New Stage to Screen Cabaret Dinner Theater Dazzles Greenwood Community With Musical Productions
Photographer / John Spurr Evergreen Photographic
Fans of Cabaret-style theater can now go see a performance that will knock their socks off in Greenwood. To see a show of this quality, you would have to go to Broadway, Chicago or even downtown Indy. But thanks to the vision of one world-class director and some talented local performers, you can see this amazing entertainment close by at Stage to Screen Studios.
Executive Director, Christopher Tompkins, just opened the studio in August of this year, establishing Johnson County’s first and only professional live theater venue, and the cast put on their first performance in October. Without taking a breath, the cast and crew dove right into November’s production, The Best of Broadway, then December’s Holidazzle, offering all the glitz and sparkle of the season.
Tompkins, who gained his theater experience on the world stage, gained credentials most could only dream about. He discovered his passion for dancing through a photo clipping of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly that he found when he was three. Tompkins showed the clipping to his mother and begged to start dance lessons. Dance teacher Sarah Lee gave Tompkins the foundation that would lead him on a path to perform in Broadway, Vegas, LA, DC and 56 countries, performing in countless musical theater productions. His travels even took him to a job as a Cruise Director on a cruise line.
As exciting as it was for Tompkins to travel the world delighting countless audiences, he reached a point where he felt a pull of something calling him home. Though the catalyst bringing him back to Greenwood was the need to be near to help his parents and a special needs sister, Tompkins had been ready for a change for some time.
“I’ve been blessed to have led such a storied life, making all the right connections to pave the way for success,” he says. “But I wanted to do something I love that’s about more than just making money because stuff is just stuff.”
So, Tompkins returned to Greenwood in the summer of 2018 and got busy building his vision. He reconnected with old friends, including Robert Moore (Head Costume Designer) and sought their help in collaborating to put a theater together.
“My goal is to do something all of us love, working with people we love for the greater good of the community through the development and delivery of performing arts,” he says.
Ramp up to open the theater was quick. Tompkins secured the space in August, and the speedy transformation began. The space went from being a church gathering space to a polished, modern venue with hardwood floors, a stage, curtains, high-quality lights and sound system and costumes, all in time for October’s opening variety show.
“To see this all come together so quickly, I definitely think there was a greater hand in it. It’s like divine intervention,” he says.
The Best of Broadway in November was a larger production than October’s. Featuring vignettes from several musicals, the music and choreography were true to form for Tompkins’ style.
“I spent time training with the legendary dancer and choreographer, Bob Fosse, so I’m a Fosse dancer,” he says.
Fosse is well known for lending his choreography talents to All that Jazz, A Chorus Line and Chicago among others. The style is what most know as “cabaret” dancing.
“Some of the dance moves push the edge of the envelope just a little without going overboard,” he says. “But it’s true to Fosse’s form and true to the musical. When a song has great rhythm, there’s nothing wrong with adding some subtle dance moves for an element of sensuality. I want people to appreciate true artistry of the music and the dancing.”
The nearly sold-out show incorporated numbers from Cabaret, Oklahoma, Once, Song and Dance, Chicago, Sweeney Todd, Evita, Annie and A Chorus Line. Tompkins was thrilled at the audience response. But there was one audience member he wanted to impress more than anyone else. Tompkins’ dance teacher, Sarah Lee, attended the show.
“It meant so much to me to have her in the audience,” he says. “Who would’ve thought that the first shuffle step she taught me would take me around the world.”
As the curtains closed on 2018’s season, Greenwood’s premier music theater started the New Year with big changes for 2019. Starting the first of the year, the theater was officially renamed Stage to Screen Catered Cabaret Theater, giving Indy’s southside its own dinner theater. The catering will be handled by popular Grafton Peek Catering and Bakery, and the menu will change each show, so check the website or call the theater to inquire.
The new dinner show offering launches February 7, changing the schedule of the shows. After the dinner show launch, the theater will offer each dinner show for two to four weeks. The shows will run Thursday through Sunday, with a special 12:30 p.m. lunch matinee offered Thursday for special groups, dinner shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 6:30 p.m. and a Sunday brunch show at 1:00 p.m.
Guests at the dinner shows will have a choice of two entrees, salad, a seasonal veggie, rice or potato, rolls and, of course, dessert and beverages. Guests can expect to get the royal treatment with food service on china, silver and linens. Seating is available for 66 patrons, keeping the atmosphere intimate.
Though the theater’s focus is on the shows, Stage to Screen also offers acting, voice and musical theater lessons.
“As the show’s director, my role is to coach, not teach,” Tompkins says. “So, in show auditions, we choose performers who are well rounded and have that foundation. For those looking to build their skills, we offer classes designed to provide hopeful performers with the foundation they need to have what it takes to deliver a show with the highest caliber vocals and dancing.”
Greenwood’s hottest new entertainment venue has enjoyed tremendous success in a short span of time, and there’s no doubt plenty more exciting things are on the horizon for the future.
“Our ultimate goal in the future would be to have two or three venues, allowing us to hire a cast that can gain experience as an entertainer on a steady basis,” Tompkins says.
There’s no time for a break or to sit back and enjoy the success. Beyond the stage, the theater is taking part in an important cultural mission.
“The theater is going to be just one part of the planned arts and entertainment district in downtown Greenwood,” Tompkins says. “We’re doing something to bring culture and enrichment through the arts and hopefully unify the community in the process.”
Tompkins invites the Johnson County community to come and see a show.
“Our theater’s success would not have been possible if not for the support of our loyal patrons and generous sponsors,” he says. “We ask for your continued support so that we can continue providing this incredible entertainment experience to the community.”
No matter what’s next for Stage to Screen, Tompkins vows to keep the focus on the theater’s mission, Imagine, Inspire and Involve.
“We imagined and we established Johnson County’s first professional, live theater in downtown Greenwood,” Tompkins says. “Through our performances, we hope to inspire our audiences to develop and share their talent with others. Finally, we want people in our audiences to become involved by volunteering, auditioning for a show or taking a class.”
Get your tickets now for the 2019 season, which includes Them Girls, I’m Not Done Yet, Little Bit of Country and Juke Box Boys. Visit stagetoscreenstudios.com for a complete list of show offerings, dates and times and ticket prices. Stage to Screen Catered Cabaret Theater is located at 350 South Madison Avenue in Greenwood.