Indianapolis WISH TV: Mellencamp Concert Stimulates Theatre

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) - A rock and roll legend is returning to the place where it all began in Indiana in order to help a local landmark. John Mellencamp is holding a private concert in Columbus.

The concert is part of an A&E television series called "Back Where We Started." A crew will film the show Tuesday night at Crump Theatre. But before the camera starts recording the theatre needed a little TLC.

Mellencamp wasn't much older than the students that go to Columbus North High School when he took the stage at Crump Theatre on October 4, 1976. The school's choir is wearing shirts say "I sing in a small town". The kids in the choir were thrilled to find out that they are Mellencamp's opening act.

"I left the choir room as soon as we found out and told just about everyone we could find in the hall including my mom and dad," said 17-year-old Grace Smith.

"When I told my mom she totally flipped out. We are Columbus natives and we knew all about him. He's a down to earth guy and means a lot to the community," said Robert Coatsmith, 15.

Coatsmith's mom came to the theatre to watch the group rehearse.

"I think I was a little more excited than he was," she said.

Crump Theatre has a rich history dating back to the 1870's hosting musical and theatrical acts and cinema. The wear and tear is noticeable and over the years. Improvements have been made with limited funding. But with A&E filming and Mellencamp back on stage, improvements kicked into high gear.

The Columbus Capital Foundation has worked to bring the building up to code structurally and spruce it up with the community's support.

"With the Mellencamp concert has been sort of a catalyst for re-invigorating a lot of the people in the community," said Hutch Schumaker of the Columbus Capital Foundation. "They were demolishing an old junior high school and gave us the fire escape."

Schumaker said the sheriff's department even arranged for them to have prisoners on work release come and work on the building.

With a little imagination and lights dimmed low one could even possibly be transported back to 1976.

Only about 600 people will be able to see the concert but ticket sales still raised $42,000 for United Way flood relief. But back in 1976 it only cost $2 to see Mellencamp's show.
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