grow, Study to Determine Economic Impact

While the next step in the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation’s quest to conduct an economic impact study of the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center on Henderson and the surrounding area is likely a formality, what is needed now is a contract with N.C. State University’s Department of Public Administration and its respective professors.

WIZS News conversations with Vance County Commission Chair Tommy Hester, who seems to have been the visible spearhead of this particular effort, reveal that the $17,500 to fund the study has been obtained by private, anonymous donation(s).

According to NC State representatives, the completion time for the study is estimated at four months, with the project to begin on January 7, 2019, and the final report to be submitted by May 6, 2019.  Dr. Bruce McDonald and Tom White from NC State came to Henderson October 8, 2018, to discuss McGregor Hall and its impact, to learn more about the facility and to spur still more progression in the team of people, volunteers and the community at large that is supporting the facility.

The recent local production of “Beauty and the Beast” has resulted in additional widespread publicity for McGregor Hall. (Photo: WIZS)

The recent local production of “Beauty and the Beast” has resulted in additional widespread publicity for McGregor Hall for a number of reasons.  The collective local and regional talent in the show and the sheer volume of people who attended the six public performances as well as additional school performances and side events exceeded 6,500 patrons.

Mark Hopper, Vice Chair of the Board for the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation and McGregor Hall, directed the play and directed the full orchestra as well.  In a recent conversation with WIZS’ John C. Rose, Hopper said, “We are a community and economic organization first and foremost, and it’s exciting that citizens are starting to share our vision for what we can accomplish.  Next spring, we have 11 weekends booked for regional and national dance competitions. That means that 700-900 people will arrive on Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday afternoon, with all of them eating in Vance County restaurants, lodging in Vance County motels, and putting Henderson on the map. It’s a very exciting time for McGregor Hall.”

Joyce Dewitt ‘Thrilled’ to Return to Role in ‘A Waffle House Christmas’

Henderson’s own downtown development director Kaine Riggan and special call-in guest and actress Joyce Dewitt were on air for Thursday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program.

Riggan, writer, producer and director of the musical comedy “A Waffle House Christmas,” announced that the play will be performed at the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center in downtown Henderson for one night only – Saturday, December 1, 2018 – at 8 p.m.

According to Riggan, approximately 600 of the 1,000 available tickets have already been purchased, and he hopes to see it become a sold-out performance. “I hope it happens for McGregor Hall and for downtown Henderson. That’s our crown jewel!”

The musical, which was first commissioned by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission in 2006, will feature five of the principal actors for the December performance, including Dewitt as Waffle House waitress Rita and country singer T. Graham Brown. Auditions for local actors to round out the cast were held last week.

Dewitt, most well-known for her role as Janet on the sitcom “Three’s Company,” said she was excited to return to this role. “In this case, I had done the play before with Kaine and I know that he is a very wonderful director and I know that he gathers terrific actors together. So the idea of coming back and doing this with a number of wonderful people that I did it with in Nashville was thrilling.”

The setting for the musical is a Waffle House in both the middle of nowhere and in the middle of a blizzard on Christmas Eve. The regular staff and customers are stranded there along with outside visitors. What unfolds are a few secrets, surprises and heartfelt human connections.

“The wonderful thing about these characters that Kaine has written is that they are so human, but what’s going on in their personal story is so meaningful,” said Dewitt. “The audience can relate to each of them.”

“It’s my favorite kind of material – funny, funny, funny – but also, at times, catching and poignant.”

According to Dewitt, when she is first approached about a role she asks herself if she believes in the material and if she can deliver the material in a way that will relate to the audience. She is pleased to have found both in this role.

“When the audience is walking out of the theater, what have we given them? What is in their heart? I genuinely believe this play is a perfect Christmas gift to give the audience.”

To give the gift of this play to yourself and/or a loved one, purchase tickets by:

DROP IN: 201 Breckenridge Street, Henderson, N.C. Monday – Friday 1:30 – 5:30 p.m

CALL: (252) 598-0662 (M-F 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.)

