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Murray Journal

Poll reveals residents want concerts, plays, and comedians at Murray Theater

Jul 01, 2022 09:28AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Adele performed at the Murray Theater in 2009. (Photograph by Christopher Macsurak, Wikimedia Commons)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

What type of programming should be presented at the restored Murray Theater? Perhaps dramas fit the bill based on the latest threat to renovating the old theater—the on-again, off-again nature of funding the renovation keeps everyone on the edge of their seat.

However, the Murray Theater plans to move forward with May’s Murray City Council meeting announcement of a $100,000 anonymous donation. The city hopes to attract more donors as it does not quite have the estimated $7.5 million needed for the project. Currently, the city has put together $5.6 million.

In May, the Murray Journal conducted a poll via social media to see what residents would like to see in the refurbished theater. The top vote tally, by far, was concerts.

While initially a film venue, the theater has hosted well-known acts either in the twilight of their career or on their way up. They Might Be Giants, Insane Clown Posse, Dokken, and Harry Rollins have all graced the stage, but the January 23, 2009 concert had its biggest star ever to visit the State Street venue. Adele played a 14-song setlist to a packed house right before her career went stratospheric.

Murray Mayor Brett Hales, when he was inaugurated, made it clear to the Murray Journal that he wanted concerts there. “I would love to see David Archuleta as our first concert, as he worked at the Murray Amphitheater, so that would be fun,” Hales said.

However, Murray Cultural Arts Director Lori Edmunds informed the City Council in January, “We have to remember that the sound system for a movie theater is much different and not appropriate for what we need for bands like David Archuleta or Alex Boyé. We’d still need to bring in a sound system, and that’s costly,” Edmunds said.

So will Murray City front the costs for a new sound system?

“The theater plans have two sound systems,” Murray City Chief Communications Officer Tammy Kikuchi said. “Of course, there will be concerts; the key is determining which entertainers our audience will support.”

Clark Bullen, former mayoral candidate and member of the Murray Arts Advisory board, said, “The Murray Theater could attract concerts and performances that cater towards smaller crowds of around 300. This does not suit all artists and groups but could be ideal for many that prefer a more intimate experience. To this end, our equipment and setup should be more than adequate to handle any performance of that size. It is undoubtedly worth the investment to be able to address the needs of any group from recital to rock and roll.”

The second choice for performances was plays and musicals. Edmunds told the council she hoped to see at least three musicals performed during the spring, winter holidays, and fall seasons. In addition, Bullen hopes that the venue will attract an acting company to take up residency.

“This occurs at the Rose Wagner,” Bullen said. “Your favorite theater experiences are likely from companies that have a residency in a municipal or separate event space. There are some advantages to this arrangement in terms of fundraising, focus, and branding, but the programing mix, timing, and opportunity would have to fall into place. We do know this space will be top-notch, and I imagine the ideal venue for a high-quality theater company.”

Rounding up the top three, residents want to see comedians on the stage. The theater has hosted improv and comedy festivals in the past. The most legendary was comedic hypnotist Van Der Meide, “the fastest hypnotist in Europe.” Benjamin Van Der Meide sold out two shows at the Murray Theater every Saturday night in the 1990s.

Also making the poll are classic films, film festivals, notable speakers/personalities, dance performances, and arts education events. The Murray Theater was once a venue for the Slamdance Film Festival; Murray officials have told the council that they hope to attract other film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival.

According to Kikuchi, the city will undertake a feasibility study to see what performances and acts should be at the Murray Theater.