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2009 Summer Theater Preview
PENNSYLVANIA SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
A notoriously difficult Shakespeare play being staged for the first time and an iconic American musical that has a surprising connection to Shakespeare make 18th season of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival at DeSales University a highly anticipated one. The fest has expanded its season in the face of a dour economy and features nearly 200 performances of nine shows, 30 more than last year.
Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy is excited to be presenting Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" for the first time. The play, with a staggering 42 scenes, is not often done but features two of drama's most fascinating characters, Mulcahy says. Lisa Zinni, who was associate costume designer for the Tony-nominated Broadway production of "Hair," is designing the play's sexy costumes.
One of the Bard's most popular plays returns, but this time "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is in the smaller Schubert Theatre and set both in 1960s Greece ala "Zorba the Greek" and in ancient world Greece for the woodland scenes. Five-time Emmy Award winner Bob Phillips is designing the scenery, including an homage to the Parthenon.
Two years after its last musical, the festival is presenting the most American of all musicals, "1776." Mulcahy says he discovered the founding fathers were fans of the Bard and frequently quoted Shakespeare to inspire others to action as they pursued their vision of independence. The production features a re-creation of both the interior and the exterior of Philadelphia's Independence Hall that moves on a turn-table.
New this year is "Shakespeare for Kids," a program designed to introduce children to Shakespeare, and a one-night-only show of "The Great Divorce."
'THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED)'
- What: Shakespeare's 37-play canon condensed into one irreverent show, presented in 99 minutes, with frequent improvisation, by Chris Faith, Shawn Fagan and Christopher Patrick Mullen.
- When: June 328
- Where: Schubert Theatre
'A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM'
- What: The Tony-winning musical about the founding fathers who drafted the Declaration of Independence.
- When: June 17July 5
- Where: Main Stage
'ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA'
- What: This popular comedy about fairies and mismatched lovers is perfect way to introduce someone to Shakespeare.
- When: July 8Aug. 2
- Where: Schubert Theatre
- What: Against the backdrop of the Roman Empire, Cleopatra finds love with Marc Antony. Greg Wood is Marc Antony; Lauren Lovett is Cleopatra.
- When: July 15Aug. 2
- Where: Main Stage
SHAKESPEARE FOR KIDS
- What: Classic tale of a young woman who triumphs with the help of a fairy godmother. Children can meet the cast after every performance for pictures and autographs. Set designed by Bob Phillips, who has six Emmys for his work as production designer on "Sesame Street."
- When: May 29-Aug. 1 Where: Schubert Theatre
'THE GREAT DIVORCE'
- What: Team Shakespeare introduces elementary-age children to the friendliest of Shakespeare's characters and situations.
- When: July 22Aug. 1
- Where: Main Stage
- What: Anthony Lawton's one-man adaptation of C.S. Lewis' story.
- When: June 22
- Where: Main Stage
PENNSYVLANIA SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
- What: Watch the festival's favorite actors performing scenes and songs, Shakespeare and more.
- When: July 26
- Where: Main Stage
SPECIAL SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL EVENTS
- When: May 31-Aug. 2
- Where: DeSales University, Labuda Center, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley
- How much: $25-$52; $11-$15, kids shows
- Info: 610-282-9455, www.pashakespeare.org
MUHLENBERG SUMMER MUSIC THEATRE
- Notes on a Revolution: DeSales University humanities professor Dr. Ken Nivison gives a historical view. 6 p.m. June 20, main stage. Free.
- Facing Shakespeare: Join scholar June Schlueter for an exploration of images in search of the real Shakespeare. 4 p.m. June 27. Free.
- Reading of the Declaration on Independence: Cast members of "1776" will read on stage at 5 p.m. July 4 after the 2 p.m. show. (Attendance at performance not required.) Free.
- Prologues: Join the Fest staff in the theater for insights into the productions 45 minutes prior to curtain July 8-Aug. 2 for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Free.
- Partnership with the Allentown Art Museum: Museum members receive a $5 discount on tickets to "1776" and Fest members and subscribers receive a "buy-one-get-one" discount to the "Fashion in Film" exhibit, which includes 36 costumes worn in films, including reproductions of colonial era costumes for "Jefferson in Paris." The show runs through Aug. 9.
- Historic Bethlehem John Adams Walking Tour: See Bethlehem through the eyes of this great patriot, who was impressed with what he saw. All Fest patrons attending "1776" receive 15 percent off with their ticket stub. Tours are 2:30 p.m. Saturdays in July. Tours start at the Welcome Center, 505 Main St., Bethlehem and last an hour. Tickets: $10; $5, ages 6-12. Reservations encouraged. Call 610-691-6055 or 1-800-360-8687.
- More info: 610-282-9455, www.pashakespeare.org
Big splashy musicals cast with local actors and actors and designers with Lehigh Valley roots and Broadway credits, populate the 29th season of Muhlenberg College's Summer Music Theatre series.
"THE SOUND OF MUSIC'
- What: The popular musical about a young woman who teaches a family to sing and helps them escape German-occupied Austria.
- Allentown native Courtnay Griswold plays Maria. Griswold has appeared in "Love is in the Air" and "The Tragic Tale of King Leerio" in New York. Meredith Lipson, who plays Von Trapp daughter Brigitta, is a South Whitehall Township resident who has appeared in "Festen" on Broadway and the national tour of Broadway's "Annie."