CLICK HERE: www.McGregorHall.org  (Use the eTix official site, online fees apply)

 To hear the interview in its entirety, please click here.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ Discussion: ‘I Couldn’t Believe I Was Sitting in Henderson!’

On Monday’s open line edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program, Town Talk co-hosts George Rush and John Charles Rose discussed McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center’s recent production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

With six shows performed over two weekends in October and November, the production drew a crowd of approximately 6,500 to the performance center. Additional promotions, such as Chick-fil-A’s “Crafts with Belle” night and the “Tea with Belle” event at McGregor Hall were also a hit, especially with the younger crowd.

The large cast of characters included former Miss North Carolina Victoria Huggins as Belle; Jonathan O’Geary as the Beast, Josh Glasscock as Cogsworth; Brian Westbrook as Lumiere; Jackson Hopper as LeFou, Shana Fisher as Mrs. Potts; Lilly Hicks and Eva Hopper sharing the role of Chip and even McGregor Hall’s own Technical Director Matt Nowell as the villain, Gaston.

The musical also included a full, live orchestra and professional costumes and sets provided by the National Broadway Tour.

“I went to ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and I mean this in the most complimentary of ways, I couldn’t believe I was sitting in Henderson,” said Rose. “It was absolutely overwhelming to me to be present there and to be seeing and hearing what I was seeing and hearing.”

Rose explained that while McGregor Hall is a paid advertising client of WIZS, the sentiments expressed were entirely his own.

“Everyone in the show was out of this world in their performance. My absolute hats off to McGregor Hall, Breckenridge Commons, the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation, Mark Hopper and everyone that was involved in the production,” said Rose.

Rose said that while he enjoyed watching the local talent, it was also encouraging to see actors participate from cities such as Raleigh and Durham. “That will help get the word out about McGregor Hall.”

“We have a destination here in McGregor Hall,” Rose said. “It goes beyond, in some aspects, DPAC or some of the other performing centers, because we have a lot less hassle here. Lines at restaurants are going to be shorter, food costs in Henderson are going to be less. We have a fantastic opportunity in Henderson and Vance County with this performing hall.”

To better understand McGregor Hall’s potential, the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation is currently in the planning phase with North Carolina State University to conduct a four-month economic impact study on the center.

Officials believe this study, set to begin in January, will serve the two-fold purpose of painting an accurate picture of the current impact of McGregor Hall on the Henderson/Vance County economy as well as establish ways to capitalize on that impact in the future.

Performances such as “Beauty and the Beast” bring in large crowds to not only McGregor Hall but also to restaurants, gas stations and other businesses, boosting the local economy.

And “Beauty and the Beast” is just the tip of the iceberg on the positive impact McGregor Hall has had since its grand opening in January of 2016.

Rose himself is a believer, “All of the things we heard about all of the years dating back, all of the positive things that we heard about our finally coming true!”

To hear Monday’s show in its entirety, please click here.

T. Graham Brown Joins ‘A Waffle House Christmas,” Local Auditions This Week

-Information and photo courtesy Kaine Riggan

Grammy-winning country star T. Graham Brown has signed on to join the cast of “A Waffle House Christmas.”

Having penned one of the songs in Kaine Riggan’s musical comedy “A Waffle House Christmas”, Grammy-winning country star T. Graham Brown has signed on to join the cast for the one-night-only engagement of the show at McGregor Hall on Saturday, December 1.

Brown will play Willie Wainwright, an ex-preacher who often comes into the Waffle House after having one-too-many at the bar. The show is set in a Waffle House just outside of Nashville on Christmas Eve and also features iconic sitcom star Joyce DeWitt (Janet from Three’s Company) as the third-shift waitress Rita Watson.

Riggan’s musical concept was originally commissioned by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission in 2005 as a collaborative effort to showcase Nashville songwriters. Over 250 songs were submitted and he chose 20 of them and tied them together with a comedic, family-friendly script.

