March 20, 2015

Dinner theater coming to Touch of Nature

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Gathering Place Off Broadway, a unique dinner theater, is coming to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. 

Often billed as “A little slice of Branson in Southern Illinois,” the dinner theater is relocating from Sparta to the Friends Room at Touch of Nature. The Gathering Place Off Broadway combines catered dinners and beverages with family entertainment in a relaxed, scenic atmosphere. A variety of music, comedy and dramatic shows are planned. Touch of Nature is about eight miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road. 

The inaugural show on Friday, April 17, features The Lucky Old Sons. The St. Louis group performs fast-paced 50’s and 60’s rock and country music inspired by the piano-heavy music of Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles. The group also writes and records original tunes. 

The doors open at 6 p.m., with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show at 7:30 p.m. Admission is by purchase of advance tickets only. The price is $40 for general admission and $55 for VIP seating. General admission tickets cover the show and dinner while VIP seating also includes special seating, a dedicated wait staff, a special desert and all beverages (including alcoholic drinks). 

Upcoming events at The Gathering Place Off Broadway include: 

  • April 24 and Nov. 7 -- Kenny Evans’ “Golden Oldies Show.” Evans has toured with performers including Kenny Chesney and Charlie Daniels, and performs regularly at the Country Tonight Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  • May 9 -- “Blend Presents…A Musical Tribute to the Statler Brothers,” a tribute by the popular a capella group, Blend, to the Statler Brothers.
  • July 3 -- Monty Jackson Presents “God and Country,” An Independence Day Tribute.  The contemporary Christian recording artist and three-time Angel Award winner will perform a variety of patriotic, inspirational and gospel selections.
  • Aug. 8 -- Sunday Drive Variety Show features clean family comedy and fun along with music from the 50’s through the 70’s, taking the audience on a trip down memory lane during matinee and evening shows.
  • Sept. 11 -- “A Salute to the Heroes of 9/11 Concert” presented by Bill Forness, Johnny Cash tribute artist, and Brittany Sheffer, June Carter tribute performer, along with the One More Round Trio.  The show incorporates iconic Cash tunes.
  • Nov. 28 -- Matt Walch – Singing the Big Band Standards. Walch, a multiple-time winner of Top Gigmaters’ Big Band Singer Award, has performed with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and opened for the Glenn Miller Orchestra. He will perform music made famous by legends including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis and others.
  • Dec. 12 -- Blend’s “A Doo-Wop Christmas.”  The a capella group will perform traditional Christmas songs, along with 50’s and 60’s music interspersed with comedy and hilarity. 
  • Dec. 19 -- The Lucky Old Sons Christmas Show. The event will feature piano-laden 50’s rock and roll, harmonies, special arrangements of classic songs and more.

For each performance, the doors open at 6 p.m. with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show at 7:30 p.m. The only exception is the Aug. 9 Sunday Drive Variety Show matinee performance is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Likewise, the cost for general admission tickets is $40 while tickets are $55 for VIP seating, except for the Aug. 9 matinee which costs $20 for the show only (no meal). 

Tickets are available only in advance. For tickets or more information, call 618/967-9338 or visit