After pandemic shutdown, ‘record-setting’ flood, Swift Creek Mill Theatre reopens with musical comedy

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The pandemic halted rehearsals and plays at south Chesterfield’s historic Swift Creek Mill Theater for nearly a year and a half. Next month, it will finally re-open with shows — and actors are itching to get back on stage.

“It started as a two-week shutdown. We made new plans,” said Artistic Director Tom Width. “Then it was two months, made new plans. We’ve been making a lot of new plans over the last year and a half and this time it’s actually gonna happen.”

There are exceptions to the saying “the show must go on.” Some might say a global pandemic is one of those exceptions.

When the world shut down, Swift Creek Mill Theatre was four days away from a grand opening of a musical comedy called “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” The show was halted.

Then, last August, a record-setting flood caused more than $130,000 in damage, according to Width.

“We got a double whammy,” he said. “The likes of which I have not seen in my 45 years here.”

Thanks to financial support from a community that loves the Mill, next month, the theater is making a comeback. “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” will see the light of day.

Elevated water levels in the Swift Creek Theatre. (Photo: Alex Thorson)

“That connection with our community has meant more to us here at the Mill than anything else I think,” Width said.

“We are dying to get an audience back in here,” the artistic director said.

He said rehearsals began about a month ago, and all but one of the four cast members were on the original cast from 2020.

“It’s so nice to hear people audition again, hear the phones ringing for tickets, all of that is just wonderful and gratifying,” he said.

The theater describes the show as a smart, insightful musical comedy that follows the thrill and folly of modern-day relationships, from the nerve-wracking first date to marriage, children and the quest for romance in the golden years.

“From first date, all the way to old age, all the funny recognizable things that happen in a relationship,” Width told 8News.

He said the play, about two and a half hours long, and is comprised of 12 to 13 stories and songs.

“It’s very very funny and very very touching and sweet as well,” Width said. “It’s one of those shows I call ‘a play of recognition’ because you look at it and you go ‘wait a minute that’s happened to me.”

(Photo: Alex Thorson)

Ian Page is one of the original cast members. When asked how he’s doing ahead of opening night, he said “it feels great. It’s like riding a bike.” He said since it had been so long since they’d rehearsed, it took a moment to recall some aspects about his character and the show.

“Like, oh that’s what we did there. Now I remember,” he told 8News.

Nearly a year and a half away from what he loves to do wasn’t easy.

“Sang a lot with my roommate,” Page said laughing.

Both Page and Width said there’s nothing like live theater.

“As opposed to other art forms, theater is the one where it’s like ‘no, we have to be surrounded by people.’ That’s the whole point of this,” Page said.

“I can’t wait to be back with human beings who want to be with each other and express themselves through the arts,” Width said.

He told 8News the cast and crew are fully vaccinated and audience members will be required to wear masks.

“You can laugh just fine in a mask. You’re gonna have a ball,” he said.

The show opens on Sept. 11 and runs through the end of October. You can find more tickets and more information about the play online here. More shows are planned for the winter.

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