Fanny Hill: Show Stopper

theater at iconic Fanny Hill to conclude in six months

Trevor Kupfer, photos by Marisa Wojcik

FANNY HILL’S FINAL CURTAIN CALL. Fanny Hill’s current production, I Do, I Do, may unfortunately be one of the dinner theater’s last.

Patrick Thomas O’Brien started the theatrical performances at Fanny Hill as a student more than 30 years ago. Shortly thereafter he handed the torch to Don and Lois Hodgins, who have run them ever since, while he became better known as Mr. Dewey on Saved by the Bell and appeared in films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. During the past three decades dozens of other actors have gotten their start at Fanny Hill, paving the way for more success stories. Take Laila Robins, who went on to Broadway (succeeding Glenn Close, in one role), TV (The Sopranos), and film (The Good Shepherd) after acting at the dinner theater as a student.

But with the recent news that Fanny Hill’s ownership plans to discontinue its theater operation after this year, talented locals and theatergoers must cope with the loss of this entertainment landmark.

“It’s hard for me to put into words because it has been the better part of my life out there,” said Michael Cook, who started at Fanny Hill with stage duties and has since acted in dozens of its shows. “I’m coming up on 32 years. It’s a huge loss for me and the community. It’s professional-quality theater, and so many people have come through and went on to do big things. … This is a stepping stone we’ll no longer have.”

Since 1978, Fanny Hill has presented about 165 shows and more than 7,000 performances. But in press releases and news stories that broke on July 27, owner Dennis Heyde cited low attendance in recent years and a poor economy as deciding factors in discontinuing the theater.

“Everyone goes through cycles, especially theaters,” Don Hodgins said. “Even the Chanhassen in the Twin Cities is having problems, and that’s one of the biggest in nation, so when they’re having ‘Buy One Get One’ deals, you know there’s trouble.”