It was a busy night for Stages Bloomington on Friday evening. By 7 p.m., the cozy little theater already had a full house. On the stage, the band was busy setting up gear and testing microphones.
Friday night marked the opening act for the Monroe County Civic Theater’s “The Show Must Go On: A Queen Cabaret.” Around 30 people gathered at Stages Bloomington to see the show, which was dedicated to the memory of Michael Anthony “Tony” Benton, a cast member who died in May.
The show will run for three nights, and after performing at Stages Bloomington on Friday, it will move to Oddball Fermentables on Saturday and Player’s Pub on Sunday.
According to the MCCT’s official website, MCCT was founded in 1986 by a group of local artists dedicated to providing positive theater experiences to all members of the Bloomington community. Nowadays, it remains Bloomington’s only all-volunteer, amateur theater organization.
“The MCCT is a very diverse community,” Board Liaison Maryann Iaria said. “We are also proud to say we are now a dementia-friendly theater.”
Show director Katelin Hope Vesely said she came up with the idea of creating a cabaret based on Queen songs when she was in high school.
“I wanted to adapt ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as a musical number for my school’s chorus, but everybody thought that would be a little too difficult,” Vesely said. “I would like to take that idea and transform it into something bigger, I just couldn’t think of what. I then realized that a lot of Freddie Mercury’s songs are very theatrical. As our season originally didn’t have a lot of comedies in it this year, my show is a way to make things brighter and more fun.”
Vesely said she tried to place the songs in an order she thought would make sense to her.
“My idea has more to do about individual songs and how they can be fit together into a cabaret-style musical," Vesely said.
The biggest challenge of bringing her vision to life, according to Vesely, was the organizational aspect.
“We have a lot of cast members, so not everybody is always available for rehearsals," Vesely said. "Therefore, it can be a bit difficult scheduling days and making sure everybody knows the songs he or she is responsible for.”
Despite time differences, Vesely said the cast members had all immensely enjoyed the production process. Some members have spent over 100 hours working on the show.
The show began with a cover of the production's titular song “The Show Must Go On,” followed by several fan favorites such as “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions” and “Under Pressure.”
Each song also came with its own theatrical elements. In “Killer Queen,” cast member Mary Emma Heaps dressed up in a wig and fancy costume, while her fellow performers, in accordance to the lyrics, offered her a wine glass, cake and a cigarette.
All songs were met by enthusiastic cheers from the audience, many of whom also clapped their hands or nodded their heads to the beat of the music. Some mouthed the lyrics along with the singers.
Local resident Talia Chakraborty was at the venue to support a friend, who was a part of the show.
“I love the songs, they are all familiar to me, I could sing and dance to them,” Chakraborty said. She also said she was pleasantly surprised by the costumes and playful scenes the show incorporated.
Among the pieces from the night, “Bicycle Race” was both a cast and audience favorite. It featured Nic Newby, a cast member, in a wig and dress, riding a bike hand-decorated by the cast and crew, with the chorus singing alongside him.
Newby described the MCCT community as a close-knit family that welcomed him and others with open arms.
All of the proceedings from the three nights of the show, including ticket and raffle sales, will be donated to three local organizations: Middle Way House, which provides support for domestic violence victims; the Indiana Recovery Alliance, which aims to reduce negative consequences of drug use; and Positive Link, which focuses on HIV prevention and providing service to those who are affected.