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New Route 66 Musical Comedy Coming to WVC's Brubeck Theatre

You can drive from Chicago to Los Angeles in about thirty-one hours – if you stick to the Interstates.  However, for the road warrior who isn’t in a hurry, a cruise along old Route 66 can be an unforgettable journey – one with surprises beyond every curve. 

Now, a musical comedy comes to town – Route 66, by Roger Bean – that celebrates the golden era of the quirky old highway.  The show arrives at Wabash Valley College on Sunday, February 26, for one performance at 1:30 in the Brubeck Theatre. 

Often called “America’s Main Street,” U. S. Route 66 is a retro-fantasyland of art deco motels, roadside attractions, Indian trading posts, novelty drive-ins, and old-fashioned spit-and-polish service stations.  In its heyday, the highway boasted such landmarks as the Spooklight in Quapaw, Oklahoma; the giant Jackalope in Fort Worth, Texas; Meteor Crater in Leeup, Arizona; the giant Rocketman in Wilmington, Illinois, and the Iceberg Café in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  In the 1940’s and ‘50’s, hundreds of fancifully-designed motels, motor lodges, and motor courts sprang up along the great highway, many of which are still in operation today.  One prominent feature of Route 66 was also the popular Burma Shave signs that dotted the landscape with their humorous poems from 1927 to 1963.  Each phrase of a poem was on a different sign, sometimes miles apart. 

A rambunctious musical comedy, Route 66 leads the audience along the great “Mother Road” in a nostalgic celebration of music and whimsical highway fun.  The high-octane musical is performed and produced by Springer Theatricals which is on a ten-week tour of 27 states.

In Route 66, a gang of rowdy Chicago service station attendants strip off their snappy Texaco uniforms and head off on a westward-bound road trip filled with music, dance, and highway mischief.  The talented quartet of singing grease monkeys leaves Chicago and follows the Mother Road down through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and concludes their travels at the beach in Santa Monica, California. 

The show features rock and pop music from the 1950’s and ‘60’s including hit tunes like King of the Road, Dead Man’s Curve, Six Days on the Road, Hot Rod Queen, I Get Around, Little Old Lady from Pasadena, GTO, Fun-Fun-Fun, and, of course, Route 66.  Because of its comic antics and tight-harmony vocals, the show has been called a hybrid of Grease, Forever Plaid, and Pump Boys and Dinettes. 

The show’s author, Roger Bean, first created Route 66 for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and then developed it further at the famous Oregon Cabaret Theatre.  Bean has now turned the production over to the 145-year-old Springer Theatre, which is Georgia’s official State Theatre.

Springer producer Paul R. Pierce is excited about his company’s national tour of Route 66.  “This production is right up our alley,” says Pierce.  “And plays to our strengths, too – lots of comedy, music, and stage surprises.  The nostalgic qualities of Route 66 are irresistible.  After all, the simple, innocent pleasures of cruising on desolate two-lane roads through towns like Oklahoma City, Joplin, Winona, Flagstaff, and Barstow are nearly forgotten now.  The sheer romance of highway travel is a reminder of that romance – in all its gas-guzzling, tail-finned, gaudy neon, art deco glory.”

Springer Theatricals is the touring unit of the Springer Opera House, the State Theatre of Georgia, based in Columbus.  The Springer is one of America’s oldest and most celebrated theatre companies.  Founded in 1871, it features a year-round schedule of plays and musicals and operates one of the nation’s biggest Theatre Arts training academies.  The Springer also has one of America’s busiest touring itineraries, performing in some forty cities every year.  In 1999, the Springer Opera House completed an elaborate $12 million historic restoration that has become a model for historic theatre preservation in the United States. 

Since Reconstruction days, the Springer has been a revered Southern cultural institution with the world’s most celebrated artists making pilgrimages to perform in the lavish Victorian elegance of its famous mainstage theatre.  From Edwin Booth, Lillie Langtry, George M. Cohan, Ethel Barrymore, and Irving Berlin in the old days to more modern appearances by Mary Martin, Truman Capote, Hal Holbrook, Burt Reynolds, Garrison Keillor, and Marvin Hamlisch, the Springer Theatre has been a centerpiece for the performing arts in the South since 1871. 

 

 

Tickets are $10 and are now on sale.  Patron Passes will be honored.   For tickets or more information, contact seatonc@iecc.edu, or call 618-263-5124. 

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