By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
BRUCE – The 10-year tenure of a musical theater that defied the odds by drawing crowds to small-town Mississippi is apparently over.
Anthony Bollinger announced Monday the Bollinger Family Theatre and its restaurant had closed.
“It is with great disappointment that I have to make this announcement. For the last 9 years and 8 months, we have had the wonderful opportunity to put on over 400 shows at The Bollinger Family Theatre,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Literally thousands have come from all over the country to see us do what The Lord had allowed us to do.”
Bollinger, whose comic character “Bubba T. Chickenbone” was a mainstay of some 400 performances in the furniture-store-turned-theater, added, “Circumstances beyond our control have made it impossible to continue.” He thanked the enterprises’ supporters, including season ticket holders and past cast members.
The idea for the musical theater sprang from family trips to Branson, Mo., in its early days as a music tourism destination. When Anthony, Eddie and John Bollinger were boys, the family honed its musical talents in churches across the South, with father Dewey driving his wife, Virginia, and the boys to performances in the family bus.
Since the theater opened in 2003, family members and friends manned singing, acting and instrumental roles along with off-stage jobs from ticket sales to sound engineering. Most performances featured old-time country and classic rock ’n’ roll followed by a mixture of patriotic and Gospel music.
Virginia Bollinger, known as “Granny,” died in January, but a relaunch of the theater, shows and restaurant had been planned for this summer despite her absence.
Tommy and Sarah Margaret Hallum were longtime season ticket holders, and Tommy said, “It was a tremendous success over nine-plus years. It provided good clean entertainment for thousands far and wide.”
Anthony Bollinger did not return messages from the Daily Journal on Tuesday, but one of his Facebook posts noted the family’s collective pleasure in sharing their talents and their values.
“To my Dad, thanks for believing in our family and making a dream into reality,” he wrote. “God bless.”