Local auditions for the musical are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 9 (6 – 8 p.m.) and Saturday, Nov. 10 (2 – 4 p.m.) at McGregor Hall. Children age 6-12 are needed as well as several adult roles of varying age and race. A link to more information, available roles and rehearsal schedule can be found at www.DowntownDevelopment.org

‘Beauty and the Beast’ Will Entertain at McGregor Hall for Final Weekend

-Information courtesy McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

This weekend is your last chance to see Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” live at McGregor Hall

DISNEY’S BEAUTY and the BEAST

The Broadway Musical

Friday, Nov. 2 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m.

Doors open one hour before the show

Tickets on sale for $22 – $25

All the magic of Broadway will be on McGregor’s stage this fall! Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” brings Belle, the Beast, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and all your favorites to life, complete with a live orchestra.

Presented under special arrangement with Musical Theater International.

Tickets may be purchased by:

DROP IN: 201 Breckenridge Street, Henderson, N.C. Monday – Friday 1:30 – 5:30 p.m

CALL: (252) 598-0662 (M-F 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.)

CLICK HERE: www.McGregorHall.org  (Use the eTix official site, online fees apply)

(This is not a paid advertisement)

Embassy Foundation to Mull Proposal for McGregor Hall Economic Impact Study

The Embassy Cultural Center Foundation is in the planning phase of conducting an economic impact study of the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center on the Henderson economy.

The foundation recently sought a proposal from the Municipal Research Lab at North Carolina State University for completion of the study. Representatives from NC State responded with a proposal that included a breakdown of proceedings, a completion timeline and a total project cost of $17,500.

The proposal included the following proceedings:

  • Conduct an examination of pertinent data including economic, demographic, income, and employment, as well as studies that relate to the economy of the town.
  • Conduct an examination of pertinent data from McGregor Hall, including costs associated with maintaining the venue and revenues from events.
  • Conduct an examination of the local tax receipts and spending patterns throughout the county.
  • Meet with members of the foundation, as well as local community and business leaders and other stakeholders, to gain insight into the role of the venue in the community, as well as to gain a better understanding of the local economy.
  • Establish conclusions and recommendations for action, including recommended actions and strategies to guide the town in its development plans, as well as to overcome identified shortcomings.

According to NC State representatives, the completion time for the study is estimated at four months, with the project to begin on January 7, 2019, and the final report to be submitted by May 6, 2019.

Researchers would begin the process by meeting with Embassy Cultural Center Foundation representatives, requesting data on McGregor Hall and reviewing local government tax receipts. A draft of the report would then be submitted to the Center for review by mid-April, with final presentations and findings reported in May.

According to Dennis Jarvis, II, director of the Henderson-Vance Economic Development Commission, the study would serve a twofold purpose, “The Embassy Foundation has reached out to NC State in regards to this study to get a better understanding of the current economic impact of McGregor Hall as well as to establish ways we can expand upon that impact moving forward.”

The next step in the process, Jarvis said, is for community partners to discuss the proposal and to determine how to proceed. “There will be discussions with the Downtown Development Commission, the County, the City, McGregor Hall and the community in general to determine our next move.”

Former Miss NC Victoria Huggins Talks Her Role as Belle in ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Victoria Huggins, a former Miss North Carolina and the upcoming female lead in McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center’s production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” was invited to “be our guest” on WIZS’ Town Talk program.

Huggins, who is originally from Robeson County, will step into the shoes of the spunky and intelligent Belle, a girl who loves to read and whose head is always full of adventure. Belle finds herself on just such an adventure when her father is captured by a hideous beast who lives in an enchanted castle deep in the woods. When Belle courageously takes her father’s place as prisoner, she learns there is so much more to the beast, played by Vance County resident Jonathan O’Geary, than meets the eye.

Huggins, whose many accomplishments include performing as a child in the Alabama Theatre’s Christmas productions, being crowned Miss North Carolina in 2017, competing in the Miss America pageant and auditioning for American Idol, said her current role is truly special. “This is a dream role for me,” said Huggins. “I’ve looked up to Belle ever since I could walk.”

In addition to Huggins and O’Geary, the large cast of characters includes Josh Glasscock as Cogsworth; Brian Westbrook as Lumiere; Jackson Hopper as LeFou, Shana Fisher as Mrs. Potts; Lilly Hicks and Eva Hopper sharing the role of Chip and even McGregor Hall’s Technical Director Matt Nowell as the villain Gaston.

