By Kevin Greer
Lakeside Communications Manager
Director of Arts & Entertainment Programming Shirley Stary said she felt some added pressure heading into Lakeside’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. She knew it was extremely important to book a wide range of performers for shows in Hoover Auditorium, the Steele Memorial Bandstand and the Pavilion.
There was a little bit of everything at all venues. Name the music genre, it was here, including classic rock, classical, country, Christian, blues and soul. Comedy and family shows were also popular throughout the summer. The Spin Doctors, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Crowder, Paul Reiser and Lonestar were some of the highlights of the season.
“I think with it being the 150th Anniversary, it was programming on steroids,” Stary said. “We tried to diversify programming to get a broader audience.”
Attendance was 63,271 across the Arts & Entertainment Pillar, an 18% increase from 2022. Hoover crowd totals went over 1,000 people 20 times during the season. Reiser, well-known for his performances in the Emmy-winning sitcom “Mad About You,” “Beverly Hills Cop” films and Netflix’s megahit “Stranger Things,” drew the largest audience at 2,107 for his stand-up comedy show. Stary wants to schedule more comedians, but it’s a tall order.
“I loved Paul Reiser,” Stary said. “Everything he was saying I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s me’ or ‘That’s my husband.’ There were a lot of great moments there. I always try and find one or two good comedy shows, but finding comedians who don’t use foul language or inappropriate material is hard.”
Michael Cavanaugh, handpicked by Billy Joel to star in the Broadway musical “Movin’ Out,” performed Joel’s classic hits over Labor Day weekend to a Hoover crowd of 1,801, the second largest of the season. Stary will have Cavanaugh back for his show of Elton John favorites on Saturday, June 15, 2024!
Stary doesn’t put too many tribute bands on the schedule, but many Lakesiders commented positively on how much they enjoyed DSB – America’s Favorite Tribute to Journey and Evil Woman – The American ELO (Electric Light Orchestra). If a tribute band is going to play in Hoover, Stary has a certain criterion.
“I look for the creative cover bands that don’t necessarily try to be The Beatles, for example, but pay homage to the music,” Stary said. “I didn’t see Michael Cavanaugh as a tribute show because he was kind of redoing the music of the Broadway musical. He was recreating great Billy Joel music, so that’s different than a Billy Joel tribute band.”
As usual, the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Daniel Meyer, drew large crowds to Hoover. Over 5,100 attended the six concerts, with the highest total of 1,157 for “Music of the Knights,” a celebration of Britain’s most legendary songwriters – Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Stary understands the importance of scheduling family entertainment, and there were several fun shows kids and adults enjoyed together. Mike Super drew 1,300 Lakesiders for his presentation of magic and illusion. Fam Blitz Live and Kids Blitz Live were Christian-based shows with plenty of audience interaction and humor that had nearly 1,100 attending the two programs.
“We need to continue to find really solid performances for family audiences,” Stary said. “I think the hardest to book are quality family entertainers.”
The only hiccup to the season was out of the Programming Team’s control. Heavy rains overnight on Aug. 24 caused flooding in many areas of Lakeside, and Hoover Auditorium took on several inches of water in front of the stage that spread to about the 10th row. That, unfortunately, forced the cancellation of Long Time Gone, but thanks to incredible work by the Maintenance Team, The Texas Tenors went on stage as scheduled Aug. 25 and didn’t disappoint.
“We had an amazing team with maintenance and everybody who got Hoover dried out,” Stary said. “I would have been devastated if we had to cancel The Texas Tenors. They had the crowd eating out of their hands. They have an audience that follows them, so it helps us in late August to have that enthusiasm.”
Stary is pleased with how the season went. She’s grateful to the donors who supported the 150th programming initiative to make the additional programming possible. She said the schedule will be scaled back slightly next season, but she’s already working on getting quality shows for all the venues.
“What a great way to honor Lakeside’s 150th Anniversary,” Stary said. “We really were able to knock it out of the park, and a lot of it had to due to the donor base and significant money to bring in these bigger programs. As we look to next year, we’re looking at what were some of the best practices that we can keep from this year and stay within our sustainable budget. It is a wonderful challenge.”
Lakeside and Croswell Theater make a great team
Lakeside and Croswell Theater in Adrian, Michigan, collaborated for an extremely successful children’s theater program from June 26-30.
“Magic Tree House: Pirates Past Noon” was a theater camp experience geared toward rising second graders through rising eighth graders. The week concluded with a performance for the Lakeside community in South Auditorium. Registration was full a couple weeks before the season started.
Three instructors from Croswell worked with the children throughout the week, including a music director, stage director and choreographer. Students learned about acting, choreography, stage direction and music.
Using different acting exercises and improv games such as dinner plate and environments, the campers explored how to become their characters to tell the story of the Magic Tree House between rehearsal periods. By midweek, actors added costumes, props and other pieces to help them bring the story to life.
Rhein Center has successful season
The Rhein Center was once again a popular spot during the Sesquicentennial season. Just like everything else in the Arts & Education Pillar, the numbers were up from 2022.
The Rhein Center welcomed 6,444 students for classes and sold an additional 1,348 items through Open Studio, reflecting approximately 2,022 people served. The estimated total of 8,466 was a 10% increase from last season.