The Tent and Grounds

 

          Menu
Home
"Sinjin" Terrell
Musicals & Plays
The Stars
Stars in the Making
Leading Roles
Supporting Casts
Concerts
Back Stage
The Tent and Grounds
Stories and Tales
Press Coverage
Facts and Trivia
Forum
Acknowledgements

Theater in the Round
The in-the-round format dates to the outdoor arenas of the ancient Greeks, but in American musical theater, it became popular soon after 1949, when St. John Terrell erected a circus-style tent -- with one ring rather than three -- in Lambertville, N.J. He staged popular operettas and musicals, and the actors walked through the aisles, interacting with the audience. It made for a unique musical-comedy experience that quickly caught on, and similar theaters, called "music circuses," sprang up around the country.
Source: http://www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/living/6932066.htm

Read Mort Mather's description of raising the tent.

Once Terrell had moved his theater operation in 1962 to its new location on old US Route 202 between Lambertville and Ringoes, he had much more land and space to grow. He used that land to install a magnificent Dentzel Carousel and build the Barnum Restaurant.


View Map of the Two Music Circus Locations

Click on images below to see larger versions.

The Tent on Music Mountain (1949-1961)
Inside the Tent The tent had 1,800 regular seats, but in the early days, often up to 250 additional folding chairs were added to accommodate standing room only crowds.
Color Photo of the Tent on Music Mountain
Tent on Music Mountain
Inside the Lambertville Music Circus, from the "Bucks County Traveler", July, 1958. Courtesy of James A. Michener Art Museum archives. Music Circus general office and box office (l), Will-Call window and office shared by Terrell and General Manager (r), and the solid colored tent on the original site above Lambertville on Music Mountain.
Black and White Photo Source: Lambertville Beacon. Year: 1950. Photographer: unknown.
Color Photo provided by Ken Scheetz
Inside the Tent in 1949 The layout plan for the Lambertville Music Circus with elevations of stage and pit.
Inside the tent in 1949, the first season. Notice that there are quarter poles rising from the audience, and there is no "light ring" above the stage for lighting as there would be in following years. Terrell hated the quarter poles that obstructed views and came up with the idea of having them radiate from just two center poles at a level above the audience's sight lines. It was a wonderful innovation, and he may have patented it.

The light ring and the equipment provided by the Color Lighting Corp. were also a very important Terrell innovation. The principal light fixtures (technically known as borders) over the entire stage area had bulbs of just four colors: red, straw, blue, and green with their relative intensities were controlled by novel dimmers such that a 360 revolution of a dimmer knob would produce, sequentially, the complete spectrum.

Source: Tom Billings
Photo Source: Music Circus Program.
Courtesy: Ken Sheetz
Image ID: 23332
Title: Lambertville Music Circus
Description: The layout plan for the Lambertville Music Circus with elevations of stage and pit.
Creation Date: 1951
Creator Name: Bohren, Frank W.
City, State: Lambertville, New Jersey
Collection Name: St. John Terrell's Papers
Genre: Drawings
http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/whi/fullRecord.asp?id=23332

Three 1950 photos of the tent from the photo album of Frances Faulkner.
Music Circus Tent - 1950. Courtesy: Frances Faulkner Music Circus Tent - 1950. Courtesy: Frances Faulkner Music Circus Tent - 1950. Courtesy: Frances Faulkner
Click on image to view a larger version.
The Ticket Wagon (Box Office) in 1950 Inside the Tent in 1966
The Ticket Wagon (Box Office) with the new striped tent in the background in 1951.
Source: Music Circus Program.
Courtesy: Ken Sheetz
Inside the Tent as it is being set up for the 1966 season. The light ring superstructure is sitting on the stage. Notice the dark spot, just beyond the center of the stage. That is a tunnel that leads from the backstage dressing room area, under the audience, to the stage. One of Mr. Terrell's many innovations. The light booth is behind the seats at the top to the right of center.


The New Tent on Route 202 (now Route 179) 1962-1970
New Tent on US Route 202 erected in 1962
New Tent on US Route 202 (now Route 179) erected in 1962 had a house of 2,200 seats. The A Frame building served as the General Manager's Office. A Refreshment stand is seen to the right. The Box Office is out of view to the right of the Tent. The little guard houses were used to collect parking fees.
Source: Photo provided by Ken Scheetz
Night photo of the New Tent with the Carousel
Night photo of the New Tent with the Carousel to the right. (No larger version available.)
Source: Photo provided by Ken Scheetz
Tent and Concession Stand, September 1968   Tent and Box Office, September 1968.   Tent and Main Office, September 1968.
1. Tent and Concession Stand, September 1968.
2. Tent and Box Office, September 1968.
3. Tent and Main Office, September 1968.
(Click on photos to view larger version.)
Source: Photos provided by Bob Scheetz


The Carousel
The Dentzel Carousel
The Dentzel Carousel in its first year on the Music Circus grounds. (No larger version available.)
Source: Music Circus Program. Courtesy: Ken Scheetz

Cover of 'The Merry-Go-Round' by Frederick Fried
In 1963, Frederick Fried wrote a pamphlet for St. John Terrell's Music Circus about the history of the carousel, based on Fried's book "The Pictorial History of the Carousel".
Courtesy: Ken Scheetz
Carousel horse for sale FOR SALE
"Vintage old hand carved carousel horse. Not sure of the carver. Once used at the famous St. Johns Terrels Music Circus in Lambertville, New Jersey. Mostly original park paint. Some paint restoration to head and body. $2500."
Source: http://obnoxiousantiques.com/gallery/albums.php?&set_albumListPage=9
(No larger version available.)


The Barnum Restaurant
Flier - advertising Barnum Spring Schedule
A flier printed to advertise the Spring Schedule at the Barnum Restaurant.
Year: unknown.
Courtesy: Ken Scheetz
The Barnum Restaurant, that was to later become "The Yellow Brick Toad" restaurant, opened in 1964 as the "Royal Roost" pavilion and served fried-chicken dinners to hungry theater-goers.

Barnum Restaurant - September 1968
   Barnum Restaurant - September 1968.
Photo Courtesy of Bob Scheetz



Copyright ©2005 - - Jon Case           About Jon Case           Contact Jon Case