Local theater community mourns loss of long-time leader Lance Anderson

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2021 at 9:52 pm

Director and performer expanded shows for Lake Plains Players

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lance Anderson portrays Jean Valjean in the production of Les Misérables. Anderson said playing Valjean in October 2013 was a dream come true. Anderson expanded the LPP’s number of productions, including a children’s theater camp over the summer.

Lance Anderson, a star performer and director for the Lake Plains Players, passed away on Thursday. He suffered a stroke in mid-December. His friends say he was preparing to go to a rehab site and his death is a shock – and a great loss.

Anderson was in his mid-50s. He caught the theater bug while a student at Albion in the early 1980s. He went on to a career as a vocal teacher, and remained deeply involved in the local community theater group, the Lake Plains Players.

Anderson was the group’s president. He performed on stage, directed many shows, and would do many of the thankless tasks behind the scenes.

“Lance was heavily involved in every single show,” said Gabrielle Montgomery, the Lake Plains Players acting president. “He did so much for the group. He was indefatigable.”

Anderson led a group that was friendly and accepting to everyone, but also pushed to put on high-quality productions.

He was proud of the group for its production of Les Misérables in the fall 2013. Anderson played his dream role, of Jean Valjean in a show which included a cast of 78.

Anderson expanded the LPP’s productions to include summer recitals and a children’s theater camp in the summer. He led the theater camp with Jennifer Trupo, a Lyndonville vocal teacher who directs the Lyndonville-Medina school musicals.

They took on the summer theater camp despite the commitment of three nights a week of rehearsals with a large group of kids. And he drove about an hour each way from his home in Spencerport.

“He just felt it was so important to give kids a chance to do theater,” Montgomery said.

During the Covid pandemic, Anderson and the LPP performers posted many “Living Room Concerts” on Facebook. Anderson performs “Sweet Zoo” by Jeffrey D. Harris from Barbra Streisand’s “My Name is Barbra” album. His video was posted on April 17, 2020.

The Players don’t make cuts for the large fall musicals among community members. The cast has a strong camaraderie, and Anderson was able to connect with everybody.

“He wasn’t just a boss or a director or someone you did a show with,” said Montgomery, who has been involved with the group since 2011. “He was really a good friend to a lot of us. He really made a huge impact.”

Lance Anderson hams it up while singing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” during a Christmas recital at St. Mary’s in Albion on Dec. 5, 2013. Anderson and the Lake Plains Players performed in many venues in Orleans and Niagara counties.

Anderson was a mentor to many of the LPP members, including Montgomery. He encouraged her first to get started in set design, promoted her to assistant director and then director of some of the LPP productions.

Many of the performers have been with the LPP for many years. Anderson was a big part of building an organization with a strong camaraderie, drawing people from Orleans, Niagara, Genesee and beyond.

“The Lake Plains Players is a different sort of theater group,” said Montgomery, who has been involved with the group since 2011. “It’s a family atmosphere. The group really cares about its members.”

Anderson would often teach vocal lessons in Albion and Medina, and then make it to rehearsal for the Players. He taught many of the leading performers on the high school stage, and he made it to all of their shows.

Jennifer Trupo, a longtime member of the LPP, first met Anderson when was in seventh grade at Lyndonville and Anderson was vocal director for the school musical, Singing in the Rain.

“He was a force, making us march around the stage while singing,” she recalled.

He was intimidating when she was in junior high, pushing hard for excellence. Later they performed many shows together, including You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown in January 2013, when Trupo was Lucy and Anderson was Charlie Brown.

Courtesy of the Lake Plains Players: Jennifer Trupo is Lucy and Lance Anderson portrays Charlie Brown in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” by the Lake Plains Players in January 2013.

The Players used to performed their big fall musical in either Medina or Lyndonville’s auditorium. In recent years it has performed just over the Orleans County line in Niagara, using Roy-Hart’s auditorium in Middleport.

Anderson had his heart in Orleans County, and he pushed for other venues for LPP shows, including summer recitals at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina.

These children are elves enjoying singing and dancing to the song, “Sparklejollytwinklejingly.” They are shown in August 2018 during the summer theater camp performance of Elf Jr. The Musical. There were 45 children in the cast.

Trupo and Anderson paired up to lead the summer theater camps, which included Little Mermaid in August 2015, Alice in Wonderland in 2016, Wizard of Oz in 2017, Elf the Musical in 2018 and The Lion King in 2019. Last year’s camp was cancelled due to Covid.

Anderson took on the challenge, even though he was nervous about working with a large group of kids from elementary to high school. The Players kept the cost down and find a spot for every kid who wanted to be on stage.

“He was just so wonderful,” Trupo said. “He was so great with the kids. They just loved him.”

Anderson was a star performer in his own right, but in the past decade he was willing to be put in the long hours as director, putting together programs, stage work and other tasks, so others could shine on stage.

“His goals were all about making things better, and having the group have longevity, and have a strong presence in the community,” Trupo said. “(His death) is the most heartbreaking, terrible tragic loss.”

Anderson was presented an award by the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council in October 2014 for his dedication to the Lake Plains Players.

Lance Anderson has the role of Jean Valjean, left, and Tyler Weymouth plays his nemesis, Inspector Javert, who ruthlessly pursues Valjean in Les Misérables.

During his acceptance speech, Anderson said the Players are like a family that finds a spot for interested community members to be part of their shows.

“It’s an honor working with so many lovely people,” Anderson told the GO Art! crowd at Terry Hills Golf and Banquet Facility in Batavia. “I’m very proud to be a part of the Lake Plains Players.”

To see Anderson’s obituary, click here.

Donations are being accepted in memory of Anderson to the Lake Plains Players Performing Arts Scholarship, c/o Lake Plains Players, 94 Jesson Pkwy, Lockport, NY 14094 or by clicking here.