Want to go?
• WHAT: Friday Night Live: “War of the Worlds”
• WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4
• WHERE: The Ritz, 30 S. Washington St., Tiffin
• COST: $10/ticket
• INFO: 419-448-8544 or ritztheatre.org
Live from Tiffin, it’s “Friday Night Live.” While Don Pardo doesn’t announce this variety show of that has appeared at The National Theatre at The Ritz for the last five years, the monthly Tiffin event has become quite the source for live local entertainment.
The vision of Ritz Executive Director Michael Strong, “Friday Night Live” continues to push the envelope local boundaries. Just consider this month’s live staged production of the classic radio play “War of the Worlds,” performed by area community members on Nov. 4. You may remember the 1938 original radio play featuring Orson Welles caused mass panic, as many listeners believed Earth was actually being attacked by aliens from Mars.
Funcoast talked to Strong about the upcoming show, as well as the popularity of “Friday Night Live.”
How exactly did “Friday Night Live” get its start?
Michael Strong: We started doing this because I realized there was a lot of very talented musicians in this area and a lot of them weren’t getting any playing time in a venue like ours, where people would sit and listen. If you go to see a musician in a bar you really have to really strain to hear them over the din of everybody else drinking and laughing and everything else. Our setting here is more of a theatrical setting, so the artists really get a chance to play for an audience that will listen. And on the audience’s point of view, I wanted to try to expose our audience to maybe things they wouldn’t ordinarily get a chance to see. In the past we’ve featured musicians, comedians, belly dancers, a washboard player, kid violinists from one of the local music schools. Really it’s been a good mix of different things and sometimes you may not want to spend $30 or $40 to buy a ticket to see something like that but for $10, maybe you’ll take a chance. So it’s a coffee house type of series, even though we have coffee as well as wine and beer.
Looking back over the years, what are some of the highlight performances?
MS: There was a guy last week, his name is Bob Essex and he’s a jazz musician. He brought in a guitarist with him that’s played on “Saturday Night Live.” Essex has played for all different kinds of rock groups. It was just artistically terrific, absolutely stunning to hear this guy play and sing. He’s a blues-jazz guy and he was superb. And then last year we did [the] radio play “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That was a success. We usually get around 40 to 50 people, depending on who the artist is. If they have a big local following, the audience will get up to 80 or 90 people.
Is there anything in the past that didn’t work out?
MS: I don’t have anything before that I tried that didn’t work. But comedy is tough. It tends to be a listening crowd and they tend to act not like the comedians hope, especially if it’s a smaller crowd.
Finally, any chance audience members will freak out during “War of the Worlds” and leave the theater feeling as though earth is under attack from aliens?
MS: Geez, I hope not. But that does mean my alcohol sales are up. It means the actors did a really good job and the bar is making money.
“Friday Night Live” takes place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at The National Theatre at The Ritz, 30 S. Washington St., Tiffin. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 419-448-8544 or visit ritztheatre.org.