Lambertville’s Music Mountain Theatre Offers Year-Round Musical Productions
CURTAIN GOING UP!: “Music Mountain Theatre is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich, educate, and entertain our community through the study, performance, and appreciation of the arts in a welcoming and inclusive environment. We provide affordable theater, and the audiences love our live performances.” Ginny Brennan (center), one of the founding directors of Music Mountain Theatre, is shown with co-artistic directors Louis Palena (left) and Jordan Brennan. The theater is now open and ready for audiences.
By Jean Stratton
Ginny Brennan has loved the performing arts all her life. A dancer in high school and college, she later ran a children’s theater program in Bucks County, founded the downtown Performing Arts Center in Lambertville, then operated the Washington Crossing Open Air Theater. She is now one of the founding directors of Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville.
A New Jersey native, Brennan moved to Bucks County as an adult, and at one point, in between various theatre enterprises, owned a restaurant in Doylestown, Pa.
But theater was always her passion, and when her 10-year-old son Jordan expressed a desire to perform, he began to participate in several Bucks County children’s theater programs.
“I began running the children’s theater program,” she says. “The kids loved to perform, but there wasn’t always the right training.”
Jordan’s early interest in performing has continued over the years, and after graduating from college with a BFA in dance, he returned to Lambertville, and joined his mother in various theatrical pursuits.
“In 2000, we founded the Downtown Performing Arts Center, and had classes in theater, dance, acting, and musical theater,” reports Brennan. “We also started to do performances with older teens and adults.
“In addition, for seven years, we leased the Washington Crossing Open Air Theater. This increased our audiences, and by then we felt we had established ourselves as a performing company, and we wanted an indoor space.”
They were able to find a suitable location at 1483 Route 179, and the existing warehouse was transformed into a theater. We were able to fund it with donations from companies, individuals, and grants,” she explains, “and in 2017, we opened Music Mountain Theatre. Our plan was to offer musicals, plays, concerts, and children’s productions.”
The good news is that, after closing in March 2020 due to COVID-19, the theater has now fully reopened.
“We are beginning to produce some of the shows that we had to cancel during the virus,” notes Brennan. “The theater has a new air filter system throughout the building, daily cleaning procedures, and hand sanitizers. At the moment, our masking policies follow CDC recommendations, and in an abundance of caution, masks are required at all performances.”
There is really nothing like a live performance, when that special connection between actors and audience is established. Always a powerful experience, it is perhaps even more important in our high-tech world of today, when although the myriad of electronic devices can create widespread communication, there is a whiff of impersonality. Face-to-face is so often missing. Of course, it is especially welcome after the isolation so many experienced during the height of the pandemic.
In addition to its current performances, Music Mountain Theatre is celebrating the significance of a theatrical Lambertville landmark: St. John (Sinjin) Terrell’s Music Circus, the country’s first theater-in-the-round under a tent.
From 1949 to 1970, the Music Circus’ productions enthralled audiences from all over the area. It was located near the current Music Mountain Theatre, and the proximity is meaningful.
“We have memorabilia in our theater from the Music Circus, and many people still recall those wonderful performances,” says Brennan. “Music Mountain Theatre is here to bring back that energy, excitement, enchantment, and create memories for a new generation.”
She is delighted that today’s audiences are enjoying Music Mountain Theatre’s current productions, with its repertory company of talented amateur actors.
“We were surprised how quickly audiences responded after COVID, and how wonderful the word-of-mouth has been,” reports Brennan. “They are really so supportive, and one of the best things we have here is that our 20 to 25 performers — singers, dancers, and actors — in the company are from the area.”
The attractive theater seats 250, and the productions are presented year-round on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Evening performances are Friday and Saturday, matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
“We are so pleased that the audiences are all ages, from kids to retired people. We have very popular children’s productions, and our audiences love these.”
Performances for young audiences include Frozen Jr., Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, Experience Kids, Pinocchio, Robin Hood, 101 Dalmatians Kids, It’s the Great Pumpkin, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, among others.
The main stage’s season has included such popular musicals as Into The Woods, Anything Goes, Carousel, Dracula, and A Christmas Carol. Noises Off, the entertaining British comedy, is also on the program.
“The musicals are very popular,” says Brennan. “Mama Mia was a big hit when we did that, and all the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows are favorites. Also, every year, we do the musical version of A Christmas Carol, and people love that. We also have a Big Band holiday concert production, which is an annual favorite.”
The schedule for the rest of the year includes:
On the Main Stage (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday): The Mystery of Edwin Drood, through October 31; Elf, November 5 through November 21; A Christmas Carol, November 26 through December 12; and Holiday Concert, December 17 through December 19.
In the Children’s Theatre: It’s the Great Pumpkin, October 23 and 30; Frosty and Rudolph, November 13, 20, and 27; and Babes in Toyland, December 4, 11, and 18.
Brennan has worked hard to keep ticket prices affordable at $25, $23 (seniors and military), and $10 for children’s theater. There is also a subscription plan for five, 10, or 15 performances, offering savings, and special programs just for subscribers.
“We have an annual Subscription Gala for the subscribers, a big party,” she adds. “We offer ‘Mounty’ awards for the performers, and the subscribers get to vote for them. They love this!”
She is very happy to be involved in the work she loves and be able to share it with so many others. “I love being around the theater. I like the social aspect, meeting the audience and the performers. It makes me proud to present the community with talented actors and good quality, affordable entertainment.
“Of course, the biggest challenge is getting a full house, and doing all the marketing, but again, the word-of-mouth has been so great. It is important to keep people aware of our programs and continue to get the word out.
“It is also so important to us to have a welcoming atmosphere. I give a welcoming talk before the show, and I greet the audience as they come in. The actors will also come out and talk with the audience after the production. And, we have a concession stand in the lobby.”
Brennan is proud of the stage crew and box office personnel, and observes that Music Mountain Theatre is also set apart by its nonprofit status and by its theater school Monday through Thursday, and the summer camp.
“In addition, we have classes for special needs students, both children and adults, including those with autism and Down syndrome. They respond wonderfully. My special needs classes mean a lot to me for many reasons. I worked for a time as a job coach for special needs students, and always found it rewarding and fun. When I opened the studio in 2001, several of the students I worked with joined the class, and two of them are still with me.
“We are proud of the new acting class for students on the autistic spectrum as part of our community outreach program, and one of our future goals is to form a company for special needs teens and adults.”
For those who love theater, Music Mountain Theatre is a special place. It is wonderful to have quality performances for all ages at affordable prices.
“I like to say that we are not a community theater, but a theater for the community,” says Brennan. “Thank you to all who support the arts!”
Music Mountain Theatre can be reached at (609) 397-3337. Website: musicmountaintheatre.org.