The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Summer Theater
ZEALnyc, June 23, 2017
The phrase “summer theater” conjures up images of everything from small converted barns and non-typical performing spaces showcasing the talents of youthful, up-and-coming performers, all the way to prestigious, highly-regarded festivals bringing together high-profile star-dotted casts and directors; thereby enabling us to while away the lazy days of summer in bucolic settings. There are numerous theaters that come to life after a multi-month hibernation, so we’ve asked a few of our writers to chime in with a select list of picks for your consideration. So go forth and have a lovely weekend out of town, and be sure to catch a show!
Jil Picariello, Theater Editor
I’m not a fan of car trips. So if something is going to get me to sit in a car for several hours, it better be good. This summer, I would take the trip to the Williamstown Theatre Festival (three hours from midtown Manhattan via the beautiful Taconic Parkway).
First, I’d see The Roommate, a new comedy by Jen Silverman about a single empty-nester who takes on a roommate. The empty-nester is played by S. Epatha Merkerson and the disruptive roomie is Jane Kaczmarek. According to the folks at Williamstown, the play “celebrates unexpected re-invention later in life.” I am so down with that. (June 27-July 16).
I’m even more down with a revival of Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, a 2005 Pulitzer finalist directed by newly minted Tony winner Rebecca Taichman (Indecent). It stars Tony nominees Jayne Atkinson and Jessica Hecht. I am a huge fan of Ruhl’s work (Passion Play, In the Next Room, How to Transcend a Happy Marriage) and I’ve never seen The Clean House, so let me pack my bag. (July 19-July 29).
For tickets and more information on Williamstown click here.
I’d also hit the road for the Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (also about three hours on that gorgeous Taconic), which is presenting two of my favorite musicals this summer, along with a Stephen Karam that I’ve never seen.
There’s Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s lushly beautiful musical Ragtime (June 21-July 15), Stephen Sondheim’s incomparable Company (August 10-September 2), and a revival of Speech and Debate (July 13-29) by Stephen Karam (last year’s Tony winner for best play The Humans). The film of Speech and Debate will open in August and I’d like to see the stage version first, so bring the car around.
For tickets and more info on Barrington Stage click here.
Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer
Every summer, I look forward to checking out the productions at the Goodspeed Opera House, which is situated along the Connecticut River in East Haddam, Connecticut. It’s far enough away to feel like a mini-vacation, but close enough to New York City not to require major travel. Goodspeed is known for its highly professional, award-winning musical productions – both restagings and originals. (Man of La Mancha, Shenandoah, and Annie originated here.)
This season, musical theater fans can see Thoroughly Modern Millie (now through July 2) and Oklahoma! (July 14—September 23), featuring the original choreography by Agnes de Mille. And, if you like to be first in the know, there will be two original musicals playing in their smaller venue, the Terris Theatre: Deathless (now through July 2) and Darling Grenadine (August 18—September 17).
For more information about Goodspeed, the shows, tickets, and how to get there, click here.
Christopher Caggiano, Contributing Writer
If you’re headed to the Berkshires sometime in August, you might want to head over to Pittsfield, MA to catch Company at the Barrington Stage. Company is undoubtedly one of composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s strongest and most challenging works. Yes, there are lots of opportunities to see Company elsewhere, and there are even two versions that are commercially available on video starring Raul Esparza and Neil Patrick Harris. But the Barrington Stage is a bit of a destination in itself, as they’re one of the strongest regional theaters we have in this country. And the real draw of this Company is stage, film, and TV star Aaron Tveit in the lead role of Bobby. Tveit has been a hot commodity since his breakthrough Broadway performance as Gabe in Next to Normal, followed by his star turn in Catch Me If You Can. Tveit seems a terrific choice for Bobby, with his powerful voice, stunning good looks, and charming stage persona. The production runs from August 10—September 2, and is directed by JuliAnne Boyd and choreographed by Jeffrey Page.
For tickets and more information on Barrington Stage click here.
Theater fans who find themselves in Boston this August have the option of crossing the Charles River over to Oberon in Cambridge to check out Burn All Night at the American Repertory Theater. The new musical has book and lyrics by Andy Mientus, admirable stage performer whose Broadway shows include the recent revivals of Les Miserables and Spring Awakening. The music comes from Van Hughes, Nick LaGrasta, and Brett Moses, members of the synth-pop band Teen Commandments. The story concerns four young people involved in the Manhattan club scene, and from the press descriptions sounds like a raw, gritty look at what it’s like to be young in an age of global uncertainty. Shows at the A.R.T.’s Oberon tend to be immersive, often with performers mingling among audience members as the show takes place throughout the club-like auditorium. Burn All Night will be directed by Jenny Koons, and choreographed by Sam Pinkleton, a Tony nominee for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. The production will play from August 18—September 8.
For tickets and more information on A.R.T. click here.
Dan Bacalzo, Contributing Writer
If you’re looking to stay closer to home, there will be three musical workshop presentations highlighting Vassar and New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater season in Poughkeepsie. Tony Award winner Lisa Kron (Fun Home) collaborates with composer Peter Lerman on Stilyagi (June 23-25), a musical adaptation of the motion picture The Hipsters, set in 1950s Moscow. Michael Mayer directs. Stephen Trask (of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame) joins with Peter Yanowitz and Rick Elice for This Ain’t No Disco (June 30-July 2), exploring the night life scene of 1979 New York City. Lynn Nottage (who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Sweat) joins with Tony and Grammy winner Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) for The Secret Life of Bees (July 27-29). This adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel is set in 1964 South Carolina, and directed by Sam Gold. In addition, a number of high-profile actors – including Craig Bierko, Jessica Hecht, Carol Kane, Marc Kudisch, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Lily Rabe – will perform in the Powerhouse’s first Readings Festival, June 24 and 25.
For more information on the Powerhouse Theater’s scheduled activities click here.
Don Adkins, Managing Editor
I have to admit that I am a total pushover for summer stock. From little out-of-the-way venues in converted spaces with folding chairs, to large amphitheaters holding thousands, all the way to indoor air-conditioned theaters that may operate year-round, but capitalize on the laid-back nature of summer to influence their programming. While New Yorkers may have fewer options in our own backyard, here are a couple of companies that you may want to consider.
Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, Long Island, has a long and storied history, starting out as a training ground for potential Hollywood performers in the early 50s, the theater has been producing shows during the summer for close to 70 years. Drawing from titles recently seen on Broadway, to old chestnuts of musical theater, Gateway continues to deliver consistent professional productions, often featuring celebrity performers. The theater maintains a loyal fan base, so tickets for weekend performances are in high demand. This summer started off with a production of Swing, featuring performers from the hit TV show Dancing with the Stars (closing June 24), and continues with Nick Adams in the Bernstein classic On the Town (June 28-July 15), followed by Mamma Mia (July 19-August 5) featuring Patrick Cassidy.
The theater hosts productions in two different theaters (one in Bellport; one in Patchogue), so be sure you know which theater your selected show is playing. For more information on tickets and getting to the theaters click here.
You may know Cape May, New Jersey for the charming Victoria seaside resort destination that it is, but there could be another reason to motivate your travel to this quintessential Victorian valentine of a town — Cape May Stage. This summer’s season is highlighted by two major productions: The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (June 28—August 4) and The Gin Game (August 9—September 22). For more information on these productions click here.
Depending on where your travels take you this summer, here are a few links to more summer theater options that are all well worth you checking out if you are in the vicinity.
Westport Country Playhouse (Westport, CT)
Sharon Playhouse (Sharon, CT)
The Cape Playhouse (Dennis, MA)
Shakespeare & Company (Lenox, MA)
The Berkshire Theater Group (Stockbridge and Pittsfield, MA)
The Ogunquit Playhouse (Ogunquit, Maine)
Maine State Music Theatre (Brunswick, Maine)
Chautauqua Theater Company (Chautauqua, NY)
Bucks County Playhouse (New Hope, PA)
Cover: Cape Cod Playhouse in Dennis, MA; courtesy of organization.