By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post
The Mill at Lebanon has been transformed from a woolen mill into what some say will be “Middle Tennessee's favorite destination for shopping, dining, one-of-a-kind events and big-city loft living in a country setting.”
There are several restaurants, such as the Bull and Whistle Pub, but now The Mill has its venue for a “one-of-a-kind event” with the Grand Opening Celebration of the Millworks Theatre this Saturday.
“We’re really excited about the impact we think this theatre will have in the community,” said Kevin Raymond, managing director of the theater.
Raymond has several years of experience managing a theater company, including Phoenix Rising Entertainment in Nashville as well as working with his family-owned Raymond Productions.
He and his business partner, Artistic Director Keith Hardy, got the idea to start a theater in Lebanon when they saw a brochure on The Mill at a booth during the Wilson County Fair.
Raymond said that when he pitched his idea to Ricky Rodriguez, director of the Wilson County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Rodriguez was “ecstatic.”
“Ricky is working on a deal with the motor coach tours,” Raymond said, “for a dinner, a show, and a night’s stay at one of Lebanon’s hotels.”
That’s right. Millworks Theatre is a dinner theater.
Their season begins on Aug. 18 with a country music review called “That’s Country!” which will continue through Sept. 26 with performances during the afternoon.
“That’s Country!” is a two-act review which starts off with songs from the legends of country music like Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Hank Williams and Tammy Wynette.
According to the theater’s website, “In Act 2, you’ll swear you spend hundreds of dollars on a concert ticket to see some of the most popular acts from the 1980’s to today,” including Garth Brooks, The Judds, Tricia Yearwood and Clint Black.
For the evening shows, from Aug. 20 through Sept. 26, Millworks will put on the play “I Hate Hamlet” about an out-of-work television actor who moves to New York and is given the opportunity to play Hamlet onstage. The only problem, you guessed it, is he hates Hamlet. Compound this dilemma with his being “haunted” by the ghost of John Barrymore, whose performance of Hamlet is viewed as the best of his time, and you have what the New York Times calls “unapologetically silly and at times hilarious … affectionately amusing about the theater.”
“We really think this is going to be a big economic boost to the community,” Raymond said, “once we get the motor coach tours in.”
Raymond said he spoke to officials with the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville and they told him that they bring in “$500,000 a year to the area restaurants and $1 million to area hotels.”
Millworks, Raymond hopes, will give the greater Nashville area a medium-sized venue instead of the large space of TPAC or the small, honky-tonk bars of downtown.
“We want to reach everyone,” Raymond said, which is why the Millworks Theatre will be more than just for dramas and musicals. They will have concerts and comedians as well as an open mic night for area musicians and song writers to showcase their work.
As for Saturday’s Grand Opening Celebration, there will be something for everyone, too. During the day, there will be face painting, a dress-up photo booth, a dunk tank for children and families, followed by two performances of the children’s show from Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre of “Sarah and the Secret of the Cellar” at noon and 2 p.m.
Admission during the day is free to everyone. There will also be food from the Cuckoo’s Nest and Pesto.
From 7 p.m. to midnight, there is a $10 cover charge for the adults to come and dance the night away. First, Blues Brokers will play an assortment of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s cover songs. Then, from 9 p.m. to midnight, Nashville swing and rockabilly artist Harry Fontana will perform along with Nashville-area swing dancers.
The theater will be located in The Mill in Edgerton Hall, which seats around 550 people at round tables and 1,100 people in theater-style seating.