WESTMINSTER — There's something new cooking at the Friendly Farm Restaurant.
And Carroll will get its first taste March 6, when "Oklahoma" opens at the Stage Door Dinner Theatre.
Larry Wilhelm, general manager of Friendly Farm and recipient of the 1990 Maryland Restaurateur of the Year award, is excited about the new venture and his new partnership with Stone Road Productions.
Stone Road has been doing excellent theater for the last 2 1/2 yearsin Taneytown at the Havilah-Hayes Dinner Theatre. The move to Friendly Farm will result in a larger and more practical performance space,as well as the proximity to a potentially larger audience.
Stone Road Productions' producers Michael and Kathy Pressimone and Harry and Paula Langmead share the enormous task of mounting quality productions.
The partners' excitement and enthusiasm is infectious. Sitting in the restaurant talking with them about their plans is like listening to expectant parents. They are filled with anticipatory joy and optimism.
This is not a show biz fling. These are serious and dedicated individuals who share a belief in, and commitment to, "an integrated experience of high quality" in dining and theater.
Wilhelm is quick to point out that this is not going to be a theater which happens to serve dinner or a restaurant that, incidentally, serves up some theater with the meal. The two areas are equally important, and each will receive their full attention, the producers say.
Plans include an entrance at the rear of the building that will be built to approximate a conventional and idealized stage door. The theater will occupy a large space separate from the main dining area, and each production will be treated individually in terms of the placement of the stage and the audience's relationship to it.
For "Oklahoma," the plans call for a thrust stage, with the audience on three sides. The producers hope to costume the waiters and serve food consistent with the spirit of this show, and with subsequent productions.
Unlike most dinner theaters, the Stage Door actors will not wait on tables. They will be paid to act, sing and dance, and all of their attention and energies will be devoted to the excellence of the production and the entertainment of the audience.
The producers say they are very excited about using paid actors, and want to provide performance opportunities for local actors, while broadening the geographic area from which the performers come.
Current plans are for two productions ayear of musicals and comedies playing on weekends in March and October, with the hope of doing more if response warrants.
Plans also are under way for a children's theater during the summer. The producers say they hope to provide a year-round community opportunity for performers and audiences of all ages.
During the hour I spent with them, not once did these folks talk about themselves.
What they did talk about was theater and audiences, performers and audiences, and food and audiences.
Theater people so often are stereotyped as affected and phony and egocentric. The people who will bring the Stage Door Dinner Theatre to local audiences are not. They are genuine, altruistic and deeply committed to providing the best dinner theater experience possible.
My hunch is that they will.