On eight Sundays during the year, theres a little bit of magic in Montgomery, Minnesota.
Early in the afternoon, a two-story brick building with 1892 inscribed near the peak of its roof opens its doors, and the aroma of fresh buttered popcorn beckons from the second story. Music and laughter echo throughout the vintage concert hall as musicians rehearse and patrons begin to stroll in, claiming seats.
Promptly at 4 p.m., the fun begins. Led by proprietor John Grimm, a troupe of performers gathers on stage to join in a lively theme song during which members are introduced. For the next two hours, guests enjoy a diverse mix of music and entertainment ranging from popular standards to concert hall classics; from goofy comedy and colorful costumes to inspirational gospel and harmonic collaborations.
At intermission, fresh piping-hot pizza from Pizzeria 201 is available for two bucks a slice, served with friendly smiles at Shannons Snack Bar (the kitchenette at the back of the hall).
The nine regular troupe members hail from Montgomery, Le Sueur, New Prague and Northfield; guest performers occasionally appear as well. The audience, which numbers between 50 and 150, consists mainly of self-proclaimed groupies that have made this event a regular ritual. Often, buses arrive from as far away as Belle Plaine, and since the series began in March of 2012, faithful guests have begun to recognize each other and mingle during intermission.
First-time visitors are generally mesmerized by the warm splendor of the hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Host John Grimm purchased the building in the early 1990s to save a significantly historic building and to create a place where local folks could perform. (Occasionally hell treat the crowd to an a cappella vocal solo, sans microphone, to demonstrate the halls superior acoustics.)
During restoration, Grimm made every effort to repair or replicate the original architectural details, from the wood floor and lush carpeting to the ceiling mural and antique chandelier. But certain quirky bohemian accents (such as the painting of the Big Honza character on one stage wall) suggest that the theater, much like the host, balances excellence with a charming touch of eccentricity!
The ambiance is perfect for this diverse, family-friendly, and time-honored form of entertainment. In any given show, audience responses may range from awed admiration to chuckles, hoots, and the occasional dab of an eye. Some are even inspired to trip the light fantastic at the rear of the theater, where local crafters are sometimes invited to sell their wares. As breathtaking talent mixes with lighthearted entertainment against a backdrop of down-to-earth elegance, fans of this event have a sense that they are witnessing something that is both very special and truly Minnesotan.
performing Sunday, May 27, 2018 at 4:00 PM
Hilltop Dinner Theater