By Katie Fallon
The renowned regional theater company Theater of the Stars not only calls the Fox Theater home, but also Sandy Springs.
While the theater’s productions are based out of the Fox, its headquarter are on Stella Drive in the northwestern corner of Chastain Park, not far from Sandy Springs’ border with Buckhead.
At the helm of Theater of the Stars are father-son team Chris and Nick Manos, who serve as the group’s producer and managing director respectively and provide the regional theater vision of producing the best of Broadway’s musicals for metro Atlanta residents.
Nick Manos, himself a Buckhead resident, joined the theater in 2000 after spending 20 years in the business world. Even though the younger Manos grew up being exposed to theater, he said he never worked in the industry until his father finally persuaded him to come on board at Theater of the Stars. Manos describes the roles of the father-son combination quite easily.
“Everything that makes a theater a theater, my father is responsible for and everything that makes a theater a business, I am responsible for,” Manos said.
After spending his career in sales while living in Houston, Washington D.C. and New Jersey, the younger Manos said he came to the theater when he felt he needed something different.
“A change was needed,” Manos said. “My father had been asking me to come on board and I ran out of good excuses not to.”
The addition of the younger Manos was a welcome change, but the theater is still run out of the same Chastain Park office location that opened in 1953 as the first company to produce theater at the Chastain Park Amphitheater. In those days, Manos said the company would literally roll its sets down a hill to transport them to the stage.
Theater of the Stars spokesperson Karen Hatchett said the theater’s office location has always been a valuable commodity, even though it is about a half an hour from where productions are performed.
“When we rent out costumes or have to ship things out, we’re in a central location,” Hatchett said.
Manos said even though the theater still rents the space at Chastain Park, it would consider moving after more than 50 years if the right location became available. The opportunity to have office space adjacent to practice space as well as a small rehearsal stage would be ideal.
“That would be very advantageous,” Manos said. “We would move today.”
Although he changed careers seven years ago, Manos said he has been able to transfer his business skills to the stage, while enjoying the differences between the theater world and that of sales.
“It’s a lot more fun,” he said. “The skills I developed in sales management have helped me dramatically.”
Those skills have helped keep Theater of the Stars a premier regional theater. He said regional theaters have become the lifeblood of the industry outside of New York City because there are not enough Broadway shows that do national tours to satisfy the appetites of theater buffs in communities around the country.
“Regional theater also breathes new life into a piece,” Manos said. “It provides opportunities for local actors. The economics are bigger than Broadway.”
Manos said the upcoming production that will probably get the biggest draw is “Dreamgirls, which will feature Jennifer Holiday as Effie, the same role that recently won Jennifer Hudson an Oscar for the film version. Holliday previously won a Tony Award when she played the same character on Broadway.
Bringing Holliday on in the Theater of the Stars production, Manos said, was a real coup.
“It’s not that it’s big for the season,” Manos said. “It’s big for any season.”
Coming up even earlier than this season’s debut of Dreamgirls are auditions for youth chorus roles for the Wizard of Oz. The auditions will be held at the Atlantic Station Dillard’s department store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 28. Boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13, and no taller than 5 feet, are invited to audition.
The best part of his job, Manos said, is the variety that putting on a musical for one week and then moving on to the next provides. He said it is exciting to be a part of something that never gets stale.