From left, Amy Hyde, Sandy Oxx, Erica Clare and Nan Kaestner… (Submitted photo )
Last September was the first time since its beginnings in 1974 that the community theater group September Song went "dark."
It was a heart-breaking decision for Joan Eichhorn, producer, but a necessary one. Financially-strapped after its sponsoring organization decided to part ways, September Song held a musical revue as a fundraiser, instead of a full-fledged production.
"It is so grossly expensive to put on musical theater," Eichhorn said. "We had no choice but to go dark. We did that fundraiser and didn't realize how well it would go over."
The first Broadway musical revue sold out, and people were turned away at the door.
"A lot of people couldn't get in, it sold out so fast," Eichhorn said. "There were people mad at me."
For its second annual fundraiser, "Broadway in Recital: A Musical Revue," two shows will be performed instead of one. It's not a big production, as there will be no costumes or props, and the performers will do their rehearsing at home, with one dress rehearsal planned.
"I try to choose songs that appealed to Carroll County," Eichhorn said, of the program. "Tunes that you recognize right away and hum on the way out."
Like the first fundraiser, the revue will feature songs by performers both old and new to September Song's productions.
"So many people support the group. We had such a good response not just with the audience, but with the actors," said Caroline Clare, public relations volunteer for September Song — and a performer. "It was overwhelming the people who signed up."
Since its start, September Song has been a family theater, said Eichhorn, attracting siblings and parents as well as individuals. Eichhorn became involved when her children joined.
"I love it when there is a connection. It works out nice," Eichhorn said of family participation. "My children grew up auditioning. They left and I never did."
It is that family atmosphere, combined with the excitement of a live production, that makes September Song so popular with performers, according to Clare.
"My daughter (Erica Clare) has been in it since she was really little," Clare said. "It is so nice to have it come together and to do something really well in so short of time. That short, that focused — and it requires so much teamwork. You can't get that experience anywhere else."
Thanks to the success of the first musical revue, September Song has become financially stable. It joined the Carroll Arts Foundation, allowing it to remain a nonprofit organization to apply for grants.
Now its own entity, September Song is planning a return to its musical roots with a production of "The Wizard of Oz" this August.
That production will also find September Song back in Westminster, performing at Winters Mill High School after several years at Century High School in Sykesville.
"We just wanted to get back into the community," Clare said of the move back to Westminster..
Auditions for "The Wizard of Oz" will start the end of this month. It requires a large cast of all ages and Eichhorn could barely contain her excitement.
"Theater brings so many good things into your life," Eichhorn said. "We give the gift of the arts to the county."
'Broadway in Recital'
September Song will hold its second annual fundraising musical revue, "Broadway in Recital," at the Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster, on Saturday, April 21, in two performances, at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The show features many of the past and present stars of September Song. Tickets are $15 and are available at the arts center or at http://www.septembersong.org.
Auditions for "The Wizard of Oz" are April 28, 7 p.m.; May 4, 7 p.m.; May 5, 2:30 p.m. All auditions will be at Winters Mill High School.