Friday, April 18, 2008

Musical Tent

Flint Expatriate Rand Simberg, who writes the Transterrestrial Musings blog, checks in with a request for information on the dearly departed Musical Tent and the AC concerts.

“I was born in Flint in 1955, still have family in the area, attended Potter, Pierce, Whittier and Central, and Mott Community College, but haven't lived there since the mid seventies. (I went to Ann Arbor in 1977, then moved to California on graduation in 1980.)

“I was wondering about a couple things. One was the Musical Tent. Do you have any recollections of it? It might have been a little before your time, but it was a tent that was raised in the summer out on Dort Highway, most of the way to Clio (or even beyond toward Birch Run?) where they produced Broadway-style musicals.

“The other is the Fall and Spring AC Concerts, which were held in the IMA Auditorium in the sixties. The latter is of particular interest to me, because my father was an executive at AC, and he produced them. They had big-name stars in them (e.g., Florence Henderson, Edie Adams, Anita Bryant, in her pre-orange juice, gay bashing days, etc.), combined with the AC men’s and women's chorus and local talent.”


  1. OK, I'm just going through old posts, from before I found this blog. Of course I remember the Musical Tent, having grown up in Clio. I don't remember where exactly it was, except I'm sure it was between Flint and Clio. I think I saw "Gigi" there one summer. It had multi-colored stripes, right? If you're still there, reading posts from months ago ... !

  2. I was an intern at the Musical Tent in the 60's and then was cast in several productions. I have many pictures and even a few playbills. The most famous actor I was priviledged to work with was Emmy award winner Michael Zaslow and I have a great picture of him in "How to succeed in business". This was one of the greatest times in my life and I will always cherish those days.
    Pam Barley Seltzer

  3. Anita Bryant and AC?

    She did television commericals for AC Spark Plug in 1965. I used to watch them in a video bar in Chicago in the late 80's. They added footage to the end of the spot showing a car careening off a cliff and bursting into flame.

  4. I know that I am posting this two years after the original post, but I too have great memories like Pam about the Musical Tent (which was in Clio). I was in many productions there (as a child actor) back in 1966. It was the most memorable summer of my life.

    We would work in the "rehearsal hall" all day long and on "dark days" would work into the evening too. I remember always having to put on Off" because the mosquitoes were so bad.

    When we did "The King and I", they ran out of makeup that they used to make us look darker, so they melted chocolate bars from the concession stand and mixed it with something and smeared it all over us (as we were using full body makeup). We all went on stage smelling like a chocolate factory.

    I remember working with Georgia Engel (later she was on The Mary Tyler Moore Show)that year. She was only 18 years old at the time.

    I'm still in the entertainment industry. I'm a business manager in Hollywood for celebrity clients. Have been gone from Flint for over 30 years.

    I grew up in the Civic Park area and took my kids back there a few years ago to visit. Boy - was that depressing. Most of the block I grew up on on Chevrolet Ave is really in bad shape and many houses have actually disappeared altogether.

    But it's great to have the memories. Thanks for your work in keeping this site going!

  5. I remember the Musical Tent being near Pine Run (Dort and Vienna) east of Clio. I was only there once or twice though.

  6. Oh I loved The Musical was magical. I grew up on a farm in it was a slice of culture I am so thankful my mom privileged my twin sister and I with! I remember returning home from seeing South Pacific.....I would create " I'm going wash that man right out of my hair"......belting out the words under my own makeshift theater, our giant willow tree in our yard. I'd gather the leafy branches wrap them over my head and shoulders and pretend to wash away............I was own one woman theater.......such joys the Musical Tent provided......Damn Yankees, Camelot, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Princess and the Pea........West Side Story........How to Succeed in Business........

  7. I was an intern in was a great summer. Like Pam I was close to Michael Pam I was very close to Michael Zazlow...and lived in the same bldg in NYC...we met at The Tent....anyone remember Denny from Gr Blanc?

  8. I remember the musical tent in the 1950's. My dad was an investor in the tent and we had tickets to all the shows. Once Tex Ritter came to our house to visit and see the German short haired pointer puppies we had. I must have been around seven or eight and Tex kissed me on my cheek. I was thrilled.

