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Benton Evening News - Benton, IL
  • Civic Center ready for productions, performers

  • What does a six-foot tall invisible rabbit and the Benton Civic Center have in common?

    Get your tickets now to Pyramid Players Regional Theatre Company's production of Harvey being performed on stage July 26 and 27 and find out.
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  • What does a six-foot tall invisible rabbit and the Benton Civic Center have in common?
    Get your tickets now to Pyramid Players Regional Theatre Company's production of Harvey being performed on stage July 26 and 27 and find out.
    Bill King, manager of the center, said the remodeled facility has a host of eye-popping amenities that appeals to Pyramid Players and entertainers alike.
    "The new stage is spectacular," he said. "There is an orchestra pit and no one is much more than 100 or 150 feet from the stage, so there is not a bad seat in the house.
    "The play being performed on July 26 and 27 is set in Denver, Colo. in 1944 and is a lighthearted comedy featuring the mischievous invisible rabbit who will frolic around the stage throughout the performance," King said. "The audience will see doors open without anyone there, the pages of books flip and curtains open by themselves."
    Reserved seats are $15 and are available online by visiting www.bentonciviccenter.com or by visiting the ticket office. The Benton Civic Center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily and is located at 414 Hudelson St.
    "The curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m.," King said. "We have been working since January on an entertainment lineup for the community and area. The Pyramid Players in particular are very, very pleased with the improvements to the center. The performers really appreciate the new stage, the orchestra pit and the acoustics, which are superb."
    He said this will be the second production of the summer.
    King said an Aug. 3 evening with comedian Tim Hawkins and special guest Jonnie W. has drawn spectators from eight states. "He is a genuinely funny comedian that will appeal to the whole family," he said.
    "Tim Hawkins became an overnight sensation on YouTube and now has 100 million followers," King said. "His Facebook page has a following of 200,000 fans and growing."
    He said the Aug. 3 comedic performance is certain to be a sellout. "We have sold about 1000 of the 1200 seats for this event and tickets are going fast," King said. "Show time is 7 p.m. and tickets are $30 in advance for the plush cushioned chairs that sit directly in front of the stage or $20 in advance for general admission seating that is metal chairs set off in the wings. The seats are in the direct site of the stage but are set at an angle."
    He said the power of social media meant 400 seats sold in the first week after Hawkins announced the Benton Civic Center performance on his Facebook page. "This will be a great, great show," King said. "Get your tickets now.
    "We have people coming from New York, Oklahoma and Arkansas but the vast majority will be from Southern Illinois," he said. "Those from out of town will probably spend a night or two in one of our motels, eat in our restaurants, shop our stores and buy gas. That is a boon for the local economy."
    Page 2 of 3 - King said one week later the Kentucky Headhunters return to the stage for their first local performance in five years. "The band members heard we have a new stage and called us for a date to perform," he said. "Their Aug. 9 southern rock, blues and country music begins at 7:30 p.m.
    "The Kentucky Headhunters were inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame this year and have also been honored by the Academy of Country Music, the Country Music Association and the Grammys," he said. Tickets are $20 in advanced for our plush seating and $15 for the metal chairs that will set in the wings."
    King said the evening includes alcohol for those with a valid identification.
    "We are billing the Oct. 25 performance by country music legend John Anderson as our Up Close and Personal event," he said. "John Anderson has been entertaining audiences since 1977 with his first single, "I've Got a Feelin' (Somebody's Been Stealin')" and has charted more than 40 singles.
    "My personal favorite is "Swingin," but there are other popular favorites including four other number one singles on the Billboard country music charts," King said. "Other chart toppers include "Wild and Blue," "Black Sheep," "Straight Tequila Night," and "Money in the bank." He has also recorded 22 studio albums. His latest release Bigger Hands has been on the market since June 2009."
    He said tickets are selling a a steady clip. "Show time for John Anderson is 7:30 p.m.," he said. "Opening for John is a rising country star from Southern Illinois. Mandy Heinemann has drawn influence from Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn and Lynn Anderson, to name a few.
    "John will bring his music into the audience as he croons and walks throughout the crowd," King said. "Those in attendance will get an up close and personal moment with a great performer."
    King said tickets are $26 in advance for the cushioned chairs and $21 for general admission or the metal chairs setting in the wings.
    He said alcohol would also be available during the performance.
    On Nov. 7, 8 and 9, Bentonite and Nashville, Tenn. performer Bobby Reed is bringing his steel guitar show back to the Benton Civic Center. "This Stars and Steel Guitars show will be about everything steel guitar related," King said. "We welcome concert promoters and in this case Bobby Reed is promoting the three-day steel guitar event."
    He said the confirmed lineup for Saturday's Super Stars of Steel Guitars includes Ron Elliott, Doug Jernigan, Lynn Owsley, Buck Reid and Tommy White. "Their Nashville backup band includes bass guitarists Rick Boyer and Mike Dunbar, with Rick Vanaughn and Rick Reed on drums and Tom Campbell, Rodney Crisp and Bobby Reed on electric and acoustic guitars," King said.
    Local favorites Johnny Arview, Rob Arview, Lee Brothers, Lyle Clary, Carl Kilmer, Bobby Reed and Fred Rushing are also on the entertainment lineup, he said.
    Page 3 of 3 - Show times are 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7 and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9.
    Advance tickets are $12 for Thursday, $20 for Friday and $22 for Saturday. A complete weekend pass is $50.
    Tickets will also be sold at the door. Thursday's price is $14, with $22 on Friday and $24 on Saturday. A complete weekend pass at the door is $55.
    The Benton Civic Center welcomes church groups, schools, organizations and communities to utilize the premier facility, King said. "We are already working on our 2014 lineup that is sure to appeal to everyone," he said. "We are negotiating with performers and trying to work out schedules.
    "This is your facility and we hope you will visit us and attend one or many of our events," he said. "Our doors are open to the community and the region. We want to appeal to every audience and are planning events from every genre."
    King said he is working on a "nice balance of entertainment at an affordable price."
    "I am working on the idea of having a Garage Band Night sometime after Christmas," he said. "This will give local high school and middle school students an opportunity to perform for their friends and peers.
    "I am also looking at something that will appeal to our younger audience, maybe a Christmas event," King said.
    Benton Civic Center Authority Board Chairman Rick Knight said the center received disappointing news earlier this year.
    "We had planned to welcome the United States Army Field Band in November but they called and said they had to postpone the tour due to the sequestration," he said. "We have them on track to perform next year.
    "The news is difficult to hear because this would have been a free concert," Knight said.
    King said the center is flourishing and has booked weddings, bridal showers and a host of events throughout the year. "If you haven't been to the Benton Civic Center in a while, you need to see what we've done to the place," he said. "We are open to new ideas and welcome your input."
    For more information, call 435-5700.

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