Summer Stages: Something for Everyone at Middlesex County Plays-in-the-Park
It's summer in New Jersey and that means it's time to grab the lawn chairs and experience outdoor theatre. One of the Garden State's largest and most popular stages-under-the-stars, Middlesex County Plays-in-the-Park (PIP), is located in Roosevelt Park, Edison, just off Route 1. The venerable troupe is marking its 54th season and serves an annual audience of nearly 38,000 theatre-goers. When filled to capacity, the open-air venue can accommodate as many as 1,500 patrons, providing the best in community performers, seasoned directors and designers, as well as a fully professional orchestra.
First up, audiences will go 'under the sea' with Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID, which swims into the PIP amphitheater from June 15th to 25th. The musical is based on the Oscar-winning 1989 animated film and derived from the classic Hans Christian Andersen story. The show is directed by PIP Producer Gary Cohen, with choreography by Michelle Massa, and musical direction by John Bzosowski. Two seasons ago, PIP produced THE LITTLE MERMAID JR., an abbreviated children's theatre version of the family-friendly show. Cohen notes that a few of the cast members from that production have roles in the full version this summer. He adds "We often hear from patrons how they came here as children and now they take their own children." With that in mind, THE LITTLE MERMAID will offer early 7:30pm performances on June 20th and 21st to accommodate family theatre-goers. All other shows throughout the summer begin at 8:30pm.
From July 6th to 16th PIP will stage SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL The show is based on the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg and tells the story of nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, who hides out in a rundown Philadelphia convent disguised as a nun. Deloris and her singing sisters will be directed by Peter Loewy, with choreography by Ra-Sean Holloway, and musical direction by Nick DeGregorio. This production will mark the New Jersey community theatre premiere of SISTER ACT THE MUSICAL.
While the first two productions are new to PIP, SOUTH PACIFIC returns for a third time, having previously been seen in 1974 and 1984. Cohen says that "After last year's success with OKLAHOMA!... it seemed a good time to revive it." The Pulitzer Prize-winning 1949 musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein will be on stage from July 27th to August 6th, directed by Moggie Davis, choreographed by Megan Ferentinos, and featuring musical direction by Warren Helms.
Making this trip to the South Pacific even more moving is that the show features a performer who has a cochlear implant. This revolutionary technology helps people who have significant hearing loss or deafness be able to hear again. This is in keeping with PIP's long-held commitment to providing access to people with disabilities to all aspects of their productions. For each and every performance integrated wheelchair locations are available. PIP also designates one performance of each production to be Audio-Described for the blind as well as Sign-Interpreted and Open-Captioned, services for the deaf and those with hearing loss. Last year these efforts were recognized with an Achievement Award from the Cultural Access Network Project and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance. Recreation Supervisor Jackie Neil estimates that around 1,500 audience members utilized these services last year alone.
In the fall, PIP goes indoors with a yet-to-be announced children's theatre musical. They are also planning to revive their annual production of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at the State Theatre in New Brunswick for Christmas 2016.For information about all these productions, please visit www.playsinthepark.com. Tickets are sold on the day of performance only and priced at $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for senior citizens over 60, and free to children 12 and under. Audience members must bring their own low-back lawn chairs, which can be set-up starting at 5:30pm, when the box office opens.
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These programs are funded in part by Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission, with assistance through a grant provided by New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State.
"Plays-in-the-Park is a beloved Middlesex Country tradition that is 54 years in the making, and one that I know many people come back for year after year. 2016 has some wonderful shows planned and will showcase the talents of the production team, actors, set designers, costumers, musicians and lighting, and tech crews. It all adds up to another season that audiences won't want to miss!" ~ Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios
"Plays-in-the-Park continues to be one of Middlesex County's most popular programs thanks to its consistent standard of excellence and its appeal to all audiences. 2016 looks to be another outstanding season. I wish all those involved a great summer at PIP." ~ Freeholder Charles E. Tomaro, chair of the County's Infrastructure Management Committee