As a native Kentuckian, I’ve known the lyrics to “My Old Kentucky Home” nearly my entire life. I’ve sang it countless times, and some of my fondest Knox Central High School Chamber Choir memories include singing it with my choir friends. I was surprised that I knew so little about the life and history of Stephen Foster, the songwriter/composer of the Kentucky State Song, “My Old Kentucky Home”. I was very excited to see the musical about the life of Stephen Foster in Bardstown, Kentucky entitled The Stephen Foster Story.
We had been teaching Gabe the lyrics to “My Old Kentucky Home”; I firmly believe that all native Kentuckians should be taught the lyrics just like they should be taught the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. He loves to sing and dance, and he’s excited about joining our local children’s theater in the fall. We thought that The Stephen Foster Story would be a good way to teach him a little Kentucky history and a healthy appreciation for the arts.
Our evening at the drama (as the locals call it) got off to a rough start. The show is held in an outdoor amphitheater on the grounds of My Old Kentucky Home State Park. The area was experiencing scattered thunderstorms and showers. They display this disclaimer on their website:
- The Stephen Foster Story will be held in the event of rain, and if the performance cannot continue, we will move to our indoor location. Seat location will be approximated from the outdoor theatre. Management reserves the right to fulfill the contract performance on any given date in either the outdoor or indoor theatres. Completion of half the show constitutes fulfillment of the ticket contract.
- Salt River Second Show will be stopped in the event of rain, and if the performance cannot continue after an attempt of waiting out the rain, your ticket will be stamped as a rain check and can be redeemed for any performance of that show or The Stephen Foster Story through the following season.
- Concerts will go on rain or shine.
As we found out, the indoor location is the auditorium of the Bardstown High School a few miles away.
It had been raining for a while when we arrived with no immediate indication that the rain would let up. When we pulled up I asked the gentlemen directing traffic if the show would be relocated indoors and they indicated that it wouldn’t. We ran to the local Walgreens to pick up ponchos because Jeremy didn’t want to miss the show. We returned to the amphitheater and waited under the sheltered area to be seated. We waited for roughly 15 minutes when they announced the show was being relocated indoors and that the location was Bardstown High School. I was slightly irritated. Rain is beyond their control, but I felt a better rain contingency plan should be in place, considering it was showtime before the location change announcement was made.
They then kept us waiting in the hallway of the high school while the cast arrived and prepared for the show. I was frustrated and wet when we finally found our seats, and I honestly wanted to just get the show over with. The show has been performed since 1958, so rain wasn’t an unexpected visitor to their performances.
When the singing began I was immediately drawn into the ambiance of the 1800’s, and I was entranced in the music. The performers were wonderfully cast. I understand that this is the second season for the gentleman cast as Stephen Foster, and the woman cast as Jeanie Foster has several seasons under her belt. They sing/perform many Stephen Foster favorites including:
- “Camptown Races”
- “Oh, Susanna”
- “Beautiful Dreamer”
- “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”
- “My Old Kentucky Home”
Jeremy wanted to continually sing along, being a music major himself (who went on to earn a Ph.D in Public Administration), and I had to nudge him to stop singing several times. The choral performance of the show was otherwise lovely, and I’ll admit to singing along on occasion, too. I’m sure Gabe belted out a few lyrics throughout the show.
I hated that I missed the experience of the outdoor amphitheater (and better lighting for my photographs). Remember, you can photograph the show, but no flash photography. I’m hoping to make it back later in the summer when there’s a better chance of seeing the outdoor performance.
I otherwise highly recommend checking out a performance of The Stephen Foster Story rain or shine (just be prepared and check the weather). Stephen Foster is a notable American songwriter and even if you aren’t a native Kentuckian, I’m sure you’ll know at least a verse or two of his lyrics. The show is a great addition to a Bardstown, Kentucky, vacation or a day-trip for Kentucky residents.
Any of my readers visited Kentucky previously?