Carey Dinner Theatre, "Mississippi's unique dinner theatre," celebrates its 40th season in 2015 with two musicals in June and July at the Joe and Virginia Tatum Theatre on the Hattiesburg campus of William Carey University.
The first show is "Church Basement Ladies," a musical comedy by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke with music and lyrics by Drew Jansen. The story takes place in the heart and soul of the church, the basement kitchen, where several ladies cook meals and perform other tasks for the congregation. In the funny, down-to-earth comedy, the ladies handle a traditional Norwegian fish dinner, a funeral and a fundraiser while starving off potential disasters, having fun, sharing and debating recipes, instructing the young and keeping the pastor on course. The show features original songs including "Closer to Heaven," "The Pale Food Polka" and "Mother of the Bride." The show runs June 11-27.
The second show, "Beehive," is a musical tribute to the popular female singers of the 1960s. Written by Larry Gallagher, "Beehive" takes the audience on a chronological journey through the decade, from its beehive hairdos to its hippie fashions and beyond. Along the way the audience is treated to 40 of the decade's most memorable songs including "My Boyfriend's Back," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "Natural Woman," "Proud Mary," "Me and Bobby Magee," "Where the Boys Are" and "Make Your Own Kind of Music." The show runs July 7-18.
Carey Dinner Theatre was founded in 1975 when O. L. Quave, then-chair of the Department of Theatre and Communication at Carey, and other faculty and staff members wanted to give their young performers a professional and educationally sound opportunity to express their talents in a unique format. There was also a desire to offer the public quality entertainment that the whole family could enjoy. Out of these goals and ideas, the dinner theatre was born.
Two students, Keith Thompson and Jay Rogers, wrote and composed "It's Make Believe," a musical, which was produced in the first season of what was then called Carey Summer Showcase. The 1975 show, with its four performers, technicians, office personnel and staff, launched one of Mississippi's most valuable summer traditions.
A distinctive feature of Carey Dinner Theatre from the beginning has been that student members serve tables during dinner. By the time the performance has started, each person in the audience has had some personal contact with at least one member of the dinner theatre's company.
Selected from auditions held every spring, college students from across the country try out for performing, technical and clerical positions. Over 50 schools, including a large number of schools from the Deep South, have been represented by members of the company. Examples of schools represented include Vanderbilt, Julliard, Wake Forest and Duke. Dinner theatre alumni can be found across the country in professional and educational theatres and in a wide variety of professions not specifically related to theatre.
The admission price of $30 includes a buffet meal, program book, the show and sales tax. The box office will open June 1 and will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Individuals interested in becoming dinner theatre contributors receive special privileges, including invitations to the annual pre-season open house and early box office access. Call (601) 318-6221 to make reservations, be added to the mailing list or to receive contributor information.