Rocky & Donna: Fun times at Meadow Brook

By |2006-08-31T09:00:00-04:00August 31st, 2006|Entertainment|


‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Staged Sept. 8-10 at Meadow Brook Music Festival, Rochester. Tickets: $25-$45.

‘Gypsy in My Soul’

Staged Sept. 15 at Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester. Tickets: $75/performance only & $125/performance plus reception. (248) 377-3300.

With a new season set to open Oct. 11, some might question the sanity of Meadow Brook Theatre’s David Regal and John Manfredi for scheduling not one, but two major fundraisers over the next few weeks. But when your top three corporate donors used to be General Motors, Daimler Chrysler and Delphi – and state funding for the arts is down by half – it’s easy to understand why the executives are scrambling to find new revenue streams for Michigan’s largest non-profit producing professional theater. For despite an increase in single ticket sales and a critically-acclaimed season, MBT is once again struggling for survival.

And they’re not alone.

“We’re beating the bushes just like every other non-profit trying to find capital,” Manfredi recently told Curtain Calls. “The financial hit we’ve taken has all been on the unearned income side.”

Theaters across Michigan have taken their share of financial lumps in recent years. Although corporate, government and personal donations have been spiraling downward for quite some time, the state’s sluggish economy has now seemingly reached the average theatergoer, as some area executives have recently observed a noticeable drop in paid attendance.

So with a budget approaching $2 million – and health care costs for 28 fulltime employees not getting any cheaper – MBT’s leaders have embarked on an ambitious campaign to reverse that trend and secure their theater’s future. Plus, they have a new season to produce – their fourth since taking over the theater in 2003. “No one gave us much of a chance that first year,” Regal recalled. “But we’re still here.”

And so is the popular “The Rocky Horror Show.” What is rapidly becoming an annual fundraising event returns to Meadow Brook Music Festival Sept. 8 for four performances, including a midnight show Sept. 9. “If last year’s performances are any indication, it’s definitely a party no one will want to miss,” said Manfredi, who will once again don the fishnet stockings of Dr. Frank N. Furter.

The campy, cross-dressing musical has become a great marketing tool for the theater, as nearly 6,000 screaming people, armed with water pistols and toilet paper, attended the show last summer – many of whom were experiencing a Meadow Brook production for the very first time. The show attracts an age group most theaters covet – young people in their teens, 20s and 30s – and Manfredi believes some returned and sampled his theater’s regular fare. “We saw the audience get a little bit younger this year.”

MBT’s second September fundraiser features Royal Oak native Donna McKechnie, Tony Award winner and star of Broadway’s original “A Chorus Line,” who returns home Sept. 15 with her cabaret show, “Gypsy in My Soul.” The program features the Broadway icon re-enacting the celebrated moments of her expansive career, and includes memorable tunes by Gershwin, Sondheim, Bacharach and others. “You won’t find a more cooperative, pleasant person to deal with than Miss McKechnie,” Regal said.

Originally, McKechnie was scheduled only to give a talk and sing a couple of numbers. “But because of her ties to the area and because of how much she likes Meadow Brook, she’s now doing her entire hour-long show with her full combo,” Manfredi said.

Both Manfredi and Regal agree that attending either fundraiser – or both – is an excellent way to support their theater. “You’ll get the most bang for your buck. And you’ll be incredibly entertained,” Manfredi concluded.

For Part 2 of this story – which includes a sneak peek at MBT’s upcoming season, plus additional fundraising opportunities – read Curtain Calls ONLINE at

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