Posted by: thewhimsicalbee | August 27, 2009

The Barn Theatre

I enjoy the theatre. Unfortunately, it is not financially possible to go as often as I would like. Local theatres include Epic Theatre and Miller Auditorium (where I have seen Titanic and Phantom) , both of which are in Kalamazoo. I have seen other Broadway productions performed in South Bend, Indiana (Joseph) and in Chicago (Beauty & the Beast) as well.

And surprisingly, Hubby took me to see Oklahoma! three years ago. The surprising part is that I did not think my then-boyfriend would like the theatre, much less a musical. A friend of his had taken him to a couple shows over the years at a local theatre. Anyhoo, Oklahoma! was fantastic! And we did not have to drive to the city to see it, just a short drive to Augusta to the Barn Theatre. Yes, its name comes from where it is located: in a barn (the architecture is so fun to check out).

The Barn Theatre started out as the Village Players in Richland. Jack and Betty Ebert Ragotzy founded the Barn in 1946. Sixty-three years later and now under the direction of their son, Brendan Ragotzy, the Barn is still entertaining new generations of patrons. What a legacy! The Barn is also a historic site, listed as the oldest resident summer stock theatre in Michigan. (all information came from the Barn Theatre playbill)

“The Barn has an apprentice program that has helped launch careers  of many top performers in television, theatre, and film.” (The Barn Theatre playbill) Among them: Jennifer Garner (Alias, Elektra); Tom Wopat (Dukes of Hazzard; also still makes appearances in Barn productions, the last time in 2004); Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls); Kim Zimmer (Guiding Light); and others.

Mr. Ragotzy had decided not to raise ticket prices this year, staying with the $29 per ticket rate. That may or may not have been a wise decision, but my husband and I appreciated it. I am sure others did as well, since that is a stellar price for a show at the theatre. This year, I purchased a coupon book of six tickets, which was good for three shows. My in-laws purchased a book as well, which made for three Wednesday nights of spending time with them, having dinner before the shows. The coupons that we purchased were good for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights only. We went on the second Wednesday for each show (they run from Tuesday to a second Sunday, twelve days; no Monday shows).

Each year the theatre has “Barnies,” the apprentices that work for the summer. Not only are they actors, lighting and costume designers, they are also the ones that answer the phone at the box office and also ushers at the shows. They learn all the aspects of theatre.

Currently showing is The Civil War, which was an added show for the season. It started on Tuesday and runs through Sunday. The playbill describes it as “a thrilling, gut-wrenching, inspiring theatrical concert.” And it is a musical. If you have the opportunity, go see it. I have yet to see a bad show at the Barn.

This year we saw Don’t Drink the Water (the only non-musical this season), The Who’s Tommy, and Big River. Hubby and I, along with my in-laws, enjoyed all of them. My favorite would be Big River, mostly because of the BIG voices on the musical numbers. Holy cow, the actors were awesome! Especially Todd M. Kryger as Jim. The man can belt out the tunes, particularly “Muddy Water.” I had goosebumps! Water was a great comedy; at one point I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard (the tourist wife “helping” the priest with the strait jacket). And I did not know what to expect from Tommy. All I knew about the show was that there was a blind boy that was an awesome pinball player. A ton of talented voices in that show as well, with Eric Morris as Tommy and Aaron Velthouse as Tommy’s cousin.

I sincerely hope that we are able to attend a few shows next season, especially a musical. Also, maybe next year we will finally make it to the bar show afterward. I have heard it is a good time at the Rehearsal Shed, where there is more musical entertainment (they were going to do some songs from Momma Mia! after Big River) and nachos, wings, and cocktails. Someday we will see it for ourselves!

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