Long-time friends look forward to returning to Overture for “Girls’ Night Out”

Deb Arnold with friends

“We count on Overture shows to reconnect.”


Dinner downtown followed by a Broadway show at Overture Center―”Girls’ Night Out” can’t get any better, according to Deb Arnold of Evansville.

Arnold and five teacher friends from the Evansville Community School District have attended Broadway at Overture performances together for 20 years. Along with Arnold, the “Overture gals” include Julie Creek-Hessler of Evansville, Michelle Klopp of Evansville, Becky Ludeman of Whitewater, Jo Marie Oakeson of Evansville, and Cheryl Thomas of Oakland, Tenn.

The six teachers became friends while teaching together at Levi Leonard Elementary School. The elementary school consisted of grades K-5, but when grades 3-5 were moved to Theodore Robinson Intermediate School, the friends didn’t get to see each other daily anymore.

Creek-Hessler had a couple of Broadway season tickets and asked if the others wanted to join her. Soon Creek-Hessler was organizing season tickets for all six women. The friends became known as “Julie’s Group” at the ticket office.

“Broadway shows were held at the Civic Center when we started,” said Arnold. “We used to fill out the paper forms and write checks to Julie.”

Six times a year, the women meet downtown, treating themselves to dinner at favorite a restaurant, such as Cooper’s Tavern, the former Gino’s, Casa de Lara, Noodles or Tutto Pasta State Street. On their way to Overture, they always stop at Kilwins, the candy store across the street from Overture, before heading to the show.

“On Friday nights, teachers are tired, but we were always pumped to go to Overture,” said Arnold.

All but Klopp have since retired, but the tradition continues. Ludeman makes the trek into Madison from Whitewater, and Thomas travels in from Oakland, Tenn., where she relocated a few years ago.

“We really look forward to it,” said Arnold. “It is a way to see each other and stay connected.”

Their all-time favorite Broadway show was Mamma Mia, the perfect show for a group of long-time female friends to see together. They also loved Wicked, Lion King and Les Misèrables. A couple members of the group participated in community theater and enjoy seeing shows they performed in, such as The Music Man, Oklahoma! and The King & I.

“Going to a Broadway show at Overture is such a treat! It gives us an opportunity to be with adults, act like adults and escape into the world of music and dance for a few hours,” said Arnold. “I admit that sometimes we sing along. We haven’t gone so far as dance!”

When Broadway returns to Overture in November, the sextet will be in their front-row Upper Orchestra seats for Fiddler on the Roof.

“Cheryl is flying in from Nashville,” said Arnold. “We’ll do our same routine: dinner, candy shop and show.”

The women agree that Overture makes them feel cultured and sophisticated, and it binds them together.

“Overture means a lot to us. When our kids were young, these nights out were the only time we had to get away. As we’ve grown older, we remain good friends but don’t get to see each other often. We count on Overture shows to reconnect,” said Arnold. “We miss the Overture experience and can’t wait to return. We love Overture!”

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