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Realityland's David Koenig

Knott's Bird Cage Is Back. Sort Of.

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
Looks like I can finally tone down the hissing that slips out every time I dejectedly walk past Knott's Berry Farm's long-shuttered Bird Cage Theater.

I just received word that the All American Melodrama Theater & Music Hall at Shoreline Village in Long Beach, Ca., is reviving two productions from Knott's Berry Farm's Bird Cage Theater, with the blessings of Knott's.

The theater has actually been doing these and similar melodramas for nearly a year, but recently received permission to use the Bird Cage's old sets and props, and bill the show as "Knott's Preserved." The first official shows were this past weekend.

Details are in the news release below:

Knott’s Bird Cage theater melodrama shows will make a return, only this time they will not be presented within the world famous theme park. These classic shows will receive new life at the newly opened “All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall,” in Long Beach’s Shoreline Village.

The show entitled “Knott’s Preserved” will feature two classic melodrama plays and vaudeville, comedy revue from the famous Southern California attraction.

The Long Beach Theater Company began operation in June 2008 under the ownership and artistic direction of Ken Parks, who worked for years with Knott's Bird Cage.

"The Bird Cage was one of my favorite acting gigs," says Parks.
He has fond memories of going to the theater as a child. "As a kid, my siblings and I would play Bird Cage Theater on my grandmother’s back porch and I would always play the villains. After all, they always have all the best lines."

The Bird Cage, he adds, introduced him to, and fostered his lifelong affection for, the melodrama genre.

"It's an art form where the audience is always involved," he says. "I really enjoy the constant interactivity of these shows.

Built at Knott’s Ghost Town in 1954, The Bird Cage Theater is a replica of the historical venue located in Tombstone Arizona and still holds the distinction of being the longest continually operating melodrama in the world. The melodrama theater launched many acting careers, including that of comedian Steve Martin. The theater was closed in 1997, due to budget constraints, though it is still used for special shows at Halloween and Christmas.

Parks worked those shows every year, but he still mourned the passing of his beloved theater and the melodrama genre. Then last year, melodramas got another chance at Shoreline Village when the All American Melodrama Theatre and Music Hall was born. A 14-year veteran of Knott’s Berry Farm, he is happy to help provide a new home for the art form. “It was a sad day for all of us, including countless fans, when The Bird Cage closed its doors in 1997 after a 43-year run. I am very excited to be reviving this wonderful home-spun entertainment for Southern California audiences. We were even able to acquire a number of props, signs and backdrops from the old theater, which gives us a nice connection to a long-standing tradition, with perhaps a little more emphasis on comedy and song.”

The evening’s entertainment includes the shows “Wreck of The Blue Bell Express” and “Cloak of Evil” and are staffed with actors who are veterans of melodrama and, in many cases, of the Bird Cage. Both shows have not been seen by audiences in over a decade.

Parks opened his venue with a production of "The Drunkard” which is the show that was the inspiration for the theme park’s theater. “As a company, we have always wanted to bring these wonderful shows to a new audience”, says Parks. “When I called the Entertainment staff at Knott’s and explained my idea, they were thrilled. They have been so helpful and supportive of our venture.”

The All American Melodrama theater is located in the downtown Long Beach waterfront’s Shoreline Village and from the minute one approaches the mint green, barn-like structure it’s clear that this is the place for an innocent good time. Large cartoon-like faces, reminiscent of Snidely Whiplash and Dudley Do-right, grin down at the passers-by. Peeking in through the front doors one finds a brightly colored, Victorian-era Music Hall, complete with a mounted moose head, placidly surveying the audience. Once inside, the theater is cozy and intimate, seating under 100 people, so that all seats are up close to the action, making it even more inviting to boo, hiss and cheer the characters in the play.

"Our venue is about good, clean, affordable, family entertainment." Parks says. "Audience members are finding us and realizing there's nothing like it. ... As far as I know, we're one of three in the state. We're not just unique to the area, but unique to everywhere." “And what could be more All-American than sitting down at a checkered tablecloth with a hot dog and popcorn to watch a great comedy melodrama where Good always triumphs over Evil?”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through May 3.

Where: The All American Melodrama Theatre and Music Hall, 429 Shoreline Village Drive, Long Beach.

Tickets: $20, $18 students and seniors, $14 children.

Information: (562) 495-5900,

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  1. spectromen's Avatar
    Awesome. I didn't realize the Birdcage was even closed most of the year since I always see it open during the Christmas Crafts Festival.