The “Cabaret” blade signs blazes again in Boggstown.
In the tiny burg just across the Shelby County line, the legendary theater has brought countless fans to town in search of entertainment. Though it has hosted special shows here and there over the past few years, the theater has mostly gone dark.
That changes in April.
The glitz and glamour of live theater is coming back to the Boggstown Cabaret on a regular basis. The longtime venue announced its re-opening with a new show — “Stumblewood,” a Western-themed murder mystery musical comedy.
“You can feel it when you walk in. If you have any sense of energy, you feel it when you walk through that door,” said Brad Zumwalt, co-owner of the Boggstown Cabaret. “This place has been a meeting place and a get-together ever since it was built. It hasn’t changed. That energy is there.”
Behind the simple front door of the Boggstown Cabaret brings visitors into a vision of the past.
A blue neon sign gives the lobby an atmospheric hue, shining off a statue of Betty Boop next to a self-playing piano. An antique love tester machine blinks on the wall.
Stepping through a curtain, guests find themselves face-to-face with an Old West set, complete with swinging doors, cactus and a saloon sign.
“In my mind, the experience starts as soon as people walk in the door,” Zumwalt said. “People are really shocked when they walk in. The whole life of the Cabaret has been exceeding people’s expectations.”
For years, people would flock to Boggstown to take in the family-friendly entertainment at the cabaret theater. Zumwalt and his business partner Russell Moss bought the venue in 1998, crafting original shows that catered to large groups.
During its height, nearly 200 motorcoaches would come to the theater each year, packing the venue with visitors from around the country.
“The Cabaret has such a great energy, even though it’s such an old building,” Zumwalt said.
Zumwalt and Moss, though their company Golden Ticket Productions, expanded their business. They purchased the Coachlight Theater in Brown County, changing the name to the Palace Theater.
Their concentration shifted more to that project, Zumwalt said.
“We still did shows up here at the same time, which was so grueling to have a theater there and this,” he said. “And what had happened here, since most of our clientele were tour buses, we found them getting less and less. That was our bread and butter.”
They started doing other shows throughout Nashville and Brown County, including an original murder mystery show for the Artist Colony Inn.
Still, the venue has hosted a series of different shows over the past few years, including a holiday show and cabaret parties.
As different commitments waned, more time was available to focus on the Cabaret.
“You know how they say things come full circle? The Cabaret is actually what I moved to Indiana from L.A. for,” Zumwalt said.
“Stumblewood” is the wacky story of a cast of characters hoping to make a “killing” off land sales when they get a telegram announcing that the eponymous town is for sale. The good guy sheriff tries to keep the peace and uphold the law.
The ensemble cast of Jason Bowser, Falicia Whited, Naomi F. Pyle, Dan Tuttle and Zumwalt himself embodies a range of stereotypical characters — from Alice Allgood and Dolly Diamond to Black Bart and Sheriff Willie White — who bring the action, comedy and music right to the audience.
“The performers are all over. The show has everything — comedy, music, a murder-mystery, cowboys. It’s really a very fun show,” Zumwalt said.
The public is encouraged to attend dressed up or down or not at all for this family-friendly show, Zumwalt said. The show includes a buffet progressive dinner that is woven into the performance, instead of working around it, Zumwalt said.
“I tell people, the Cabaret is really a fellow performer,” he said.
“Stumblewood” opens on April 22 and 23, and the show will be staged on one weekend each month moving forward through November.
With the resumption of regular shows, Zumwalt hopes the magic of the Cabaret is revived among local audiences as well as out-of-town visitors.
“We really are going back in time,” he said. “You’re not going to see this anywhere. It just doesn’t happen.”