“It’s pretty cool to see him come from behind the scenes into the spotlight,” Huggins remarked of Nowell.

According to Huggins, the live orchestra and professional costumes and sets provided by the National Broadway Tour, along with the venue itself, will create a magical atmosphere and will really bring the well-beloved characters to life.

“I fell in love with the venue immediately, not only because of the breathtaking stage and seats, but it’s attached to the library,” said Huggins. “I think it is fantastic how people are connected to the arts here in Henderson.”

“Beauty and the Beast” will be performed at McGregor Hall, 201 Breckenridge St. in downtown Henderson, at 8 p.m. on October 26 & 27 and November 2 & 3. There will also be a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee performance on October 28 and November 4.

Tickets are still available and may be purchased by:

DROP IN: 201 Breckenridge Street, Henderson, N.C. Monday – Friday 1:30 – 5:30 p.m

CALL: (252) 598-0662 (M-F 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.)

CLICK HERE: www.McGregorHall.org  (Use the eTix official site, online fees apply)

For those with children or grandchildren who love “Beauty and the Beast,” Chick-fil-A of Henderson will host a “Crafts with Belle” night tomorrow evening at 5 p.m. Huggins will be on hand to participate in crafts and activities.

Also, don’t miss “Tea with Belle” on Saturday, October 27 & November 3 at 2 p.m. at McGregor Hall. Children will have the opportunity to have tea on stage with Belle and see her in her ballgown.

Huggins said she is excited about these upcoming events and can’t wait for everyone to see what’s in store for the performances.

“Everybody is going to be blown away by this show.”

Listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking here.

McGregor Hall – Unique Economic, Cultural Opportunity

McGregor Hall is unique.  It’s large.  It’s privately funded.  It’s well positioned to promote economic prosperity and cultural diversity.  It’s something that not every community has.  And today on its very stage, a group interested in the 1,000 seat performance and learning center met to learn more about how to cultivate the vision that started about 20 years ago.

Anyone who’s chosen to attend a show, been to a meeting, taken a tour or otherwise entered McGregor Hall can see its beauty.  And many have and continue to envision what it will do.  What’s not easy to see or feel, just yet, is the economic impact.  And, to that end, in fact, an economic impact study of McGregor Hall is needed.

Dr. Bruce McDonald and Tom White from NC State came to Henderson today to discuss McGregor Hall and its impact, to learn more about the facility and to spur still more progression in the team of people, volunteers and the community at large that is supporting the facility.

(WIZS Photo) – Seated around the table starting on the left are Dennis Jarvis, Benny Finch, Nancy Wykle and Ray Gronberg from The Daily Dispatch, Tom White and Dr. Bruce McDonald from NCST, Archie Taylor, Tommy Hester, John Wester, Jordan McMillen, Frank Frazier, Sandra Wilkerson, Pam Hester, Eddie Ellington and with their backs to the camera are Mark Hopper and Jim Nutt.

White, who is the Director of the Economic Development Partnership with the Office of External Affairs, Partnerships and Economic Development at NC State University, said McGregor Hall is a unique resource and discussed its positive spillover effect, and not just for downtown.

McDonald, who is an associate professor of public budgeting and finance and director of the MPA program at NC State University’s School of Public and International Affairs, said, “Theater builds a sense of community.”  He said people will move towards it, not away, because it’s stabilizing and adds quality of life.

Things change, and one change being seen now is a much harder look at locating business and industry out away from larger metropolitan areas.  As McDonald said it, “There is more to our state than RDU and Charlotte.”

The folks who own, operate and work for businesses and industries want to see cultural and social opportunity.

Look at Variety Wholesalers, which chose Henderson over Raleigh.  M.R. Williams chose Henderson over other areas not just to maintain an existing operation but to grow it immensely.  Mako Medical Laboratories chose Henderson.  Mars Pet Care recently spent millions and millions at its facility.

According to Mark Hopper, Vice Chair of the Board for the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation and McGregor Hall, “Business contributions are up 1,400 percent in three years.”  That’s since day one.  Hopper also said, “But if we just had a few more resources.”

