KEARNEY — Kearney audiences know Brooke Myers, but more importantly, she knows them — and the town.
“Kearney embraces the performers of Crane River Theater and makes them family,” she said in an interview from her home in Greenwood, Mo. “That is a huge part of why I keep coming back. I have never gone to Kearney and not had an absolutely amazing, hands-down, best time of my life. It’s such a welcoming community. All of the people involved with Crane River Theater — the board members, the kids at the camps, their families — everyone is so kind and so welcoming.”
As a performer of musical theater, Myers said she treasures waking up in Kearney and getting to do the work she loves.
“That’s huge in this business,” she said. “A lot of time you’re working long hours with little sleep and you have to do X, Y and Z — especially on a summer stock schedule, it can get pretty brutal. Having those connections — meeting people, feeling loved and respected by the people of the community — really makes it a wonderful experience. It always makes me excited to come back.”
For Myers, the joy of returning to Kearney to perform in Crane River Theater’s production of “Celebrate Broadway” is compounded by the fact that her opportunities to perform ended with the COVID-19 shutdowns four months ago. In March, after a week of performing in “Singin’ In the Rain” at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Ga., the producers shut down the show. Myers returned to Missouri and picked up a job working at Starbucks.
Myers will return to Kearney for two productions of “Celebrate Broadway,” presented by Crane River Theater, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Cope Amphitheater at Yanney Park. Admission is $5.
“Celebrate Broadway” highlights the songs of America’s musical theater tradition, performed by Myers and eight additional Crane River Theater performers. Myers describes the music as “a mix of everything.”
“The thing I love about Broadway musicals is that everything is done with intention,” she said. “When the emotion is so strong that no semblance of words can communicate the feeling, you sing it. Musicals really capitalize on that idea. I love it because music has this ability to just sweep you away.”
Musicals usually feature a story line. The songs often build emotional content to further the plot. Myers believes all of that allows the performers — and the audience — to have a cathartic experience.
The songs presented as part of “Celebrate Broadway” work well without the context of the show.
“A lot of the songs, regardless of what show they are from, can be removed from the production and they still make complete and total sense — and the audience can still connect with it,” she noted. “That’s the beauty of theater, how things can be so specifically set up in a plot line and still delve into our human emotions, beyond just what the plot represents. You can remove it from the immediate circumstance and still find something to connect with whether it is heartbreak or your first crush or exploring a dream.”
Myers first appeared in a Crane River Production five years ago in “Tarzan.” She returned in 2016 to perform with the summer company in “Oklahoma” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I just can’t seem to stay away,” she joked. “I have been back for a couple different ‘Celebrate Broadway’ galas and then I also performed in ‘Of Mice and Men’ in September.”
Myers described the pandemic shutdown as “kinda terrible.”
“I could sugar-coat it and say, oh, it’s been wonderful and I’ve been able to develop my own skills so much,” she said. “Honestly, it’s been really hard. I had to change all of my plans because all of my jobs I had lined up ended. I had planned on moving to New York. There was no feasible way for any of that to happen because we need to be safe and we need to beat this virus before we get back to normal life, as eager as I am for that to happen.”
Broadway closed down in March and Myers said she doesn’t expect it to open until next year.
“A lot of my performer friends have been struggling because that’s their income,” she said. “The federal support with unemployment only go so far and beyond that, it’s hard not being able to do what you love to do. Not waking up and getting to go to rehearsal or not knowing when — or if — I’ll be able to perform again is hard.”