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SUMMER STAGES: What's Hot in Nashville

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It's already heating up in Nashville and it's not even summer yet! But Nashville area theater companies are hard at work to ensure that audiences have a lot to choose from in the way of live theater presented in cool, darkened theaters. Here are our suggestions for the most eagerly anticipated shows of the sultry summer season...

The resilient and prolific Renaissance Players in Dickson kicks off the summer fun with Shrek the Musical, directed by Kate Adams, and running June 19-28 at The Renaissance Center.

"Once upon a time, there was a little ogre named Shrek..." And thus begins the tale of an unlikely hero who finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking Donkey and a feisty princess who resists her rescue. Throw in a short tempered bad guy, a cookie with an attitude, and over a dozen other fairy tale misfits, and you've got the kind of mess that calls for a real hero. Luckily, there's one on hand...and his name is Shrek.

Show dates are June 19, 20, 26, 27 at 7 p.m. and June 21, 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at by calling (615) 740-5600.

Footloose is the perfect summer musical, a story of American spirit - so say the folks at Brentwood's Towne Centre Theatre who are mounting a production of the show this summer, running June 19-July 11. Karen Himelrick directs, with choreography by Candace Nichols and Kari Smith. April Presley is producing with Sarah Kinzer Baugh as production stage manager.

A carefree kid is transplanted to a conservative rural town where Rock 'n' Roll and dancing are forbidden. He takes on the authorities, makes all the right moves and wins the girl. A high energy, high intensity musical that dances onto the stage from the very first song and keeps on rocking until the end. The cast is led by William Warren Carver as Ren McCormack and Lindsay Carter as Ariel Moore. Also featured is John Ray as Reverend Shaw Moore, Katharine Boettcher as Vi Moore, Lyn Sheppard Middlebrook and Kari Smith (6/19 & 20) as Ethel McCormack, Ed Warr as Principal Clark, Seth McGraw as Willard, Meredith Mullen as Rusty, J. Baugh as Uncle Wes, Alyssa Miller as Wendy Jo and Alex Pineiro as Chuck Cranston. Rounding out the cast are Amanda Leigh Baugh, Clint Burmit, Max Craig, Jaden Holtschlag, Hillary Mead, Lorelei McDaniel, Laura Mee, Gunal Nepoleon, Parker Pennington, Annie Rice, Jasmine Rose, Quinton Tolbert, Madeline Yeary and Jimmy.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.townecentretheatre.tix.com or by calling (615) 221-1174. Show times are 8 p.m. for evening performances and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Doors open 30 minutes prior to curtain. Tickets are $16 for students, $18 for seniors 60 and over, and $20 for adults. Towne Centre Theatre is located at 136 Frierson Street in Brentwood.

VWA Theatricals, a Nashville-based theatrical production company, makes its official bow this summer with Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, set to play the iconic Darkhorse Theater in August, starring New York University junior Delaney Amatrudo as Cathy Hiatt.

Principals in VWA Theatricals are vocal coach Lisa Van Wye, who works with performers of virtually every level and background in Music City, and Ed Amatrudo, actor and real estate entrepreneur, who is a series regular on ABC's Nashville.

With The Last Five Years as its inaugural production, VWA Theatricals hopes to have an impact on Nashville's burgeoning live theater scene, with discussions currently under way regarding future projects beyond the August premiere. Jeffrey Ellis, veteran director and theater critic and the Nashville-based senior contributing editor to BroadwayWorld.com, is slated to direct The Last Five Years. Micah Snow is music director, with Van Wye serving as vocal director.

The Last Five Years opens at Darkhorse Theater on August 13, running through August 22, with performances each evening at 7:30 p.m. The theater is dark on Monday, August 17.

Nashville Shakespeare Festival's Henry V: Toward the end of the Civil War, on the eve of battle, enemies come together on a Tennessee battlefield to enact Shakespeare's play about the young king of England who leads his nation in a war against France. Throughout the 19th Century, Shakespeare was performed and read in almost every part of our country. Politicians quoted him in their speeches, generals in their orders, soldiers in their letters home, and slaves and former slaves turned to Shakespeare to educate and inspire.

This NSF production, directed by Nat McIntyre, will use Shakespeare's historical drama to reflect on the American Civil War, using the very words that Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago. His cast includes David Compton, Matt Garner, Ross Bolen, Christy Berryessa, Tamiko Robinson, Matt Rosenbaum, Tony Morton, Aaron Munoz, Alan Lee, Karen Sterberg and members of the NSF Apprentice Company.

Henry V runs August 13 - September 13, Thursdays through Sundays and Labor Day Monday at the Centennial Park Bandshell; $10 suggested donation at the date. Food and drink vendors open up shop at 6 p.m. each evening, with pre-show entertainment getting under way at 6:30 p.m. Performances start at 7:30 p.m.

For further details, go to www.nashvilleshakes.org.

AT Pro, the professional theatrical arm of Franklin's Act Too Players will launch this summer with its ambitious production of Mary Poppins the Musical at the historic Franklin Theatre. Running August 18-23, the show is directed by Sondra Morton (who co-founded AT Pro with Jamye Smith, who is production stage manager), with musical direction by 2013 First Night Honoree Jamey Green and choreography by 2013 First Night Star Award winner Lauri Gregoire.

"We wanted a way to utilize the talents, not only of current students and alumni, but also our wonderful instructors," Morton says. "Our students are always eager to see their teachers perform, but it's not always practical - whether due to conflicting schedules or the type of material being produced. We think this is a great way to bring quality, professional theater to Williamson County that's really geared to families."

Megan Murphy Chambers claims the title role in the inaugural AT Pro production, with Billy Ditty as Bert the chimney sweep. Scott Rice and Corrie Miller are Mr. and Mrs. Banks, with Erica Haines, Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva, Vicki White, Lisa Gillespie and Jeremy Maxwell filling other roles.

Mary Poppins runs August 18-23 at The Franklin Theatre, 419 Main Street, with performances at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night; 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday; and at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $15 (cabaret seating available for $49) at www.franklintheatre.com or (615) 538-2075.

For further information, go to www.acttoopro.com.


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