The Drunkard: A Tulsa must-see


We celebrated a friend's birthday Saturday night at the Spotlight Theatre on Riverside Drive for the weekly performance of "The Drunkard" and Olio. Our party consisted of six grownups and four kids from three to seven. We all had a great time.

Is there anything else in the USA quite like this show, which has been running continuously for over fifty years? Lots of cities have ballets and opera companies, but I don't know of any other place where this sort of Americana is on display on a weekly basis. I'd think foreign visitors would especially enjoy this show. Seeing "The Drunkard" goes on my list of things to do with out-of-town guests.

I don't think you can call yourself a Tulsan if you haven't been to see "The Drunkard" at least once. The audience Saturday night was a diverse bunch -- small kids, teenagers, young adults, and older folks. It's a great evening out for a group of friends, for families. Is it corny and old-fashioned? Yes, but that's what makes it fun and special.

The pre-show fun began at 7:30 with an old fashioned sing-along -- the lyrics are in the program -- songs like "Sidewalks of New York," "Bicycle Built For Two," "K-K-K-Katy," "Shine On Harvest Moon." At 7:45, the curtain went up, and we were instructed in the proper way to cheer and boo in a melodrama.

"The Drunkard" is an old-fashioned temperance melodrama in three acts, based on the 1854 novel Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There, depicting the misery and degradation caused by alcohol. Deadly earnest when originally written and later performed as a play, the Spotlighters play it for laughs, with plenty of slapstick, asides, and opportunities for heartily booing the villain and cheering the hero.

Between acts the sing-along continued. During one scene change, one of the characters, the bumpkin Sample Switchel, came out to tell a few jokes, but his timing was thrown off by a little boy, about five years old, with a big laugh -- something tickled his funny bone and he couldn't stop laughing, and before long everyone was joining in.

Between "The Drunkard" and "The Olio", free coffee and cookies are served, and the cast mingles with the audience. "The Olio" is a variety of acts, changing from week to week. In between acts, out-of-town visitors were recognized -- Australia and the Netherlands were represented this week -- and those with birthdays were invited up on stage, serenaded, and presented with a commemorative coffee mug. This week's olio acts included a solo from "Les Miserables", last year's Miss Tulsa performing a jazz tap dance, and a third-grade boy with a big voice, singing "What a Wonderful World" and "You've Got a Friend in Me". The show closed with the patriotic monologue, "The Old Man and the Flag". Veterans in the audience were recognized and applauded, and we all stood and sang "God Bless America". It was about 10:30 when the evening came to an end.

As I understand it, everyone involved is a volunteer. Receipts and donations go to cover expenses -- including keeping this art-deco building up and running -- and beyond that for scholarships for aspiring performers. The Spotlighters also produce Children's Theatre -- "Ramona Quimby" will be performed the last two weekends in June, and "Treasure Island" is slated for August.

It was a relaxing, fun evening for the whole family. Check it out.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 30, 2004 12:20 AM.

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