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(Janesville, WI) Catherine Idzerda, Gazette

Dinner theater is returning to Janesville's Armory.

Bower City Theatre Company and Best Events on Thursday announced plans for a season of musicals and other events at the downtown venue.

The move comes a month after Bower City and Best Events sponsored sold-out Christmas shows—and about five years after the recession and other factors drove professional theater out of the Armory.

Bower City President Brett Frazier said the decision was made after extended discussions with Rod Oksuita, director of Best Events.

They wanted to find a way to bring theater back to the venue.

“I worked at the Armory, and it was a wonderful space,” Frazier said. “The renovation that Mick (Gilbertson) did was amazing.”

Frazier performed in 14 productions and nearly 900 shows at the theater.

The Armory was home to professional dinner theater from 2005 to 2011, but the recession hit the theater hard, Frazier said.

The Armory continued as a restaurant and special events space until April 2015, when Best Events took over operations.

Bower City started its theater company at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. In 2013, it ceased doing performances, citing financial problems.

In 2015, however, it returned with the musical “Legally Blonde” and followed that up with the Christmas show at the Armory.

All of the theater equipment is still at the Armory, but the challenge was how to provide an outstanding meal and a show at an affordable price. After the successful Christmas show, Frazier and Oksuita began to think a little bigger.

“We knew we had to find a way to keep costs as low as possible,” Frazier said.

The performers will be a mix of nonequity professionals and seasoned community performers, Frazier said.

Tickets for the shows will range from $19 to $59. The shows won't be long running, as the Armory shows were, and that will help hold down costs as well.

The first full season is designed to be a test run, and it will offer plenty of family favorites and a sharply funny show for grown-ups.

Tickets for the first season aren't available yet, but auditions have already begun.

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