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Find The Shine At Woolworth Theater

Where Shiners And Surprises Were Born

Article by Myra McEntire

Photography by Ashley Hylbert

Originally published in Brentwood Lifestyle

When country music star Chuck Wicks cohosted syndicate radio, he says he regularly asked live audiences, usually tourists, about their plans for the weekend. “It was always to go to Broadway, see the honkytonks, and check out the bars. And then I’d ask, ‘What about the next day?’ and they’d say, ‘Probably the same thing.’ So I got the itch to find options for Nashville. We needed something eclectic with different styles of entertainment. Then I went to a show in Vegas called Absinthe, and it blew me away. I loved the intimacy. I felt I was part of it all, and I wondered –  what is the absinthe of the south?” 

Moonshine, of course. That’s when Shiners was born. 

Chuck knew he “wanted an intimate show; circus meets broadway meets comedy." He says he couldn't find the right location, and then COVID hit, so he pushed the pause button. Then, the Woolworth building became available, and he made a decision. “When we had the opportunity to take a shot at it, I was aware of the building’s history. Once we got it, I found it my responsibility to really learn what this place meant. I knew I had to do things right because it’s sacred to a lot of people.” 

The Woolworth is known for its connection to John Lewis and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The lunch counter sit-ins he participated in helped desegregate Nashville’s public facilities in 1960. “We wanted people walking down the street to know what happened here, so we created a window display that everyone could see. John Lewis always wore the same thing for the sit-ins, so we put in a trenchcoat similar to the one he wore, a backpack, a copy of his novel, March, and two original stools from the lunch counter," Chuck says. 

Chuck and his team worked closely with the Lewis family and the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library to preserve the building’s legacy. Glass protects the Art Deco handrails, and new floors will float over the original tile. He adds, “Anything original to the building is staying. Anywhere you see a backsplash, it’s from the original Woolworth. We’re in such a sacred place. Sometimes buildings go away, and history is lost. As long as I’m in it, and my partner and my team are here, we’ll always preserve it.” 

Once Chuck and his team secured the building, he honed in on the concept of the show:  a family of moonshiners at a reunion. He knew he wanted circus-like acts but needed help sourcing the best talent. So he says when a friend put him in contact with Nappytabs, it upped the game. 

Nappytabs -- choreography and dance superstar duo Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo -- are an Emmy-winning wife and husband team known for the Fox television show "So You Think You Can Dance." Chucks says, “They've done it all. ABC specials for Disney, Dancing with the Stars, Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl performance. I flew to Vegas to meet them, and we did a huge casting call at the Circus Center. We asked performers to bring the weird, the funny, the crazy, and the wow. Aerial acrobats, contortionists, dancers, hand-to-hand combat performers. I forgot to judge them because I was enjoying it so much. We have an eclectic cast, truly world-renowned talent from all over the globe, all with different backgrounds and cultures.”

Laura Osnes, Broadway legend and Tony nominee, is known for starring roles such as Sandy in Grease, Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde, and Cinderella in the eponymous Broadway show. She will take a turn in the first production of Shiners as Violet, “the sweet, lovable girl who wouldn’t take the last slice of pizza.” Chuck shares that other family members include “the Bo brothers, Jim Bo and Bo Bo, the strong guys. Honey and Molasses Shiner are sisters who fight like hell but love each other. Some families have lost a loved one, and they’re missing that person. In the Shiner family, that’s Ma.”  

Chuck is part of the action, too, playing Mason Shiner, the ringleader who keeps the energy up. “As we take you through the journey that is Shiners, we’re hitting all the emotions. There’s romance, fights, and love where you don’t expect it. There are lessons about not judging a book by its cover. As all families do, they have eclectic personalities. That’s what makes families go around," he says.

The music will be very familiar. Chuck says it has that scoring vibe one hears in a movie or a Broadway play. Chuck, Emily West, and K.S. Rhoads scored the production and wrote two original songs for Shiners. “There’s a lot of surprises. Songs you might recognize, used in new ways.” 

Finally, Chuck offers this irresistible and winsome overture:  “Welcome to the Shiner family reunion, where everyone’s invited. Take the oath, take a sip, and we’ll let you in on the secrets that make us shine. When you leave, you’ll shine, too.” 

Shiner shows begin on Sept. 23.  


“Come see the show, experience the building and its history, and feel the shine.”