Filichia Features: A Powerful Lobby

Filichia Features: A Powerful Lobby

By Peter Filichia on October 10, 2019

What's the best way to get your audience in the mood for seeing the show you're producing?

The lobby display.

It's become a thing in recent years. Music Theatre Wichita, which dispenses "Jester" awards for high schools, doesn't just stop at "Best Production" or "Best Actress." There's an award for "Best Lobby Display."

Many high school drama competitions do, too. Even if you're not in an area with such a contest, a smart and colorful lobby display will be an asset to your production.

Pictures would have been a hardship in long-ago times. Now Google Images give you access to all you could possibly need.

Whatever pictures you use for your Les Misérables School Edition, mount them on triptychs. (That's the arty term for a screen made of three panels that are hinged together side by side.) Paint the left-hand ones blue, the middle ones white and the right-hand ones red - all to represent the French flag, which uses those three colors in vertical panels.

Legally Blonde: The Musical mostly takes place at Harvard Law, one of the nation's premiere Ivy League schools. So dot your molding that abuts your ceiling with ivy. (Artificial ivy will do!)

Then get pictures of illustrious Harvard Law School alumni, enlarge them and pepper your walls with them. Put a "Class of (fill-in-the-year)" banner underneath, noting when each was graduated. You can choose Barack and Michelle Obama, Ralph Nader, Mitt Romney, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Janet Reno, Elena Kagan or literally thousands of other distinguished graduates.

But between those luminaries, place pictures of your performers who play Elle Woods, Vivian Kensington, Warner Huntington III, Emmett Richmond and Professor Callahan. Identify the years of their graduations.

For Elle, Vivian and Warner, they'll be years in the future. But for the hapless Warner, put a question mark after his "Class of …?"

Make a large sign that quotes the first lines of one of Emily Dickinson's most famous poems: "We never know how high we are till we are called to rise." For that's what happens to Elle, who starts off as a bubblehead and winds up class valedictorian.

Roald Dahl's Matilda: The Musical stresses a young girl's love of reading. So here's a chance to have a used book sale in your lobby. Put a sign above the tables: Matilda loved these books!

(And make sure that the ones you sell would indeed be ones Matilda would read from cover to cover. Keep those Harlequin romances for the fireplace on a cold winter's night.)

For Newsies, make mock front pages of newspapers. Some could refer to what actually spurred this David-vs.-Goliath story on July 18, 1899 ("Newsboys Go on Strike") or mention the fictionalized hero of the musical ("Jack Kelly vs. Joseph Pulitzer"). Don't be above having some headlines trumpeting your own accomplishments ("Arlington High School Wins New England Drama Festival!")

Front pages of newspapers can help you in another way. Do the math and you'll see that Mamma Mia! is now 20 years old (and still running in London!). Do more math and you'll realize that if bride-to-be Sophie is now 20, she was born in 1999. If her mother Donna appeared with the Dynamos in the late '70s (when their songs "Dancing Queen" and "Chiquitita" were released), she had to have been at least 20 at the time. That means she was born in 1950 at the latest - which means she would have been 50 when giving birth to Sophie.

Well, such miracles have happened, but rarely. Thus you should remind your theatergoers before they even enter the house that Mamma Mia! takes place in 1999.

So make up those newspapers that squarely put them in that era: "George W. Bush Announces POTUS Run." "Prince Edward and Sophie Marry." "Y2K Scare Increasing." "Backstreet Boys Break Record for First Week Sales." "Pokemon Fever Grips US."

And in case those doesn't make clear the year to everyone, offer "Yankees win 1999 World Series."
For Little Shop of Horrors or The Toxic Avenger, fill your lobby with pictures from the cheesiest films that inspired or followed these musicals: Killer Clowns from Outer Space, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, The Blob, The Fly, The Bride of Frankenstein, Puppet Master - oh, you'll have no trouble finding such pictures from these films and hundreds of others.

Do a sensational enough lobby display so that when the time comes for your local competition, you won't even have to lobby for votes.

You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at . He can be heard most weeks of the year on

Follow the fun @mtishows on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter