By Mary Ann Bourbeau |HOLMDEL – Kathy Connolly wants to take the Holmdel Theatre Company to the next level. And two months into her new position as artistic director, she is well on her way.“I want to build it up to a professional level and I think in the long term, it’s totally doable,” she said.Since she took over for former artistic director Laurie Devino, Connolly has already increased the number of shows to four this season, kicking off with “You Can’t Take It With You,” which runs from Oct. 26 to Nov. 11. It’s the story of a woman from a good-natured but eccentric family who becomes engaged to a man whose relatives are decidedly stuffy. Comedy ensues when the two families meet for the first time. The show, written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, has a cast of 15 and will be directed by Connolly’s husband, Jake Oliver.“I wanted to do a classic play, something funny, with a big cast and a big set to start off the season,” Connolly said. “Jake is a great director and he’s good with comedy.”The season continues with the play “Art” from Dec. 7 to 16; “Life is a Dream” from March 29 to April 14; and the musical “Next to Normal” from July 19 to Aug. 4.“I’m so excited to do a musical and especially this musical,” she said. “I performed several musicals in barns when I did summer stock as an actor. I love barn theaters.”The theater hosted a 30th Season Cabaret Gala Oct. 1, featuring Broadway’s Jenn Gambatese (“School of Rock,” “Tarzan”), Gaelen Gilliland (“SpongeBob Squarepants,” “Kinky Boots”) and Rema Webb (“Escape to Margaritaville,” “Violet”). The inaugural event was a fundraiser for the theater.“These Broadway singers all thought the acoustics were perfect,” Connolly said.Holmdel Theatre Company presents its shows at the Duncan Smith Theater, at 36 Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel.Plans for Holmdel Theatre include more interaction with students from the middle and high school, including a youth theater that will kick off with a staged reading in the spring.“It’s important for professionals to work with students, both on stage and backstage,” she said. “That’s been part of our mission statement since the theater was founded.”“I was fortunate enough to work with professionals on stage and as a student, and it’s very important to me to carry on this tradition at Holmdel Theatre Company,” she said.Originally from Pittsburgh, Connolly began performing theater at age 9. She attended Point Park University, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and New York University, where she studied in the Stella Adler and CAP21 conservatories.After college, Connolly worked as an actor and director in both regional and national tours. After moving to Middletown, she began directing musicals and teaching acting at area schools and the Middletown Arts Center. She also works as a teaching artist at the Two River Theater in Red Bank.After serving five years as artistic director, Devino felt the theater needed someone who could devote more time to it.“I work full time and Holmdel Theatre deserves more attention than I could give with my schedule,” she said. “Kathy is a perfect fit. She will definitely bring much needed new life to the theater.”Devino will still be involved; in fact, she has a lead role in “You Can’t Take It With You.”“It’s nice to be able to act again,” she said. “I didn’t have time with all my other activities. This is a fun ensemble piece that really holds up. It’s a happy little escape.”Connolly is looking forward to seeing what the future holds at Holmdel Theatre Company.“The first time I walked into the theater, I automatically fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s such a special place with a special history and I feel very lucky to be given this opportunity. It feels like home already.”Tickets for “You Can’t Take It With You” are $15 to $25. For more information, visit holmdeltheatrecompany.org.Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at [email protected] article was first published in the Oct. 11-18, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.