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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 11th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 11th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Though the temperature doesn't always show it, and the calendar tells us to wait almost two more weeks, it is definitely theatrical summer! We've had Memorial Day weekend, the Jeffs and the Tonys (thanks for coming to our Viewing Party, and what an experience THAT was!), and most theater folks working in summer venues have already headed that way. And so it's time in the Mosh Pit for our annual Regional Summer Musical Theater Guide! Those places where Chicagoans tend to spend summer weekends and/or go for short getaway trips usually provide some theatrical offerings after boating, hiking or swimming activities are over for the evening. Let's take a look around the western Great Lakes region, shall we, and see what comes up singing!

In northwestern Illinois, the Timber Lakes Playhouse in Mt. Carroll (near Galena) employs a lot of Chicago theatrical talent. It opened its initial production for 2014 last week: the Lloyd Webber and Rice "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (through June 15). After the play "An Inspector Calls," by J. B. Priestley, the next musical on the docket will be Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," playing July 3-13. After Neil Simon's "Rumors," the Playhouse will take on the legendary "Les Miserables," from July 31-August 10. Rounding up the season will be the 1960s revue "Shout!," playing from August 14-24.

Moving north to Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin--Platteville is again hosting its Heartland Festival, which opened with the cabaret "Give My Regards To Broadway: An Evening With The Heartland Company" on June 6. There are two musicals on the docket this year, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Next To Normal" from June 13-29 and the slightly more humorous "Shrek" from July 3-20. And the Missoula (Montana) Children's Theatre will perform "The Secret Garden" July 7-12.

In Ft. Atkinson, the year-round Fireside Theatre is currently preparing the play "Driving Miss Daisy" (June 12-July 20), but coming up July 24-August 31 will be the Grammy-winning "Smokey Joe's Café."

In Door County's Fish Creek, the venerable Peninsula Players (another venue high in its quotient of Chicago professional performers) doesn't have a musical on the boards until the fall, when "Always...Patsy Cline" closes out the year from September 9-October 19. Prior to that, the plays "The Tin Woman" (a world premiere directed by Tom Mula), "And Then There Were None," "The Mystery Of Irma Vep" and "Butler" take the stage.

Also in Door County, the American Folklore Theatre more than takes up that slack, offering four musicals written and performed only at the theater. Opening the season of rotating rep is the world premiere of a commissioned musical called "Strings Attached," with music by Colin Welford, book by Chicagoan Dave Hudson and lyrics by both (it opens tonight!). Also offered this summer are "Guys On Ice" by Fred Alley and James Kaplan (opening tomorrow) and "Packer Fans From Outer Space" by Frederick Heide and Lee Becker (opening next Wednesday). And next year? The theater will change its name to the Northern Sky Theatre.

Across the bay, in Marinette, the University of Wisconsin--Marinette's Theatre On The Bay is offering "Cabaret" this year, from July 17-27. It's a popular title everywhere.

And up north in Hazelhurst, Tommy O's Playhouse is mounting a whole slew of productions this year, including the musicals "Nunsensations," "H.M.S. Pinafore" and "P.S. I Love You," plus the play "How To Train Your Husband." There are a lot of short-run cabaret entertainments as well. And the performance schedule is complicated!

Moving to Michigan, as many of us are wont to do, we find that Saugatuck's Mason Street Warehouse (at the Saugatuck Center For The Arts) will mount "Steam Heat" (June 27-July 13) and "Beehive" (August 15-31), sandwiching the play "Deathtrap." "Steam Heat" is a world premiere celebration of the choreography of Chicago's Bob Fosse, conceived, directed and choreographed by MSW artistic director Kurt Stamm.

Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, on the campus of nearby Holland's Hope College, has "The Sound Of Music" opening this week, running June 13-August 7. David H. Bell's "Hot Mikado" will play July 11-August 9. Also on the boards there will be "A Raisin In The Sun" by Chicago's legendary Lorraine Hansberry, and "The Matchmaker," Thornton Wilder's basis for David Merrick, Gower Champion and Jerry Herman's "Hello, Dolly!"

The important Barn Theatre in Augusta, Michigan, is already underway this year with the play "Shakespeare In Hollywood" by Ken Ludwig, and is in preparation for "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas" with "Guiding Light" veteran Robert Newman as Ed Earl Dodd (June 24-July 6). He will transition directly into Tevye in "Fiddler On The Roof" (July 8-20). After the chestnut "Move Over, Mrs. Markham," "Hair" will take over the Barn (August 5-17), followed by Newman's longtime soap opera leading lady Kim Zimmer in, you guessed it, "Hello, Dolly!" (August 19-31).

In Indiana, the nearly year-round Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres (in Nappanee, near South Bend), is "the National Home of 'Plain And Fancy,'" the musical about the Amish that originally starred Barbara Cook. Its production of the show this year is from May 28-October 18. The theater also has "Footloose" (June 10-July 20) and "Little Women" (July 29-August 31) this summer.

The Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw, Indiana, began the summer with "Mary Poppins," running through June 14. "Catch Me If You Can" will run June 18-28, followed by "Gypsy" (July 2-12). "Fiddler On The Roof" will follow (July 16-26). After "And Then There Were None" will come "The Marvelous Wonderettes" (August 13-23).

In Central Illinois, the Little Theatre On The Square in Sullivan is currently featuring "42nd Street" (through June 15), to be followed by "Big River" (June 18-29), "Little Shop Of Horrors" (July 2-13), "The Sound Of Music" (July 16-27) and "Legally Blonde" (July 30-August 10). Five musicals, done and done!

The McLeod Summer Playhouse at Southern Illinois University is featuring "Oklahoma!" this month (June 20-29) and "Spamalot" next month (July 11-20). In addition, an all-star cast of high schoolers from through southern Illinois will combine for "Anything Goes" (July 30-August 3).

Rock Island's year-round Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse will still have its spring production of "Fiddler On The Roof" through July 19. The play "Love, Lies, And The Lottery" will play July 23-September 6.

At last, we can't ignore St. Louis' behemoth Muny, the Municipal Theater Association of St. Louis and its enormous amphitheater (and budget). The gargantuan outdoor theater will produce "Billy Elliot" with Emily Skinner (June 16-22) and "Tarzan" directed by John Tartaglia (June 25-July 2 ), host the national tour of "The Gershwins' Porgy And Bess" directed by Diane Paulus (July 7-13), produce "The Addams Family" with Rob McClure, Jenny Powers and our own Hollis Resnik (July 14-20), mount "Seussical" with Rockford native Stephen Wallem as Horton (July 22-28), produce a "Grease" with "Bring It On" star Taylor Lauderman (July 31-August 8) and wind up with a "Hello, Dolly!"starring Beth Leavel and John O'Hurley (August 11-17). I'm just sayin'.

And so, congratulations to Jessie Mueller for her Best Actress win at the Tony Awards! She performed in two shows at the Peninsula Players in the summer of 2010, so you just never know. Wonder if she'll play Dolly Levi there some years hence. In the meantime, I'll see you at a summer theater! Maybe. But I'm certain I'll see you here in town at some point, under the video screens.....-PWT

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