The Longview Theater’s upcoming Best of Broadway, with performances Friday through Sunday, will pay homage to the Longview Community Center.
This year’s theme is “To Be Continued: A Celebration of the History and Future of the Longview Community Centre”. The center was built in 1940 and community theaters began performing plays and musicals there in the 1960s.
Board Chair Denise Knutson said, “The Longview Community Center is near and dear to many people in the East Texas area with many fond memories of attending or playing in plays and musicals at the center. We are delighted to have the opportunity to honor the many hours of theatrical performances that have taken place at the center over the years.
Knutson said this will be the first time the group has held a fundraiser at the Longview Community Center.
“We recently started playing at the community center again and this will be the first time we’ve held the community center fundraiser,” she said. “We always did it at Grace Crossing Church where we were performing for three years before moving back to the community center.”
A lot of research was done to prepare for the event.
“We found albums that date back to the 1960s, when they started doing shows in the community center,” Knutson said. “We found a newspaper article talking about…when they started doing musical performances in the 60s and they had found recordings of other performances that had been going on there since the center was built in the 40s.”
Knutson said they thought it would be fun to find out what musicals and plays were performed years ago at the center.
“We’re going to do songs from a lot of these musicals,” she said. “And we’re going to do a slideshow of some of the photographs and tell stories about the history of theater in the community center.”
The production will also include a special performance by Barbara McClellan, Longview Community Center scene veteran and food columnist.
Director Abby Jester said the goal was to take everyone back to when the community center was first built.
“The purpose is … to refresh memories of some of the performances at Longview Community Theater,” she said. “So really, it’s just a fun experience that takes you through decades of Broadway musicals.”
Some of the songs performed are “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof”, “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music”, and “Singin’ in the Rain”.
Jester said she was honored to be a part of the show.
“I’m truly honored to be the director of this particular show and learned so much about the history of the community center,” she said. “It was a really rewarding experience going through all the old notebooks and seeing all the old posters, posters and photos of everyone playing.”
New to this year’s fundraiser is the pre-show cocktail party on Friday.
The reason behind the cocktail hour is that in the past… at the community center, at every show, they had an opening reception,” Knutson said. “It was a huge affair and everyone was dressing up and it would be this huge community event. We decided it would be fun this year to go back to doing opening receptions like they used to.
Knutson said tickets for the cocktail hour reception were still available.
“We only had the tickets for the cocktail hour reception in presale, but we have a few left and are keeping sales open at this time,” she said.
Knutson looks forward to the reception and performances.
“I hope everyone comes out and enjoys it,” she said. “It will also feature songs that are current – celebrating the past but also looking to the future of community theater and the Longview Community Center.”
Jester added, “It’s just been a really cool, interesting, and fun experience to research and put together this show.”