Chairman of the Embassy Cultural Foundation John Wester said, “It’s a learning center.  There are no limits to what we can do.”  He said we’re doing this on our own which is unique without city or county appropriations, taxes or anything like that, but we’re offering good for the community.

Not only is McGregor Hall attracting talent from the local area, but actors and actresses and performers from Raleigh and Durham are coming to Henderson as well as many others from far away.

Hopper said, “The arts is not about end product.  For me, the arts is about reaching people and changing lives.  Everybody craves community, and we can provide a place to connect.”

Hopper said it’s a lean operation and we’re “fiscally responsible and responsible to community.”  Not only has the 1,000 seat venue been rented by local people needing a space, but local school initiatives like “Arts Alive” benefit from McGregor Hall.  Mecklenburg and Halifax counties in Virginia have formed a relationship with McGregor Hall for use of the space.

That’s use across county and state lines, and the resource is right here in Henderson.

Whether you are over 40 years old or under 40, whether you are in school or in retirement, whether you love music, or plays or performances or none of the above, McGregor Hall is your resource too.  And a positive report from an economic impact study could increase funding opportunities and speed up pledges and sponsorships for McGregor Hall.

Based on what was said today, McGregor Hall is an economic stimulus, and for that to be true, civic pessimism won’t do.

‘Laugh It Up!’ Comedy Show to Entertain at McGregor Hall

-Information and flyer courtesy the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center

The Laugh It Up! Comedy Show featuring headlining acts Alonzo “Hamburger” Jones and  Shucky Ducky will be performing at the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at 8 p.m.

HHHAAAMM – BBBUURRRGGGEEERR!!!!!

Alonzo “Hamburger” Jones has become a people’s favorite all over the world. Comedian Hamburger is on a mission to let people know they are not living right. In doing so, Hamburger tries not to use profanity, like gentlemen of the old west who did not swear in front of the ladies. Instead, comedian Alonzo Jones has substituted profanity with one word…..HAMBURGER.

QUACK – QUACK!!!!!

Cecil “Shucky Ducky” Armstrong has appeared on “Def Comedy Jam.” He has also been the ringmaster of the UniverSoul Circus. He is known for the catchphrase “Shucky Ducky Quack Quack.” He describes his catchphrase as meaning disappointment or excitement.

The night’s emcee is Les Long. Tara “Sister Bigbone” Sharp and Darren Fleet join in on the fun.

The Comedy Show is part of the Heritage! Performance Series. Doors open one hour before the show.

Tickets on sale for $32.03 and may be purchased by:

DROP IN: 201 Breckenridge Street, Henderson, N.C. Monday – Friday 1:30 – 5:30 p.m
CALL: (252) 598-0662 (M-F 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.)
CLICK HERE: www.McGregorHall.org  (Use the eTix official site, online fees apply)

(This is not a paid advertisement)

Mother’s Day Weekend Concert at McGregor Hall

-Information courtesy of the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center

Mother’s Day weekend concert with Terrance & Tiffany Brown at the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center.

Friday, May 11, 2018, at 8 p.m.

Tickets on sale for $20 (before tax)

Dr. Terrance Brown, baritone, and Dr. Tiffany Bostic-Brown, soprano, are versatile, world-class vocalists who will present a program of Art Songs, German Lieder, Gospel and Broadway.

A native of Alabama, Dr. Brown holds a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts, and currently serves as the Chair for the Department of Music and Director of Opera at the University of North Alabama (UNA).

Dr. Bostic-Brown, originally of Virginia, currently serves on the faculty at UNA and holds a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts. She also serves as Vice President for the Walk with Me Foundation, which works to preserve culture through the visual and performing arts.

Tickets may be purchased in-person at the box office of the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center, 201 Breckenridge Street in downtown Henderson or by calling (252) 598-0662. The box office is open Monday – Friday from 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Tickets may also be purchased online by visiting www.McGregorHall.org  (use the eTix official site, online fees apply).

Doors open one hour prior to showtime. Group and student discounts are available.

(This is not a paid advertisement)