Setting the Stage: An Inside Look at Studio Tenn in Franklin, Tennessee

Franklin is famous for its small-town charm, but did you know it also boasts a professional theater company with big-city credentials? Studio Tenn produces several Broadway-quality musicals, plays, and concerts in Franklin each year, starring some of Tennessee’s most talented performers as well as nationally-known stage and screen actors from across the country.

This season marks the company’s first full slate of productions in two years. Studio Tenn Artistic Director and Broadway veteran Patrick Cassidy says that while COVID was hard on his team, the shutdowns gave them an opportunity to take a step back and refine their goals and overall mission. 

“We managed to re-orchestrate, re-strategize, and rethink the company and what it needed to be,” he explained. “And when we opened last season, the company was in far better shape.” 

While last season was condensed, with smaller casts and fewer shows, this season features a full slate of performances that include rousing musicals like Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida and Smoke on the Mountain, as well as a Cabaret on Stage series featuring world-renowned theatrical performers. Cassidy promises that every Studio Tenn production will be ambitious, imaginative, and held to the highest standards.

“The quality is Broadway,” he said. “That’s what I came from; that’s the bar that I set.”

Studio Tenn directors did face one major challenge this year: Their former home at The Factory at Franklin is currently undergoing a major renovation. Fortunately, The Factory’s new owners agreed to create an even better home for Studio Tenn as part of the overhaul.

“So right now, we have the plans designed, and we are in the process of building a real theater,” Cassidy said. “It will be Studio Tenn’s theater, and we will finally have a permanent home.” That new theater will be ready by the fall of 2023.

In the meantime, Studio Tenn is taking this season’s productions on the road. Aida and the Cabaret on Stage series will be performed at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Smoke on the Mountain will run at the Historic Sanctuary of Franklin First United Methodist Church, and A Christmas Carol and Here You Come Again will be performed at the Franklin Theatre.  

Here’s a full list of this season’s upcoming shows:

Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida: In Concert is the story of a Nubian princess who falls in love with Radames, an Egyptian soldier. The only problem is that Radames is already promised to the Pharaoh’s daughter. Trouble ensues. Aida will be at the James K. Polk Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center September 30 and October 3, 2022.

Actor-writer-director Mark Cabus will reprise his one-man performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Franklin Theatre December 10 and 11, 2022. The talented performer will take on 18 different characters all by himself, including Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim!

Smoke on the Mountain takes place March 23 through April 2, 2023, in the Historic Sanctuary at the Franklin First United Methodist Church. The show includes two dozen bluegrass songs and tells the story of a Saturday Night Gospel Sing at a church in the North Carolina mountains in 1938.

Here You Come Again is an exciting new musical featuring the songs, wit, and wisdom of Dolly Parton. It will run at the Franklin Theatre from May 17 to May 28, 2023. 

Cabaret on Stage is part of a partnership with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The cabarets are staged to give the audience an intimate and imaginative evening with the performers. Liz Callaway and Jason Graae will take TPAC’s Jackson Hall Stage on August 20, Kristin Chenoweth performs September 10, and Judy Kuhn is set for October 15.

Tickets are available on the Studio Tenn website.