The Firehouse Presents Firehouse Follies, “A Night of Historic Entertainment”


If you lived in Wabash County 120 years ago, what would you do for fun?  Before movies, television, and U Tube, you might come to the local opera house for entertainment and edification.  To revive this experience, The Firehouse, in partnership with the North Manchester Center for History, will present The Firehouse Follies, “A Night of Historic Entertainment” on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the Firehouse Theater, 108 W. Main Street.


The Firehouse Follies is a unique production that you will never see anywhere else.  Acts will be based on performances actually held at the North Manchester Opera House years ago, but with a contemporary feel.  Jim Smith will recite “Casey at the Bat.”  Mac McKinley will present James Whitcomb Riley poems--the beloved Hoosier poet actually appeared at the NM Opera House several times.  There will be a dog act, inspired by the fact that live blood hounds were often used in productions of the popular Uncle Tom’s Cabin play in the 19th century.  Other acts include folk music of the era, a ukelele band, Ed “Strangler” Lewis the Wrestler, and a gospel choir.  The audience will get to boo the villain and sigh over the heroine in “Dolly’s Dilemma or Who Will Pay the Money for the Mortgage on the Farm?,” a contemporary melodrama written by Charles and Dagny Boebel.  Dave Lawrenz will serve as emcee.


Live entertainment is a great way for the community to come together, and very different from the feel of movies, television, DVD or computers.  If you have attended any of the presentations at the Firehouse, you know how entertaining they can be.  You also know that North Manchester is blessed with many talented entertainers.  To add to the festivities, the North Manchester Civic Band will present a sidewalk concert outside the Firehouse an hour before the Follies begin.


Tickets cost $5.00 and are available starting June 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the Center for History, 122 W. Main Street (the former Oppenheim’s Store).  Presale tickets are recommended for this one-time-only performance as seating is limited. 


The acts described here give a flavor of the many types of entertainment the Opera House used to present 100 to 120 years ago.  Opera houses were by no means just venues for Grand Opera and classical music.  During its heyday, the NM Opera House hosted everything from high school graduations to basketball games, touring Shakespeare companies, musical performances, lecturers, comedians, dinner dances and even roller skating.  It was the biggest gathering space in the community before the high school and college built their own gymnasiums and auditoriums.  The Opera House served North Manchester from the 1880s until it was torn down in 1962. 


The Firehouse Follies is one of many events planned to celebrate “The Year of the Opera Curtain” at the Center for History.  The Center recently restored a rare 1909-1910 opera curtain, which is on display at the museum.  It has also commissioned a contemporary opera curtain featuring current North Manchester businesses and organizations.  The contemporary curtain will serve as a backdrop for the Follies.  Major donors to the project include Manchester College, Poet Biorefining, Beacon Credit Union, Shepherd’s Chevrolet, and the Community Foundation of Wabash County.