Archive for Thursday, June 11, 2009

Theatre in the Park kicks-off 40 years with birthday bash

June 11, 2009

Cake, candles, celebration.

Although not a Broadway production, Friday’s 40th Birthday Bash for Theatre in the Park at Shawnee Mission Park brought all the glitz and glam of a well-choreographed number.

A celebration of 40 years and hundreds of shows kicked of the 2009 season of Theatre in the Park. Jokes, songs and stories filled the air as more than 100 guests enjoyed the evening.

The celebration began with a rousing ovation for Reuben Sell, an original member of the steering committee that brought the theater to Shawnee Mission Park. Sell, who last week turned 100 years old, helped blow out the candles of the ceremonial birthday cake, along with Demmaree Carns, former executive producer, and Annabeth Surbaugh, who chairs the Johnson County Commission.

After cake and punch, the evening was dedicated to telling stories of the past, recognizing outstanding supporters and the musical stylings of past performers.

Olivia Sabates, 7, sang a rendition of “Tomorrow” from “Annie.”

While Olivia won’t be in any of this year’s productions, she was still excited to be at the celebration.

“I performed last year,” she said. “I get to see the people I played with last year and I’m excited to sing.”

Olivia played Chip in last years production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

“I like being in the plays a lot,” she said. “I like acting and singing. I’ve been doing it a long time. I’ve made a lot of friends. I got a part this year but I had a lot to do this summer and it was on my birthday. I might do it next year.”

Trudy Hurley performed songs from “The King and I” and “Annie Get Your Gun.” Hurley’s Theatre in the Park experience, which began in 1982, has always been about family. Her parents and sister were regular cast members in the past. Now, her 9-year old daughter, Lauryn, has graced the stage for productions of “Guys and Dolls,” “Music Man” and “Oklahoma!”

“This is my favorite place on the planet,” she said. “I spent all my summers here.”

Doug Allen, theatre council chair, scanned programs from past productions to show on the stage’s backdrop. He illustrated the programs with stories of memorable casts, directors and shows.

“We’re like a family,” he said. “People knew everyone.”

Lynn Reddick, master of ceremonies, kept the theme of family going when introducing speakers throughout the evening.

“There have been lots and lots of families involved in the history of Theatre in the Park,” he said. “We are the Theatre in the Park family.”

Reddick also shared his Theatre in the Park experience with the audience. Reddick and fellow cast-mates formed a supper club after the 1984 season.

“This was before Facebook, MySpace or Twitter,” he said. “We’ve only missed a few months in all those years.”

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” begins the Theatre in the Park season at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

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