CHANHASSEN -- The Central Lakes College Trio Student Support Services recently sponsored a student motor-coach trip to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres for program participants and guests.
Advisers Sue Austin and Jane Vogt coordinated the latest of several outings planned throughout the academic year for students enrolled on the Brainerd and Staples campuses. Cultural and networking events are built into the calendar along with workshops, tutoring and other academic support opportunities.
This was the fourth annual Saturday matinee trip to Chanhassen by the college group that includes low-income and first-generation students, as well as those with a disability.
For the first time, the group of 40 was given a backstage tour, a one-hour close-up look at the set, costume shop and catacombs of the 90,000-square-foot entertainment center before a performance of the musical "Anything Goes."
Chanhassen is the largest professional dinner theater in the nation and the largest employer of professional actors in the Midwest. Since 1968, it has sustained an audience of 7.5 million drawn to Broadway hits staged in the largest privately owned restaurant in Minnesota.
Kristen Howland, public relations director, offered insight on the countless little things that happen to ensure costume and set authenticity within the physical constraints of each production. She revealed assorted examples of technical creativity in set construction, seamless set transitions and efficient costume changes.
"Anything Goes" is the latest show to enjoy a strong, two-month run that likely will be extended until attendance drops off, following the tradition of previous hits such as "Annie," "The Music Man" and "My Fair Lady."
On previous trips, CLC groups have seen performances of "Camelot," "Cats" and "Forever Plaid."
The backstage tour on this excursion featured a stop in the costume shop after examining the intricacies of set construction. Packed to the rafters with fabric and material sewn and otherwise assembled by gifted seamstresses, the shop often can be a beehive of activity, Howland said. Designers always consider authenticity of costumes that may have to represent a period before modern technology would have been employed for wardrobes.
Howland showed costumes such as an elaborate wedding dress that took many hours to create for the character Dolly Levi in "Hello, Dolly." Although elaborate, it was worn for only a short time at play's end. That's a good thing, said Howland, because it may have weighed more than the actor wearing it.
"It's just amazing," said student Janelle Sovich of Baxter as she examined the ornate dress.
The group found several storage rooms layered with racks of costumes assigned in categories for reference and possible re-use in revivals of the most popular musicals that fetch new playgoers unfamiliar with previous versions plus die-hard fans who always come back for more.
"I have enjoyed everything we have seen," said student Paula Webb of Brainerd. "You'll never be disappointed."
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