Local theater production beats Broadway in many ways
by Amy L. CornellCommunity columnist | firstname.lastname@example.org
January 3, 2008
I hate to admit it, but I think my family and I have become the kind of theater patrons that the rest of you dread sitting in front of.
I am sure readers are familiar with this scene: You take your seat in a beautiful theater, anxious to enjoy a show and come to a slow realization that the people behind you will go to the bathroom in the middle of the entr’acte, crinkle bags of chips in your ear throughout your favorite slow ballad and argue about whether or not they can see the stage during most of the show. Oh yeah, and at some point, the mother will spill something on your coat.
In spite of my family’s bad behavior, I did actually watch and enjoy the Cardinal Stage Company’s production of “Oliver” at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater last weekend as did my family and friends who attended with me.
Readers should also know that as I write this column, I am visiting an old friend in New York City for the New Year. Last night, we attended a fabulous, much-heralded show on Broadway called “Avenue Q.” I spent about four times the money for the ticket to “Avenue Q” as I did my “Oliver” ticket, but I think that for many reasons I enjoyed the show at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater much more.
Comparing production values for both shows is difficult since one was an adult-themed puppet show and the other a family oriented musical, but to my eye, both “Avenue Q” and “Oliver” looked and felt professional, so my evaluation isn’t based on which show had better singing or dancing. At the BCT, I knew people up on stage: a girl whose diapers I used to change, a woman with whom I work at IU, a boy who was in a play with my son last summer.
When I spilled my soda on a fellow patron’s coat during intermission, I ran to the lobby to grab something to mop up the spill and ran into BCT manager Danielle McClelland who helped me to locate a towel. I know from past conversations with Danielle that she truly sees her mission for the theater as one which underscores its importance for the community and not its own bottom line. She asks herself, how can our downtown theater bring out the best in our town?
During the second act of “Oliver,” as I stewed about my unseemly actions and marveled at the quality performances, I thought what a great decision it was for Cardinal Stage Company to run this show during winter break. What family isn’t looking for something fun and a bit different for their kids during winter break? With IU closed down, it draws our attention more sharply to the offerings of the community. I also read through the list of donors to the event and noted that many of them are friends and acquaintances from throughout Monroe County.
While my choices are far more limited here in Bloomington than they are in New York City, I know the real magic is in watching the community come together to create the wonder that was “Oliver.” I’ll never see any of the performers from “Avenue Q” again. I can’t run into their mothers in the grocery store and tell them how beautiful their daughter was on stage. My son can talk about this with all the other kids in his class who probably went as well.
As we left the BCT, Danielle handed us a chocolate gold coin from Irwin Union Bank, one of the sponsors of the show. My son began to sing, “Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself part of the family.” The very gracious couple that I spilled on wished us a Merry Christmas, and now I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to never bring soda into the theater.
Amy Cornell’s column appears every other Thursday in The Herald-Times. You can reach her at email@example.com.