New Directions at Coachlight Theatre

by Barney Quick
photo by Cindy Steele

The atmosphere of family and mirth that has always characterized Coachlight Musical Theatre is about to be kicked up a notch. This coming season, you’ll see new décor, some new and familiar faces, and some fresh takes on the audience-participation aspect of the Coachlight approach to entertainment.

The transition to Coachlight Musical Theatre’s new era is occurring in classic Brown County fashion. Those who are making it happen have been enthusiastically welcomed by the community, and, in turn, they are making a celebration of the community a key part of their plans. “It was as though Nashville wrapped this up in a bow for us,” says Brad Zumwalt, one of four partners in Golden Ticket Productions, the Theatre’s new owner. “The Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been incredibly supportive.” The new incarnation of Coachlight Theatre will be available for events planned by various local groups.

olden Ticket Productions consists of four partners: Zumwalt, Julie Powers, Russell Moss, and Max Jones. One of the group’s other projects is Boggstown Cabaret in Shelby County.

To spend some time in their company is itself an entertainment experience. The banter, back-and-forth ribbing and even physical antics make clear their basic love of a good time. “Our backgrounds are very diverse,” says Zumwalt. “Each of us brings something different to the table. We’re very respectful of each others’ contributions.” Zumwalt is a former California bank president. Jones runs a chain of assisted-living facilities. He has overseen the remodeling of the Coachlight space. Powers and Moss have theater backgrounds and are handling show development, music, and directing.

Attendees this coming season will recognize some cast members from previous years. Additional talent has come from local auditions as well as national auditions held by the Illinois Theatre Association in Chicago.

The theatre has been transformed into a more traditional showplace with massive curtains, cabaret colors, and a new sound system. The lobby’s walls will sport vintage movie posters, a giant mirror, headshots and biographies of performers, and a sponsorship wall touting area businesses. Other features in the works include retro uniforms for ushers and an old-school candy girl strolling the lobby.

The Coachlight season will open March 20 with an enlarged version of the cabaret show that Golden Ticket presents in Boggstown. On March 21, Coachlight will offer “Hollywood Serenade,” an authentic 1940s radio show. The partners plan to put a lineup of four of five shows in rotation, so that Brown County visitors staying several days can see something different each night.

April 17 will mark the grand openings for several establishments in the area, so Coachlight is planning something special. “We’re going to reverse the roles of the cast and the audience,” says Powers. “As people enter the lobby, performers playing paparazzi will fawn over them, asking about the designers of their outfits and such.”

It was the community’s warm welcome that sealed the deal for the Golden Ticket partners. “I worked with one of the cast members from the previous format in community theater in Martinsville,” says Powers. “She told me about the opportunity, saying that she hoped that the family feeling the original owners had established could be continued.”

“I remember the conversation on the way down here,” says Zumwalt. “I said to Julie, ‘Now, we’re just going to look, okay?’ Then we got the enthusiastic response from the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The landlord, Davis Development, has just been great.” Moss says that one of the previous owners, Susan Christenberry, has expressed her delight that Coachlight Theatre would continue and exude the same spirit that had made it an attraction through the years.

The box office will be open from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day, “so people walking by can come in and say hello,” according to Powers.

As Moss puts it, “It’s important to us to convey to the customer, ‘We appreciate you.’”

Coachlight Musical Theatre can be contacted at (812) 988-2101 or visited on the Web at <>.