GUEST COMMENTARY: Curtain is rising on region's night life

2012-02-19T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Curtain is rising on region's night lifeBy Charlie Blum nwitimes.com
February 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

As a longtime veteran of the music industry, I have had the pleasure of working with thousands of A-list performers, from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, and presenting top-name entertainment throughout the nation.

I also have had the good fortune of producing on Broadway and more recently executive producing for television and managing a vocal group (Under the Streetlamp) that I'm hopeful is destined for stardom. Don't ask who is my favorite because my criteria for a "favorite" might not be what you expect.

I find it hard to believe that I am approaching the 23rd anniversary of my tenure as president and CEO at Star Plaza Theatre (Star Productions), and I can honestly say I am still amazed at the amount of entertainment opportunities available in Northwest Indiana. The stage lights at the Star Plaza Theatre are not the only ones that glow bright throughout the year with first class shows from every genre of entertainment.

You need go no further than The Venue at Horseshoe Casino to see exceptional national talent like Kelly Clarkson, Roberta Flack and Bette Midler, just to name a few. Michigan City's Blue Chip Casino is another showroom that delivers on the top name entertainment experience.

Here in Northwest Indiana, Broadway isn't as far away as you think. The shows you will see at the Theatre at the Center in Munster rival any national tour coming through Chicago. Their current season includes "Always ... Patsy Cline," "Little Shop of Horrors" and "42nd Street." The Theatre at the Center consistently gives you tremendous value for an inexpensive ticket.

A professional troupe in Munster isn't your only guarantee of a fine night of theater. The region is filled with talented community theater groups that rival the major markets. Northwest Indiana has a truly inspiring array of quality theater consistently delivered by amateur performers in high schools, churches and small theaters.

One simply needs to access www.nwindianatheatre.org to catch a schedule of the plays and toe-tapping Broadway musicals skillfully performed in and around your own neighborhood. That's no exaggeration. From Portage to Hammond and everywhere in between, you're bound to see some outstanding actors who might very well be your neighbors.

The Star Plaza Theatre and Ross Music Theatre in Merrillville participate in exceptional summer outreach programs for regional theater enthusiasts of all ages. The Chicago Street Theatre in Valparaiso and especially the Towle Theatre in Hammond should be given special kudos for pushing the envelope and presenting newer and often edgier first-rate productions year-round.

For variety, economy and convenience, it's hard to beat the Northwest Indiana theater experience. A short commute and relatively inexpensive ticket can get you humming a tune or engaging in a conversation with friends about a thought-provoking production.

Check The Times every Friday for a listing of events that will undoubtedly captivate you, at least for a few hours. The arts in Northwest Indiana are vibrant and exciting, and your VIP seat awaits you.

Charlie Blum is president and CEO of Star Plaza Theatre. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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