While patrons of Shoppingtown Mall stock up on lotion from Bath & Body Works or drop off their kids for gymnastics practice, they may hear a soliloquy or the faint hum of show tunes in the distance. These are not the theatrical outbursts of artsy teens but the work of Central New York Playhouse, which calls one of the mall’s storefronts home. Founded in 2012 and run by amateur artists, CNY Playhouse’s programming varies between mainstream, crowd-pleasing plays like A Streetcar Named Desire and Brighton Beach Memoirs to guffaw-inducing musicals such as Spamalot. Comedy nights, cabarets, and magic shows also grace the CNY Playhouse stage. The first production at the CNY Playhouse, led by artistic director Dustin Czarney, was George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s The Man Who Came to Dinner. Recently, it tackled large-scale musicals, including Elton John’s Aida in 2015 and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita in 2016. “That’s not an ideal space, but they put a lot of love into that,” says MacKillop, who takes credit for the idea, which came to him during his mall-walking outings with his wife. The playhouse squeezes a stage, tables, and chairs into the space, creating a dinner-table setting. Costumes and scenery are jammed into the cramped backstage area. “We’ve come by there all hours of the day, and people were hammering, and sawing, and putting all that stuff together to turn what had been a retail space into a theatre, so you’ve got to love them for that,” MacKillop says.
Behind the Curtain: