“Everybody thinks I’ve accomplished so much,” Bambi Johnson said. “They say, ‘Wow you did that, and wow you did that?’ And it’s like no, I’m just old. I’ve been around a long time. That’s what I attribute it all to.”
That’s not quite fair. After all, from age 19 to 26, Johnson worked as a cheerleader for the Baltimore Colts, and did so up until 1984, when the team left for Indianapolis on a bus in the middle of a March night — “I was devastated,” she said.
The Baltimore county native went on to own and manage a successful dance and cheer studio that produced a number of nationally competitive teams, and that dance experience has carried over to her strengths in theater.
She choreographed and directed Milburn Stone’s run of “The Little Mermaid” in April, for instance, which broke the company’s ticket sales records.
“I’m like a huge multi-tasker, but each one feeds the other,” she said.
Johnson has been a full-time employee with the theater since it put on “The Sound of Music” in 2011, when she was hired on as the general manager.
And so far in her new position, she seems to be doing well.
“It’s been a seamless transition,” said production manager Dann Combs. “There’s a better sense of what the theater’s goals are now with Bambi.” Bambi Johnson works at her desk on the Cecil College campus Wednesday afternoon. She’s made it a goal of her tenure to further integrate Milburn Stone Theatre with the college and the community at large.
During an interview in her office on Wednesday, she appeared energetic and, if not exactly content, at least happy in her recent progress. She called Milburn Stone’s upcoming production of the musical “Cats,” which opens around Thanksgiving, “a dream” to direct and choreograph. She’s seen it on Broadway more than five times.
Now, because of the gains made by Lewis, the theater is in a better position than it probably ever has been. Johnson wants to keep it moving in the same direction, with an added focus on community involvement. In summer 2017, for instance, they’ll invite kids from Cecil College camps inside the theater to learn about and play with the equipment.
If it’s up to her, Johnson said, she’d like to stay at the theater until her retirement. Her husband thinks she will.
“She’s where she wants to be, she’s where she needs to be,” Eyvo Johnson said. “I don’t think she’s going anywhere.”