This is no run of the mill 4th of July celebration. The city’s 8th Annual Prelude to the Fourth combines theatrical performances with orchestrated music in celebration of July 4th.
“We started this event in 2005 with the Gwinnett Philharmonic at the time,” said Jay Markwalter, Executive Director Lawrenceville Tourism & Trade Association, “the approached us (LTTA) when they were moving from Duluth to Lawrenceville that they would like to do a July 2nd event, because the county was doing a July 4th event. We thought the Aurora Theatre would be a great production with an orchestra to hold an event on the 3rd(of July). So we partnered with the Aurora on July 3rd of 2006.”
Markwalter said this event is one of eleven annual events that LTTA does as the Destination Marketing Organization for the city.
“Beauty and the Beast” was this year’s performance; directed by Freddie Ashley, with Anthony Rodriquez as Music Director and Conductor. It featured 20 professional actors, performing without costumes, props or a decorated theatre stage, singing songs from the ever popular and family friendly, production. Through their words and gestures and set against musical backdrops, the actors brought familiar characters that included Belle, the Beast, Gaston and Chip, to life in songs.
“Attending this event gives our audience an extra holiday. They get to see, free of charge, a full length musical concert under the stars, right here in downtown Lawrenceville,” said Al Stilo, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Aurora Theatre.
Among the crowd at the event was Leann Malone who had originally wanted to take her husband to dinner in a downtown restaurant on the square to celebrate his 50th birthday on the 6th, but after reading about this event on Lawrenceville Patch, decided to attend this musical instead.
“We got two tables for our 12 guests and got food from the,” said Malone. “This is the first time coming to this event. I love the fact that we are out here with families and the show is just delightful.”
Seated at Malone’s tables were the couple’s three children, her parents and close friends. Malone said that they have not gone to the Aurora to see any productions, but that they will now after seeing this performance.
Previous productions for this July 3rd event have included “The Music Man”, “Oklahoma”, “Anything Goes” and “Crazy for You." Last year’s production, the “Wizard of Oz," according to Markwalter was a huge hit.
“It is a unique event for Lawrenceville, because you can either come out for free with the family with lawn chairs and blankets; or rent a table (for six for $125) in the rental area,” said Markwalter. “It offers dramatic script reading, with a big orchestra and we also have low level indoor fireworks, like those found in an arena; which allows us to use them downtown.”
The fireworks were set off during the event’s grand finale as patriotic music, namely “Stars and Stripes Forever”, was played. The Morsberger Group provided the downtown lot from which the fireworks were launched.
Grace and Robert Cain have been attending the Prelude event since it started eight years ago. Grace said she loves seeing the Aurora productions and this one in particular because it is so much fun. And adding the fireworks makes it even better and of course different from the other theatre offerings.
Event first timers Gwen Franklin and her nine year old daughter Autumn, after getting pizza from , joined the crowd of an estimated 4,000 concert goers.
“We have never been in historic Lawrenceville,” said Franklin a one year resident. “I did not want to drive into Atlanta so I got on Gwinnett.com and from the list of five or six events; we chose this one because it is closer to home.”