    We have nothing from the tent but a picture of my sister changing the sign. I keep looking for playbills at estate sales. Hopefully one will turn up.

  9. Hey, feel free to send me a few digital photos via email if they turn up. I'd love to post them.

  10. I'm pretty sure it was located in Pine Run at the corner of Saginaw and Tobias Rd.

    1. You are so right. the show was on the south east corner of Saginaw and Tobbias roan just across from the old Green farm. I think there is a gravel pit there now. I worked there doing odd jobs like driving the Actors back and forth from the homes they were living in while they were working in the area. I spent lots of time with Gorden McCray when they were showing Oklahoma. We also got to get in a few of the shows like Wish You Were Here and Brigadon. I Charlie Nachbar, Jerry Nelson & Dick Choat all worked at the Tent. Doing Maintance and painting before the painters Union cought up with us. I also rember giving Slapsy Maxi Roseinbloom a ride from Bishop Air port in my old 49 olds convertible before we had A SPEED limit. WE got as far as Pine Run and said he would like to walk the rest of the way after a cup of coffie at Pegs Pantrey. jUST didn't like my driveing. Of course I wasn't old enough to have a drivers lisence at the time. I think I was only fifteen at the time. I also remember Jerry Nelson taking Gorden McKrays wife shopping in Flint all day with Gordens new Chevrolet and he was the same age I was. They sure had some wonderful shows the and we will never forget those wonderful summer days and those we worked with,

    2. You are so right. The Tent was on the South east corner of Tobias & Saginaw Rd. I worked there in the Early 50s. the was Dick Choat Jerry Nelson & charlie Nachbar. We done repairs around the tent. Painted things up until the painters Union cought up with us. Drove the actors. to and from work even though we didn't have drivers licence. for we were only 51 at the time. I rember Goden McKray & Slapsy Maxie Roseinbloom He said he would rather get into the Boxing ring than ride in my old 49 Olds convertible.I also rember Jerry Nelson taking Gorden McKray's Wife to Flint shopping all day with Gordrns new Chevy Convertible. He was also 15 at the time. Those were the good old days.

  11. I was the house manager at the Musical Tent in 1957. The Tent was located on Saginaw Highway not far from Wilson Road. Yes, it was across Saginaw Road from the Green farm; but that doesn't convey what a slice of culture it was.
    Saginaw Highway was a main highway between Flint and Saginaw, Michigan. One of the investors, Bill Dooley, was from Saginaw so the tent was located halfway between the two cities.
    Robert K. Adams was the producer, Bob was originally from Flint, but had been a theater producer in New York City for several years. He was producing children's theater in New York City, but came to the Musical Tent many summers to produce summer stock theater. There were so many stars I don't remember many of them, in addition to those mentioned above there was Hal March. The summer I worked their they produced A funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum and Oklahoma in addition to nine other shows.
    It was my first real job. I hired and directed the ushers and usherettes; I kept the tent in shape and kept the grounds clean; I kept the storm sewers working and shot off the fireworks. Like others I can attest to the youthfulness of the local staff; I didn't do much driving; but I was 16 at the time.
    If you have any photos, I would love to see them. I have some newspaper clippings from the Flint Journal.

  12. There was a parallel universe in Farmington Hills, Michigan where there was another Musical Tent.

  13. I recently saw the production of Buffalo Gal at CMU, and that got me thinking about the Musical Tent. I grew up in Bay City, and my parents took me to several productions there in Pine Run. The one I remember most clearly was Romeo and Juliet. I had recently gotten my drivers' license, so this had to have been in 1966 or 1967. My parents allowed me to drive my dad's car to the performance and take my younger sisters. At some point during the performance, it started pouring rain, and that sound on the tent made it impossible to hear the actors. After a few minutes, the rain let up, and someone announced that the cast would re-perform the scene that couldn't be heard. We all applauded, and the rest of the play continued uninterrupted.

    I certainly enjoyed reading all these memories!


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