Bonzi Productions brings theater to downtown Rockford

Season kicks off with Bye Bye Birdie June 29-July 1

Family-friendly theater to stage productions at Woman’s Club’s Rockford Theater

Theater is alive and well in downtown Rockford. Bonzi Productions has come home and will be starting their third season in downtown Rockford at the Rockford Theater, inside the Woman’s Club.

This quality, family-oriented theater began its journey in 2005, playing to large crowds with the musical classic Wizard of Oz. Since then, they’ve presented Miracle on 34th Street, West Side Story, Annie Warbucks and The Song of Bernadette. This is a family community theater that continues to grow and provide outstanding live theatrical experiences for the whole family.

In sad times when we’ve lost a theatrical icon like New American Theater, Bonzi Productions answers with relocating in the heart of Rockford in the River District. The Rockford Theater is a beautiful, 800-seat house that opened in 1918 as part of the Rockford Woman’s Club. The Rockford Theater has its own entrance, box office and lobby facilities, and is fully equipped with house lights, strip lights, a Steinway piano and a professional sound system. Acoustically, the theater is superb and provides an excellent location for musicals.

The history of the Rockford Theater includes such notables as Ethel Barrymore, Will Durant, Ogden Nash, Hal Holbrook, Amelia Earhart, Dr. Joyce Brothers and Martha Stewart. More current usage includes Rodney Carrington, The Pink Floyd Lazer Show, Leo Kotke and Leon Redbone.

“We are pleased and proud to have created a partnership with this wonderful theater,” said Todd Bonzi.

Bonzi Productions will present two outstanding family musicals this summer—the Tony Award-winning 1950s musical Bye Bye Birdie (June 29-July 1) and the 1980s dance spectacular Footloose the Musical (July 27-29).

Run by husband-and-wife team Todd and Michele Bonzi, Bonzi Productions continues to stand strong with their mission of providing high-quality, family-oriented theater at family-affordable prices. Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for seniors and kids 12 and younger.

Michele directs and acts in the shows, and Todd acts in and contributes to the marketing, set construction and technical aspects. But they can’t do it alone. They have been blessed to have met many talented families and individuals over their 25 years of theater who have joined on to volunteer their talents to make each season better than the last.

“They believe in what we do, and our goals of teaching cast members of all ages about theater,” Todd Bonzi said. “We believe in the old adage, ‘There are no small parts, only small actors,’ and we work hard to make sure every cast member is completely involved with our productions and are taught about acting.”

Many of these volunteers have children involved in the shows, and many are repeat members.

Mike Powder of Powder’s Automotive said: “Both of my children have been and are currently involved with Bonzi Productions, and they just love it. My wife Kim and I began to volunteer when they were in Wizard of Oz. It’s a great group, and they always give 100 percent to each production. We believe in them so much, that now I build sets and Kim does props. It’s a different way for us to all be involved as a family during the summer, instead of everybody doing their own things.”

Theater helps to create a well-rounded individual, and many of Bonzi Productions’ students and their parents are seeing the benefits in their schooling. These students are more well-adjusted, outspoken and comfortable to speak in class discussions. Many great friendships have been created through the theater, and a few romances, too.

“We plan to stay here in Rockford, where theater is rich and abundant,” Todd Bonzi said. “Many of our season ticket holders are very pleased that we’ve come home, and we plan to continue to grow our group, providing our and surrounding communities with the opportunity to enjoy live theater.”

Going to the movies is always fun, but there is no other experience like live theater, especially in downtown Rockford.

Bye Bye Birdie runs June 29-July1 at the Rockford Theater. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $9 adults, and $7 seniors and kids 12 and younger. Call (815) 394-8987 for reserved tickets.

from the June 13-19, 2007, issue

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