More than you might think. And, of course, it’s South Pacific, the musical, that got Clark Lake’s attention in multiple ways.
In 1963 the Clark Lake Players moved due south from Pleasant View to the pavilion at Eagle Point. The space previously been a roller skating rink, and before that, a dance hall visited by the big names in big bands. Downstairs there had been a bowling alley and arcade games. That had become a marina–the cavernous insides were used for boat repair and storage. A gas dock and boat launch abutted the shoreline.
At least once a season the Players performed a musical. Because a musical requires the above and beyond of live musicians and choreographing, production logistics are more complex. It was never more true for their production of South Pacific in 1963.
The play was well promoted. Posters were nailed to trees all over the area and newspapers wrote about it. The playbill has been preserved. Do you recognize any names? (see below).
Charlie Timberlake: Fifty-three summers ago I was 17. Like a lot of people on the lake, I could hear the production taking shape through the open windows of the theater. It drew me like a magnet. The cast and crew allowed me to sit through rehearsals, and that planted the seed for my later involvement in the New Canaan Summer Theater [in Connecticut] in shows like Music Man, Camelot, and Big River. My son Skyler also began performing–an example is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.
Amy Belcher Bless: I played the character “Lisa,” a second lieutenant. My one line was “yes, I do.” This was the first time I was in a production of this kind. Several others followed–Camelot, Once Upon a Mattress and two operas. South Pacific prepared me for the onstage experience and continues to be a wonderful keepsake.
Ted Ligibel: Ted devoted pages 132-3 to this performance in his book Clark Lake, Images of a Michigan Tradition. Ted quotes Amy at length about her experience; also Dick Wilson, Players’ trustee, officer and director.
Rick Belcher: That summer the Players hired me to help build sets. Phil Torrey (Lt. Cable) and I hauled endless 50-pound bags of sand up the fire escape to create the beach, something I won’t forget. There was a concern the building wouldn’t support the extra weight. Thankfully it did. I also volunteered to handle sound duties during rehearsals and performances. I got to know the music very well on every one of those “enchanted evenings.”
Tucker Boyers: South Pacific was the inspiration for our entry in the 2014 Raft-O-Rama when the theme was Broadway shows. Our raft featured key players in the production. Brandi Zak “washed that man right out of her hair” with a shower rigged for that purpose. Our raft won Best Special Effect. No question that South Pacific, both the show and our raft, bring back good memories.
The Cit Pat’s review glowed “the Clark Lake production probably rank among the best given by non-professional groups.” Reviewer William Swank added South Pacific “had good voices, splendid acting, colorful settings and costumes and fine direction.”
Later the Cit Pat reported the “largest attendance and advance ticket sale for any musical in Clark Lake Players’ history has prompted a third weekend holdover…”. The story even hit the Toledo Blade, noting the performance of Janet Myers who played Nellie Forbush.
The last performance South Pacific at the lake was held September 7, 1963. The Clark Lake Players had many more successful years at Eagle Point. When the theater group moved to Potter Center, it seemed like part of the lake went missing. But for those who remember the Clark Lake Players here, and especially this show, a smile is always nearby.