Nothing brings people together like live theater. Being in a room with other people laughing or crying about something that’s happening on stage is heartwarming, healing and humbling.
“Theater makes such a huge difference in our lives,” says Annie Myers, marketing director and assistant to the producer at Derby Dinner Playhouse. When the playhouse had to temporarily close due to COVID-19 patrons were upset, so when doors reopened they were eternally grateful that theater could once again bring joy to the masses.
“People told us all last year that they were so happy we were still open,” Myers says.
This year Derby Dinner Playhouse, now celebrating its 48th season, is putting on eight shows. They open with “Steel Magnolias,” a beloved comedy/drama that they haven’t performed in close to two decades. Every summer they put on a family musical so that people can bring their kids and grandkids for a fun family event. This summer’s production is “The Wizard of Oz.” They are doing a couple of shows that they’ve never done before, including “Bright Star,” a musical written and composed by comedian Steve Martin and musician Edie Brickell, and “Murder on the Orient Express,” adapted by Ken Ludwig.
For the holidays, they’re bringing back “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” which is always a fan favorite. Then 2023 will open with the musical comedy “Grumpy Old Men: The Musical,” a show that audience members requested when surveyed.
“We ask our season subscribers to vote on possible productions,” Myers says. “That helps us create a season of shows that we know our audience wants to see.”
In addition, they’re putting on the Mel Brooks musical “Young Frankenstein.” They finish their season with “Escape to Margaritaville,” featuring all Jimmy Buffett music, including original songs as well as some widely recognizable ones.
The theater’s tiered seating is arranged “in the round,” giving each and every guest a dynamite view of the stage, which sits in the middle of the room.
“This provides an intimate setting not usually found in most theatrical venues,” Myers says. “Everyone is so close to the stage that there’s not a bad seat in the house.”
At Derby Dinner Playhouse guests dine first and then see the show (both are included in the ticket price). In a normal year, roughly 200,000 people are in attendance for their main stage productions as well as their children’s musical theater performances and concerts. Through the years hundreds of tour buses carrying thousands of visitors from all 50 states and Canada have visited the theater.
Derby Dinner Playhouse typically has about 10,000 subscribers, some of which have been loyal patrons since its opening in 1974. As it turns out, there’s longevity in both their patrons and their employees. One of the co-owners began working at the playhouse back when her mom was the owner. They have another employee who was hired when she was 16, and she’s now almost 60.
“She’s never been employed anywhere but here,” Myers says. “We have lots of employees and actors who have been here for 30-plus years. We feel lucky to have a core group of people who all feel like family.”
Derby Dinner Playhouse is located at 525 Marriott Drive in Clarksville, IN. For more information, give them a call at 812-288-8281 or visit derbydinner.com.