VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — The muffled sounds of show tunes made their way through the line of kids outside the nondescript Venice building.

Song is back at the Venice Theatre — or at least, in its adjacent education building.

“I love the theatre and couldn’t believe it,” said Van Dinverno. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

13-year-old Dinverno has been acting at the theatre for years. He saw the destruction Hurricane Ian imposed on the massive main stage, tearing walls apart that welcomed visitors to the city.

“Going there, after the storm, it was just like a bullet to the heart,” Eli Clinch said. “It just really strung.”

The main building is a shell of its former self after Ian, with only the frame and a few lights hanging on by threads left.

“I was like, it’s not possible,” Dinverno recalled. “I didn’t think a storm would do that.”

Now, the theatre is being forced to pivot.

“It’ll be a lot like when we first came back from COVID,” Laurie Colton said. “This reminds me way too much of when we had to shut down for COVID.”

Colton runs marketing and communications for the theatre. She was shocked when she got the news about the destruction.

“When I drove over the bridge from Sarasota into Venice,” Colton remembered. “My heart just dropped.”

The staple of the community was no longer.

“We’re used to seeing a huge sign that says ‘Venice Theatre’ that welcomes you into the city of Venice,” Colton said. “It was just gone.”

Instead of dwelling on the loss of the 400-plus seat stage, the team started to think.

“Very soon after, people just said, ‘Okay, what do we need to do?'” Colton said. “Now we’re doing it.”

‘It’ is their plan to keep those Broadway lights shining. The group bought a building across the parking lot from the theatre, intending to renovate it for educational purposes. Now, they’re renovating it into a downsized, more intimate 100-plus-person stage. They plan to host their December musical, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ on the stage in December, and held auditions on Oct. 22.

And some of the theatre’s youngest are carrying the team.

“[Theatre] really just allows me to show who I am,” Clinch said. “Just express my feelings.”

While most of the kids auditioning didn’t see much damage to their own homes, their second home was destroyed.

“It was really windy,” said Cora Clinch, auditioning for the part of Tiny Tim. “There’s these lamps that are hanging from the ceiling and one of them had fallen.”

A lot of the actors and actresses love the emotions the theatre lets them express.

“It’s kind of like a let out,” Ali Wasmund said. “Sometimes you have a bunch of emotions that can’t be let out and singing, dancing, acting are a way to let out those emotions.”

With any luck, the main stage of the Venice Theatre will reopen in just over a year, by January 2024. The first show back — Kinky Boots. There’s also a smaller theatre next to the main stage that suffered less damage — it’ll be ready for shows in a couple of months.

“We’re always going to keep performing no matter what,” Wasmund explained. “Theatre down, theatre up, no theatre, outside, rain , doesn’t matter. We’re always going to perform.”