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Molly The Trolley’s Dinner-Theatre Adventure

Thomas P. Caldwell - July 29, 2013

Molly the Trolley

Molly the Trolley

We always manage to have interesting adventures when we leave home. There was the rented Mexican Jeep that caught on fire when we visited the Riviera Maya. There was the encounter with a strange Peruvian illness that forced us to turn around and ride horseback down the mountain when we attempted to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It should not be a surprise, therefore, that an electrical storm with torrential rains should appear on a cloudless summer day when we had the opportunity to ride Molly the Trolley on a dinner-theatre excursion from Wolfeboro.

Since we’re optimistic sorts, those “calamities” only added to the fun and the storytelling potential of each experience. So it is with Molly the Trolley and the dinner at The Woodshed, followed by the play “Boeing Boeing” at the Barnstormers Theatre.

Let’s be clear from the beginning: The whole trolley-dinner-theatre experience was a delight. Riding the trolley with its fine wooden and brass appointments, dining at a restaurant with lovely gardens just outside the windows, and laughing at the superb and professionally staged play made for a wonderful evening’s entertainment. I don’t think any of the dinner-theatre participants felt any differently. The thunder and lightning at the end of the evening only made the experience more memorable.

We weren’t expecting any of that when we got up that Wednesday morning in mid-July. It was a normal day at work until we got a call from the front-line writer who had arranged the excursion — who happened to be my sister — saying she was feeling a little under the weather and she wondered if I might be willing to take her place that evening. She explained that she had reserved two slots on the trolley that leaves from the Kingswood Regional High School parking lot and takes the passengers to The Woodshed in Moultonborough for dinner and dessert before going on to The Barnstormers in Tamworth for the comedy play.

Now, some have suggested that I might have slipped a little salmonella into my sister’s food in order to take her place on the trolley but, truly, I had no idea she had planned to make that trip that day. It was just bad luck for her and a stroke of good luck for me.

Checking with my wife, who I knew already had other plans — helping a friend celebrate her 50th birthday — I got the okay to do the dinner-theatre bit; and she suggested that I take another of our friends, a former New Yorker who happened to be on vacation that week, knowing that she would enjoy the unexpected treat as much as I would. So I followed up with Patti and she was delighted to be able to join me. We set up our rendez-vous at the Kingswood parking lot which would be the trolley’s point of departure.

Now, not being that familiar with Kingswood, I only knew about the front parking lot which one sees from the street. Patti and I waited there, with one other car in the parking lot. We remarked that, with the day so hot, maybe the dinner-theatre excursion would not be as popular as it normally is. Then the other car left the parking lot, and we were the only ones waiting for the trolley.

Or so we thought. My cell phone rang and it was my sister, telling me that she’d just received a call from Kathy Eaton who, with her husband, Dick, operates the Wolfeboro Trolley Company. They said we weren’t at the stop and they would have to get underway without us.

As my sister told me this, I saw the trolley come around the other side of the high school building. We were in the wrong parking lot; the trolley pick-up spot was in the back parking lot, accessed by way of the Kingswood Arts Center.

“Gotta go!” I said, flipping my phone closed and running for the street, waving my arms to flag down our ride.

Fortunately for us, the driver and passengers saw the wild man with his arms in the air and the trolley pulled over to let Patti and myself aboard.

Our concerns about the weather affecting attendance were unfounded. The trolley was nearly full and Patti and I made our way to the wooden bench at the back of the trolley, carrying the cushions our driver handed us to make the seating a little more comfortable. Truly, the cushions were not necessary, as the wooden seats are quite comfortable without padding; however, they would prove to be welcome when the trolley navigated some of the twists and turns of the roadways, with the occasional bumps they would produce.

The temperature that day had soared into the 90s, so the breeze from the open sides of the trolley provided some welcome relief. The ladies made jokes about what the breeze was doing to their hair, but no one minded in the least.

Our journey to The Woodshed took us past some beautiful lake views, forest greenery, and country scenes, lulling us with the beauty of the changing landscape and the sense that we were traveling in another time period. While speakers provided background music from other eras — and an opportunity for the driver to make announcements — the trip felt like a 19th century excursion, aided by the oak seats, etched glass, and brass hardware around us.

Posters on the trolley introduce riders to area businesses, many of which offer discounts to those with trolley tickets. A rolled side curtain stands ready to pull down in the event of inclement weather — a feature we were to learn more about later that evening.

The journey was thrilling and, for the most part, smooth, with the exception of those occasional bumps, and in no time at all we found ourselves at The Woodshed where we were ushered into a cozy room overlooking the gardens, decorated with skis and college banners. (We were happy to see a Dartmouth banner near our table.)

The meal began with a mixed-green salad with cheddar cheese, scallions, and a house vinaigrette dressing. A unique offering was warm bread baked in a clay flower pot.

Diners had a choice of entrées: slow-roased prime rib au jus; seafood casserole with lobster sherry cream; Statler chicken breast with lemon thyme au jus; or a vegetarian option; each served with baked potato and vegetable.

To complete the meal, The Woodshed served a mini ice cream puff sundae with hot fudge and whipped cream, with options for coffee or tea.

With the hour rapidly passing, we boarded the trolley again in order to complete the trip to The Barnstormers by curtain time, with the passengers comparing the entrées and commenting on how good everything on the menu was. It was clear that everyone was quite pleased with the meal, whatever choice had been made.

With full stomachs and contented conversation, the scenery slipped by without anyone taking much notice and, suddenly, there we were in downtown Tamworth, disembarking in front of the Barnstormers Theatre.

After picking up our waiting tickets at the box office, we entered the theatre itself, with the marquees of various performances along the walls. The designs were exceptional, making each marquee a work of art. We later learned that the marquees for each of this year’s performances are available by silent auction, with opening bids of $200. We could see how someone would want to own one of the marvelous works of art, both on its own merits and as a memento of a play one has seen.

As we waited in the comfortable seats, we didn’t know what to expect from Marc Camoletti’s “Boeing Boeing” which had been a hit in the 1960s and was the basis for a film starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. When the action got underway, however, the play proved to be timeless and capable of producing belly laughs, particularly from Ryan Malyar as Robert Lambert, the old friend who shows up at Bernard’s (Paul Melendy) Paris apartment to discover that Bernard had a well-scheduled plan to juggle relationships with three “fiancées” who were stewardesses on different airlines. Robert’s timing could not have better, though, for the newer and faster Boeings were causing scheduling changes that brought all  three fiancées to town at the same time, and he was needed to help distract each of them in turn.

It was in the middle of the play that the lights flickered and almost died, followed by the distant sound of thunder. At first, we wondered if it was theatrical thunder, for the acoustics of the theatre muffled outside noise; but during intermission we saw that, indeed, the sky was ablaze with flickering lights and rain was steadily falling.

After the show, with the laughter still in the air, we all stood on the porch, watching the rain and the lightning while our driver went to bring the trolley around. The open-air car had become quite wet and had to be toweled dry, while the clear plastic side-windows were lowered to keep the rain from furthering dampening the seats. With the flashes of lightning still flickering in the sky, we boarded Molly and the driver hastened to get us back to the Kingswood parking lot before the rain, which was moderating, had a chance to come down harder again.

The rain, thunder, and lightning made for an exciting conclusion to our dinner-theatre trip, but no one seemed to really mind. It had been a fantastic evening, with good food and entertainment, and a little rain could not spoil all that. 

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