Singing! Dancing! Dinner! What more culture could one ask for, all in one fantastic evening? The Ottawa-Glandorf Choir Department promises that this year’s Dinner Theater, “No Bad News,” is guaranteed to be a feel good experience, and is sure to have something for everyone.
The 19th annual Dinner Theater will be held on Thursday, April 18 through Sunday, April 21, in the high school gymnasium, which will be magically transformed into a restaurant with three stages to showcase the collective and individual students’ talents.
“It’s massive and kind of insane,” related OGHS Choir Director Ted Ellerbrock, “but the positive side is that the kids take ownership of the dinner theater. That’s what it’s all about.”
Ellerbrock, who is in his 24th year of teaching at O-G, credits his wife, Kelly, with originating the idea for a large-scale musical production. Kelly attended high school in Texas, where the choir put on a musical review. She suggested Ted do something similar, to allow the students to display their talents.
Initially, Ellerbrock had planned to serve only desserts while the audience was entertained. When Dick Schnipke, owner of the Red Pig Inn, heard of the idea, he suggested serving an elegant dinner. According to Ellerbrock, Schnipke played a huge role in how a multi-course meal could be successfully integrated with musical entertainment.
This year, kids’ meals will be offered every night, and there will be an exciting change from the traditional dinner theater adult meal menu, which will be catered by Henry’s Restaurant. In addition, a new dessert option, an “Oh My Ganache” cupcake, will be available.
Since there are more than 300 students in the school’s choral music programs who are involved with the production, Ellerbrock begins devising his ideas over the summer. He formulates a theme, and then explores songs that are not only befitting of the topic but that the audience will enjoy. The show will include various styles of music with selections from Broadway musicals, contemporary pop and country, big band and classic oldies.
Student auditions take place in January. “I pick a song that will be appropriate for the student’s vocal ability,” Ellerbrock explained. “I try to give as many kids as possible to show what they can do.” This year, 70 songs will be belted out by the show choir, “Out of the Blue,” the chorale, the mixed choir, individuals, and small groups of students.
Students rehearse their numbers during the school day with Ellerbrock; the director devotes individual time to each student, and provides constructive criticism and encouragement. In the weeks leading up to the event, rehearsals are held after school hours, and have to be scheduled around the students’ other activities. Ellerbrock accompanies the majority of performances on the piano, while Brent Deskins, the OGHS Band Director, plays the drums.
Junior Riley Alexander has been singing since he entered the Putnam County Fair’s karaoke contest at age three. He has been involved in Lima’s Encore Theater, Putnam County Children’s Theater, and has been in “Out of the Blue” for three years. This year, he will perform a solo, Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.”
“Singing is a different way to express yourself and your emotions, whether you are happy or sad,” Alexander depicted. “Dinner Theater is a really good time. It’s entertaining the whole way through, and you get a good meal! Not many schools do this- it’s a good experience.”
Arianna Langhals is a first year member of “Out of the Blue.” “I saw the show choir when I was a kid; my brothers were in it. I aspired to be like Teresa Recker. I said, ‘I wanna do that!’” described the O-G sophomore. “Singing makes you smile, and get up and dance. No matter what kind of day you’re having, you smile when you sing. It’s a thrill going on stage. I get nervous, but when everyone is clapping and smiling, it makes me want to do it again.”
The Choir Boosters help organize nearly the 50 parent volunteers behind the scenes each night of the show to make it run smoothly. “There is no way I could do all this,” Ellerbrock explained. “I really appreciate all the boosters do.”
Looking back through the years, Ellerbrock said he honestly could not pick a favorite show. “It’s more about the kids. Everybody likes Disney, because there is such a variety of music,” he recalled. One show did stand out, however. “The year we did the “Love Boat,” the students sent us on a cruise,” he beamed.
The audiences have always been supportive of the students and the event. “For some kids, this is huge to walk out on stage, and the audience gets that!” Ellerbrock recounted. He has made a real effort to keep the performances rolling effortlessly between the dinner and the variety of songs.
“There is a place for everyone in the choir. Everyone can be successful,” Ellerbrock concluded.
The OGHS Dinner Theater will be held on April 18, 6:00 – 9:00 pm, April 19 and 20, 6:30 – 9:00 pm, and April 21, 4:30 – 7:30 pm.
Tickets are now on sale to the general public in the Ottawa-Glandorf High School office, and are sold on a first come, first served basis.
Ticket prices are: $18.00 for adult dinner tickets, $10.00 for child dinner tickets (age 10 and under), and $8.00 for bleacher seats (includes a bottle of water, but no dinner).
OG Dinner Theatre performing April 18-21