Before the show began at North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) October 3, owner Bill Hanney stepped onto the stage and invited everyone in attendance to stay afterward for Out at NSMT night.
The event, a post-show cabaret and mixer, has become one of the most popular traditions on the North Shore for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Held the second Thursday of a production’s run, the evening is filled with performances, cocktails, snacks, and the opportunity to make new friends.
“Some people travel very far, just because it’s an opportunity to feel safe and be out and be their full selves,” says Director of Marketing and Communications Mike Ciceri, who created the event in 2003 after seeing something similar at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. In what might be the perfect meet-cute, a cast member from NSMT’s Mame met a local theatre-goer at that first event—they started dating soon after and married earlier this year.
After audiences watched Tony winner Alice Ripley (Next to Normal) as Norma Desmond and Nick Rodriguez as Joe in Sunset Boulevard, nearly a third of the 1,500-seat theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts, walked to the venue’s next-door restaurant, Backstage Bistro. At midnight, the space was still full of people singing and dancing along—normal for Sardi’s or Marie’s Crisis, but not a suburban venue 25 miles outside of Boston.
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“I think NSMT is one of the only places in the area that does things like this. I think they really focus on their community,” said Aaron Swinuch, Artistic Director of Entr’acte, a local theatre company for kids and families. “Tonight means that we can celebrate through something we all love— the arts and theatre and singing and dancing.”
Out at NSMT follows the same format each time: the cast mingles with theatre-goers and performs cabaret acts late into the night. Cocktails are served and snacks passed around as people meet and friends from afar reunite (some coming all the way from New Hampshire and other New England states).
NSMT Artistic Director Kevin Hill said it’s nice to have an evening to relax and connect with a show while being yourself. “I look forward to this night because I can let loose as a person.”
Rodriguez says Out at NSMT can bring in people who might be more hesitant to spend an evening at the theatre alone. “I met somebody today at the gym here that wasn't really that interested in the theatre, but they were like, ‘Oh, there's a night for gay people? I might check it out!’ So this is giving people a place to belong.”
For Hanney, the event has been good for business, too: “It’s bringing in a new audience that’s not going to see a Broadway style show.” The owner adds that people have even switched their subscriptions to this night because of how much fun they’ve had in the past.
The next Out at NSMT is November 7, during the venue’s production of The Bodyguard, starring Cheaza Figueroa and Judson Mills.