The lights are on at the Clock Tower Theatre—Bandstand USA! The Fabulous Fifties Flashback Show

Don Zellmer’s Jubilee Theatre is rejuvenating the theater space at the Clock Tower Resort. After the darkness of the past two years, the lights are on. Chuck Hoenes’ shows ran for 26 years beginning in the space where dinner was served, in conjunction with the performance. The theater space became the venue for reviews and Broadway hits. Much of the talent came from the community, many of whom went on to careers in Chicago and on Broadway. Hoenes, like all good directors, appreciates professionalism and continues his work in Florida.

Hoenes is a native of LaSalle-Peru and, coincidentally, so is Don Zellmer. In a brief conversation following the show, he mentioned that in the early years he had performed in Hoenes’ reviews. His extensive experience includes 30 years in venues from theaters to casinos, showrooms to ships, and everywhere in between. As Harold Hill in The Music Man to Mack in Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel, his love of the Broadway musical is evident.

While an MC in Las Vegas, he created Holidazzle!, a revue that ran for 12 seasons. It is scheduled to open here Nov. 1. An experienced entrepreneur, he owned and operated Zellmer’s Dinner Theatre in Peoria, Ill., for 15 years. It’s a welcome addition to Rockford’s theater scene, and we look forward to future productions.

Bandstand USA! The Fabulous Fifties Show incorporates the music and dance of that era. Zellmer creates a storyline set centered on a diner in Smyrna, GA. The children of the owner, Eugene (W. Scott Chachula) and Peggy Sue (Katy Morehouse), need to raise $150,000 to save the business. Friends Tammy Sue (Holly Bakkelund), Barbara Ann (Keri Gragg), and Frankie (Nick Souvestke) are there to lend support, but only after Angel (Don Zellmer) arrives on the scene does the show get rolling.

Zellmer’s energy is palpable, and his expertise in delivering a song is apparent from his opening number. Choreographing the dances of the period, he uses his cast well. They’ve put in many hours of rehearsal, and it shows. Chachula, a trained vocalist, sings music of the ’50s as well as classical opera. It requires versatility to perform equally well in diverse genres. A tightly staged show, Bandstand USA! gives audiences an experience. At the urging of Zellmer, patrons come to the stage for a lesson in Elvis’ imitations. Birthdays and anniversaries are acknowledged, and everyone is encouraged to get up and dance.

Hoenes knew how to attract an audience, often filling the house with bus loads of seniors anticipating the music of their youth.

Zellmer plans his season in the same way. The success of the current show already presages a possible extension. Opening this summer, Social Security is followed by Mame. Giving people what they want assures success.

For information or reservations, call the Jubilee Theatre Box Office at (815) 229-4033, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!