Lyric Theatre's artistic director leaves for Broadway

There is a changing of the guard at Lyric Theatre, or rather, a changing of the Nicks.

After nine seasons as Lyric's artistic director, Nick Demos will be leaving the theater company after the October production of "The Rocky Horror Show" for Broadway. Replacing Demos is Nick Corley, who joins Lyric as the new artistic director.


Demos, like Corley, came to Lyric from New York City, where he was working as a freelance director and artistic producer of a special events company. Although not from Oklahoma, he had been attached to Lyric for several years as a freelance director.

In his nine seasons, Demos said Lyric has come far. There was the move from the Oklahoma City University campus to the Civic Center Music Hall and endowments that secured the company's future. And, most recently, there was the completion of the Plaza Theatre, which has resulted in an expanded year for the company.

"None of this existed nine years ago," Demos said. "I am proud of all of this. I absolutely feel I am leaving Lyric better than when I found it."

Paula Stover, executive director of Lyric Theatre, agreed, saying Demos raised the artistic level of the company and began building fantastic shows.

"It has been a nice collaboration," she said. "I'll certainly miss him."

Looking back at nearly a decade with Lyric, Demos said that, although he is happy with all productions in one way or another, last year's staging of "Oklahoma!" stands out to him. "From the amazing talent to the beautiful scenery and costumes we built from the ground up, this was an incredible experience for me as both a director and a producer," Demos said.

After leaving Lyric in October, Demos will begin producing shows on Broadway. He has started Demos Bizar Entertainment, a production company, with a business partner and will develop new work "? both musical and non-musical "? for the theater. This season, he is producing a musical called "Vanities," which follows the friendship of three women. Next season, he will produce "Memphis." The show, by Joe Dipetro and David Bryan, is the story of rock 'n' roll's birth.

"As an artist you must continue to grow and search and scare yourself a little bit," Demos said. "This is both an exciting and scary time for me."

At Lyric, Stover said Corley was chosen to take the helm as the new artistic director after a nationwide search that began last January.

"We want to keep our standards excellent and even move them up more," Stover said, pointing to Corley's strong national directing experience. "We're excited for the future with him."

Corley's first production with Lyric will be a staging of "The Who's Tommy" at the Plaza Theatre in February.

"Nick Demos and Paula have done an amazing job building the theater over the last few years," Corley said. "I want to run with that."

Corley, who grew up in California, fell in love with theater at an early age because of his mother, he said. She took him to a tent production of "The Sound of Music" as a child and he was hooked. Corley has acted and directed at several theaters across the country and developed new shows. He was recently in the Broadway production of "Mary Poppins." He heard about the open artistic director position with Lyric at a time when he was searching for a transition and spoke with Demos about the job.

"It seemed really exciting and in a growing phase," Corley said. "What they were looking for was exactly what I was looking for."

Though Corley's official start date isn't until Jan. 1, 2009, he joined Demos and Stover is picking the shows for 2009. The productions are staged at both the Plaza Theatre and the Civic Center Music Hall.

One production that Corley was instrumental in bringing in for the 2009 season is "Woody Sez." The show, which follows the music and life of Woody Guthrie, will be making its U.S. premiere at Lyric.

Corley, who was one of the writers of "Woody Sez," first showed the production at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland before doing a test season in Europe. With worldwide rights granted by Guthie's daughter, "Woody Sez" will play at the Plaza with four actors, 15 instruments and over 30 songs.

Though Demos is leaving, he doesn't plan on forgetting about the OKC theater and is confident the company will continue to flourish with Corley.

"It is Nick Corley's time to make Lyric his vision," Demos said. "I look forward to coming back and seeing what that is and support it the best I can."

"?Jenny Coon Peterson 

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