so we don't know which retailers you get to shop with the online option removed.
The least expensive camcorder, of which I am aware, with a mic jack is the Canon HF R500 (discontinued) or the HF R600 (the R500's replacement). A shotgun mic like the affordable Audio Technica ATR6550 may help - we don't know where, in the audience, you'll be.
Use of a tripod is *strongly* suggested.
If you get an external mic and need it mounted to the camcorder (and the camcorder has no accessory shoe, just add one
I know you can't do online - just using this as an example of what you'll need in the way of a camera bracket - yes, there should be a 14" x 20 hole in the bottom of the mounting screw so after you attach it to the camcorder's tripod mount, you mount everything to the tripod.
My son has his first lead role in a high school play and I want to get the best audio and video I can afford. I have a Sony Webbie (I think, Sony for sure, purple skin) that I bought about 4 years ago. I used it last spring and it had issues with light changes on the stage, losing focus on primary character. The audio was only so-so. It was the first time I had tried it in a dark environment. Seemed really good for outdoor sports or well lit rooms.
This time I want to be able to hear what my son says so I'm guessing a directional mic addition. However, could I do much better with a new camera and stay under $500? No time to order it online for delivery. Need to walk into a store and walk out to start my cameraman role.