A light shines on a piano in the corner of the stage and the 291 people filling the chairs in the Pickleville Playhouse go quiet.Ralph Daine, with the playhouse since its first season 33 years ago, begins to play, his fingers running expertly over the upright piano’s keys, his red striped shirt and top hat vibrant.Daine underscores the melodramas at the Pickleville Playhouse. He plays heavy, deep chords inspiring the audience to boo whenever the villain arrives and upbeat, triumphant notes whenever the hero takes the stage.”People don’t realize this, how important it is what they’re hearing. They don’t realize he’s making them laugh,” said T.J. Davis, writer and performer for the playhouse and grandson of the playhouse’s founders. The Pickleville Playhouse, located just off Bear Lake in Garden City, offers musicals and melodramas with quips that will make the adults laught and plots the kids will enjoy. The audience is encouraged to participate, which the kids do emphatically. Rich with family history, the theater has an old fashioned, western feel.Davis’ grandparents, LeGrande and Betty Larsen, and their friends started Pierre’s Playhouse in Victor, Idaho, where they put on old-fashioned melodramas. The Larsens left Idaho to move to Logan in 1976. At the time, Bear Lake was “just a swamp,” Davis said, but the couple decided to build a new theater for melodrama at the lake.”Grandpa was a doctor,” Davis said. “I don’t even know why they decided to (start the playhouse), but they had this vision.”So one summer, 33 years ago, LeGrande, Betty, their six sons and one daughter worked hard to build the theater on their own, despite a lack of construction experience.”That’s why the halls are kind of crooked,” Davis said.The theater was made by hand, and the seats come from the old Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City. Construction began in June 1977, and by August of that summer the first Pickleville Play, “The Faithful Footman,” was performed in the playhouse.The playhouse started out small, with one row of guests per show, but as Bear Lake grew, so did the playhouse’s audience. During the season’s peak, the playhouse hosts eight shows per week.Davis’ mother, Andrea, is the current manager and owner, but the rest of his family stays involved. Davis’ sister does the choreography and other family members perform on stage. Davis writes and performs for the playhouse as well as producing the Christmas show, which takes place in Logan every winter.While the company is completely managed by family, the actors come from all over. From students of Brigham Young University to residents of Wyoming, Davis said they get people coming from all over the area.”We get to see all the best talent in Cache Valley,” Davis said.Summer show auditions begin in March, and Davis said they always see a high caliber of performers.Guests have the option of purchasing tickets for a hot dinner before the show. They can choose from chicken or boneless ribs, or for $2 extra they can have steak. Each meal comes with western side dishes such as pork an beans and scones.The Playhouse is featuring two shows this year. Crazy for You is a Broadway musical and Bandito Rides Again is a melodrama that Davis wrote. Information about shows, tickets and pricing can be found at www.picklevilleplayhouse.com.Davis said the playhouse is known for its melodramas, which it has been putting on since the theater’s opening. The original melodramas were not musicals, but Davis said over the years his family has listened to the needs and wants of audience members and adapted.”We do take ourselves seriously, but not too dramatic either,” Davis said.The Pickleville Playhouse has always been a family-run business. Davis’ grandfather died in December and his father, Ted Davis, passed away just before this season began, but Davis said they’re still as much a part of the theater.”They’re sitting up in the rafters watching,” Davis said. -firstname.lastname@example.org
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