KEARNEY — During a normal summer, Crane River Theater brings a banquet of theater to audiences in central Nebraska.
This year, executive director Steve Barth scaled back the season but turned up the dial with a production featuring the music of Broadway.
“The show includes everything you know and love from the stage including classic Broadway, contemporary Broadway as well as a number of Disney favorites,” said Barth. “This year is the first year that ‘Celebrate Broadway’ will be performed outside at Yanney Park.”
This production, 7 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1, marks a decade-long string of outdoor family shows at Yanney Park. Admission is $5 per person.
“It would have been really sad to not have this opportunity this summer,” Barth said. “We’ve found a way to make ‘Celebrate Broadway’ be our outdoor Yanney production this year. We will still have theater under the sky.”
Focusing on the music of Broadway, “Celebrate Broadway” skips the fancy sets and costumes.
“That way we don’t have to be in the venue rehearsing it for so many evenings,” Barth noted. “We’re able to bring in our actors for a shorter rehearsal process, be out at Yanney Park for a shorter amount of time and still produce a high-quality production.”
And be safe.
Patrons will sit on the grass at the Cope Amphitheater at Yanney Heritage Park.
“With COVID-19 appearing, we want to make sure that our patrons and our artists are all very safe throughout this process,” Barth said. “A couple months ago we surveyed a lot of our patrons and audience members and found that outdoor theater seemed a little more approachable for them. That’s when we made this decision to still hold on to this show and produce it, ‘Celebrate Broadway’ would be the one to do that in an outdoor setting with limited artists. We’re also limiting the audience capacity, too.”
Barth also recognizes the desire of audience members to stay safe but also see great performances in a live setting.
“Right now all of us as artists, audience members and community members are experiencing this dilemma of wanting to be safe and protect everybody,” he said. “At the same time, audience members will want to be able to grasp on to something that feels normal and allows for entertainment and joy while gathered with other people.”
Barth hopes to merge both goals.
“I think it is critical, right now, to have some sort of theater and expression and creativity because we’ve been deprived of it for so long because of this COVID situation,” he said. “So if we can find a way to do this, outdoors and socially distant from everyone, I think that’s critical, not only for Crane River Theater but for audience members to experience some theater and artistry in their lives right now.”
The hillside at Yanney Park will feature painted squares for audience members. When patrons arrive, they can choose places to sit with their families, 6 feet away from the next patrons. Capacity will be limited to 400 audience members. For that reason Barth encourages patrons to get tickets ahead of time.
“We’re also trying to minimize any type of cash transactions,” Barth said. “If we have tickets available at the time of the show, we will sell them there but we highly encourage people to buy tickets ahead of time.”
Concessions are available for purchase ahead of time only. A $5 concession package includes popcorn, candy and a bottle of water, available on a contact-less basis. The 90-minute show will not include an intermission. Patrons should bring blankets or lawn chairs.
“Even though the show will not feature a huge number of performers, we’re including some wonderful local talent that a lot of our audience members will know and love,” Barth said.