The Birdcage Impetus

A young drama organization in Oroville, the Birdcage Theater, got very ambitious preparing its 3rd season’s list of play productions for 1985-86.  Its own stage and seating capacity being small as a “birdcage” (hence the name), leaders decided to use a larger stage that season, and do a musical the spring of 1986. A theater production with a larger audience capacity, would also draw more revenue.  Thus began eight straight years of successful spring musicals.

From 1986 to 1993, Birdcage Theater produced Broadway musicals, and each required a pit orchestra and singing cast.  Performed on the stage of Palermo Middle School were, “Oliver” (’86) and “The Sound of Music” (’87).  Performed at the State Theater Were: “The Music Man” (’88), “Oklahoma” (’89), “Fiddler on the Roof” (‘90), “Brigadoon” (’91), “Carousal” (’92), and “Paint Your Wagon” (’93).

All productions required a four-month commitment from the entire cast of participants.  The Oroville Community Concert Band was a natural outgrowth of the Birdcage musicals as some orchestra members eventually wanted to establish a group that would rehearse and perform year round.

Birdcage ProgramThe Talent From Birdcage Musicals

OCChorus also grew from the eight Birdcage musicals 1986-93, drawing multi-talented, performance-loving folks who worked front, back, or under stage.  Church choirs offered some of the talent.

Casts numbered 40-70 people: directors, actors, musicians, singers, dancers, and backstage people.  The bulk of the casts, were lovingly called, “choral singers,” “townspeople”, “live props”, and “dancers”.  Many in the casts had families, so their kids were often welcomed to add realism as more “live props”, and then some of them were assigned minor moving parts.  Just like in the original Broadway plays, it was common for Birdcage cast members to play multiple minor parts.

Surveying six musicals programs from 1988-93 showed at least 97 from the casts got involved in the new community band or chorus.  Of the ninety-seven folks, 14 participated in both the band and chorus, 31 just played in the band, 51 just joined the chorus, and 01 helped with recording band concerts.

Even today, multi-talented performers are still evident in band and chorus.  Over the years, 40 band folks have laid horns down to sing with the chorus. Band talent has provided up to 15 of its own as the choral group for music selections, and occasionally OCCB/OCC give back and participate in... new Birdcage musicals.

Family Groups' Influence

There are many family groups, or whole households who took part in either Birdcage, Band, or Chorus, with multiple members and generations involved. The three biggest examples are the Chollet, Henneker, and Zancanella families.

The Chollet family has had twelve members participating in one or more of the programs: Dina (OCC), Dina’s son-in-law, David Strang (OCCB), Dina’s grandson, Jason Strang (Bird), Dina’s son, David (Bird, OCCB, OCC), Dave’s wife, Linda, (Bird, OCCB, OCC), their daughters, Kristin (Bird), Amy (Bird), and their son, Steven (Bird, OCCB), Kristin’s husband, Eric Walburn (Bird), Amy’s son, Hunter Medford (OCCB), Dina’s son, Paul (Bird), and Paul's wife, Monica (Bird).

The Henneker family has had ten members participating in one or more of the programs: Bill (OCCB), his wife, Marlys (OCC), their son Mark (OCCB), Mark's wife, Laura [Miller] (Bird, OCCB), and grandson, Cody (OCCB), Jim (OCCB/OCC), his wife, Doris, deceased (OCC), their daughter, Pam (Bird, OCCB), Pam's son, Fred (OCCB), and Jim's wife, Reggie (OCC).

The Zancanella family has had a seven (or 8?) member connection in the three groups: Eric (Bird, OCCB, OCC), Eric’s wife, Judy (OCC), Eric’s daughter, Melissa  (Bird, OCCB), and Eric’s son, Bryan (Bird), Dick (Bird, OCCB, OCC), Dick’s wife, Nonna Lee, deceased (Bird, OCC), and Dick’s wife, Kathy (OCCB).  Eric and Dick's brother John did play baritone with OCCB one practice to make eight.

NEXT: Getting the Band Started