Great theatre, just like magic, as they say, is all done with smoke and mirrors. We had the mirrors part down pat, that being the central theme of The Who’s Tommy, but maybe, just maybe we got a little carried away with the “smoke” on Saturday night…
The audience filed into the high school Saturday evening as usual, and were ushered to their seats, some commenting on the foggy haze from the hazer machine (not actually “smoke”) that filled the auditorium, spilling out into the halls, rather like a good London fog. The lights went down, and the show started with its crashing symbols, and wailing electric guitar, the signature French horn trumpeted the beginning of WWII. And then the sirens… wait was that a new sound effect? Are those real fire alarms? Not just the usual air raid siren from the war-time scene? There was a lag in comprehending what was actually happening, until the music stopped, the house lights came up, and Rebecca Meyer-Larson, the show’s director told the stunned audience that they’d have to leave the theatre.
The hazer machine’s over-zealous production of that foggy haze had tripped the building’s fire alarm and shut down the air exchanger. So, consequently, five minutes into the show, the whole audience, cast, crew, and pit had to evacuate! Amazingly, there were no complaints, no grumbling, even while being ushered out of the warm building, into 25 degrees and a dusting of snow.
“It’s a fascinating study in audience and crowd dynamics.” Said Jim Cermak, Executive Director of Gooseberry Park Players, another local summer youth theatre program. “You could write a whole scholarly thesis on this!” Jim, as well as two adjudicators from the Hennepin Theatre Trust Spotlight Musical Theatre Program, made their way with the rest of the audience to the school parking lot. After the show, Jim noted, “Amazingly enough, under adverse circumstances like this, the audience members tend to bond, making for better enjoyment of the show.”
And what a show! In addition to the false start, Cousin Kevin blacked his own eye hitting a piece of the scenery, 10-year old Tommy was hit in the cheek with a trash can, and poor Sally Simpson got a double whammy as her motorbike refused to start, then was left dangling unable to climb to the upper level in the second half. In each instance though, these actors improvised brilliantly, proving they are worthy of the ‘award winning’ adjective so often placed in front of Moorhead High Theatre.
Although you are not likely to be subjected to the extreme audience participation experienced last Saturday (it only happened once in six performances), you still have time to catch one of the two last performances over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend! Shows run this coming Saturday, November 27th and the newly added performance on Sunday, November 28th. For reserved seating information, see our Box Office page. Tickets will also be available at the door. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. Please arrive early.