|Sign up for our FREE weekly newsletter|
Buy an Ad
Charles Burr, artistic director of Tibbits Summer Theatre.
COLDWATER – For the past three years, Tibbits Summer Theatre has been launching its season with a revue – a way to bridge the desires of its older and younger audiences.
"It seems to be working very well for us," said artistic director Charles Burr. "I'm finding we need to satisfy two different audiences. We have an older crowd that really wants to hear some of the great classic shows, but if we just produce 'Bells are Ringing' and 'My Fair Lady,' we'd lose our younger audiences."
Tibbits works hard to attract its younger audiences during the summer, starting with years of developing that audience through children's theater. Every Friday and Saturday morning, they put on a show for families ranging from such fairy tales as "Pinnocchio" and "The Frog Prince" to children's classics such as "Charlotte's Web" and then a weekend of magic shows with performers from the Colon Magic Festival. This Popcorn Theatre season gets families used to attending theater.
This year's revue focuses on songs that could have been heard on Broadway in 1956. It's next show, opening July 12, is for the middle-aged and younger crowd – "Chicago."
"We've been trying to do 'Chicago' for six years, maybe more," Burr said. "We are right between the touring houses in Kalamazoo and Lansing, so the producers were never going to allow us to do it as long as that tour was making money for them. Last year the Barn got it. We were due for it this year. We are really excited. It is the most requested show that I've ever had on a survey."
It will also be the show with the largest cast – 19. Those 19 will also perform in other shows in both the Popcorn Theatre and the main stage. The cast this year is made up of many returning performers, along with those who are completely new to the Tibbits stage.
Burr said "Chicago" also works well as the second show in the season because "it has some meat to it besides all the surface razzle-dazzle."
While most of the season is dedicated to musicals, the third spot of the summer always belongs to the one non-musical, a farce that Burr, who also directs it, promises its actors will be their aerobic workout. This year's farce is "Funny Money."
"I liked 'Funny Money' because it didn't center on infidelity, which is unusual," Burr said. "It's not just about getting someone into bed. It has a nicely different plot and is a funny show."
The inclusion of a farce is a recognition that Tibbits Opera House is a summer theater and its audiences are people who are visiting their cottages for the summer or who are on vacation and are looking for entertainment.
"I have been doing a farce for a lot of years," Burr said. "Lately we've really been majoring in farce."
The season closes with a tribute to one of Burr's favorite musical theater artists – a Cole Porter. "Nymph Errant" is a lesser-known part of the Cole canon. Produced originally in London in 1933, it didn't get its U.S. premiere until 1982, in part because of its risque nature and even more so because it wasn't affordable on Broadway during the Depression.
"It is sort of a travelogue of how these girls run around the continent trying to lose their virginity, but (the heroine) can't make it happen until she goes home," said Burr. "There is lots of good Cole Porter music. He wrote it right before 'Anything Goes' and was at the height of his lyrical writing."
Together, the three musicals, one farce, and four children's shows create a season that Burr hopes will appeal to many different people.
"I think that there should be something that tickles the fancy of just about any theater goer. Then if they give one other show a try – I think discovering something in the theater is the most exciting thing you can do. If you don't know anything about Cole Porter, then try 'Nymph Errant.' You might find a whole new range of what you go to the theater for."
Tibbits Summer Theatre Tibbits Summer Theatre performs at Tibbits Opera House, 14 S. Hanchett St., Coldwater. For season and ticket information: 517-278-6029 or www.tibbits.org.