- When: June 10-28
"ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY'
- What: A revue about a quartet of 1950s era singers that showcases close harmony songs such as "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing."
- When: July 8-26
- What: A musical adaptation of the popular children's book by Judith Viorst about a hapless boy and his adventures.
- When: June 24-July 25
MORE SUMMER THEATER
- Where: Muhlenberg College, Trexler Pavilion, 24th and Chew streets, Allentown.
- How much: $38; $34, seniors; $20, students; $15, ages 14 and under; $10 for "Alexander"
- Info: www.summerbroadway.org, 484-664-3333
The summer theater season features debuts of both new original work by Valley playwrights and area premieres of award-winning theater. Serious subjects, presented through comedy or in musical form, are offered alongside shows that are simply pure fun. Audiences can even chose between a traditional theater setting and the great outdoors.
'GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS'
- What: The playhouse tackles the cutting edge comedy of David Mamet's Pulitzer prize-winning play about the cutthroat competition among real estate salesmen. The play, which has explicit language and is for mature audiences only, follows the infighting between the salesman vying for a monthly sales award of a new car.
- When: June 5-7 and 12-14
'THERE'S NO JUSTICE JUST COURT COSTS'
- What: This high-energy family-friendly musical is based on the 1984 Kevin Bacon film about a Chicago teen who leads students in a rebellion against a conservative Midwestern town that has outlawed dancing and rock music. The show was nominated for several Tonys.
- When: July 31- Aug. 1; Aug. 7-9; Aug. 14-16.
CROWDED KITCHEN PLAYERS
- What: The company premieres an original comedy by Lawrence Fox.
- When: Aug 27-30
- Where: Pa. Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road, Bethlehem
- How much: $20; $17, seniors and students (Fridays and Sundays only).
- Info: 610-865-6665, www.paplayhouse.org.
'TO BE OR NOT TO BE'
CIRCLE OF STONES RITUAL THEATRE ENSEMBLE
- What: Set in Warsaw during WWII, a troupe of unemployed actors puts on a show to fool the Gestapo and help the Polish resistance in Nick Whitby's comedy. The company is premiering the first performance of the play since it ended its run on Broadway in November 2008.
- When: Today, June 5-7, June 12-14
- Where: McCoole's Arts & Events Place, 10 S. Main St., Quakertown
- How much; $16; $14, seniors; $8, students
- Info: 610-395-7176, www.barliebwallace.com
MUNOPCO MUSIC THEATRE
- What: An original play by members of the nonprofit Emmaus-based ensemble who hope to promote community transformation through theater. The culmination of three years of development, "Gilgamesh' reworks the Sumerian epic poem as a parable about the revitalization of Allentown into a green city. Directed by Steven Dennis, theater professor at DeSales University, the show features the return of George Miller as Gen. Harry Trexler along with 40 actors, dancers and musicians.
- When: June 19-21 and 26-28
- Where: Allentown Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St. Allentown
- How much: $22; $18, students and seniors
- Info: www.allentownsymphony.org or 610-432-6715
'DOO WOP TO HIP-HOP, MUSIC OF THE '50S, '60S, '70S, '80S AND '90S'
- What: A revue that includes music from the Beach Boys to Flashdance is performed by a cast of 40, the Lehigh County Seniors Chorus and the trio Mirage. Also featured are appearances by soloists portraying legends such as Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler and Judy Garland.
- When: June 25-28
- Where: Scottish Rite Cathedral, 1533 Hamilton St., Allentown
- How much: $20; $10 students
- Info: www.munopco.org, 610-437-2441
INSOMNIAK THEATRE COMPANY
- What: Premiere of the 2008 Tony Award winning musical in the Lehigh Valley. The comedy combines a show within a show with an old-fashioned whodunit. A struggling theater troupe is trying to get a show on Broadway when a cast member is murdered.
- When: June 27-28
- Where: Easton Area High School, 2601 William Penn Highway, Palmer Township
- How much: $20; $18 seniors and students
- Info: 610-252-1920
CIVIC THEATRE OF ALLENTOWN
- What: Mary Zimmerman's modern retelling of the classic Greek myths of Ovid will be performed by a dozen actors in and around a wading pool built outdoors in Nazareth Borough Park Amphitheater. The audience will sit on three sides as the characters explore themes of love and spiritual connections.
- When: July 16-18
- Where: Nazareth Borough Park, Broad Street extension.
- How much: $15; $12 students and seniors
- Info: 610-762-7267 or 610-217-6923.
What: Concert performance of Jason Robert Brown's Tony Award-winning musical about a Jewish man falsely accused of murder. Based on the true story of factory manager Leo Frank's 1913 trial on charges of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee, the musical highlights the tragic love story between Frank and his wife Lucille. Artistic Director William Sander says presenting a concert version with minimal staging gives the theater a chance to present a less well-known show that features a Tony-award winning score. The show will star New York Equity artist Melisa Klausner, who played the lead in Civic's 2006 sold-out concert benefit performance of "Evita." When: July 17-18 Where: Civic Theatre, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown. How much: $25 Info: 610-432-8943, www.civictheatre.com
SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
'AS YOU LIKE IT'
- What: After a year off, Shakespeare in the Park, founded by Sarah Bagley and Jadrien Steele, will present the Bard's comedy of love and false identities. The production features New York actors and students from the Lehigh Valley Charter High School of the Performing Arts as various characters, including lords and ladies in Duke Frederick's court.
- When: Aug. 21-22
- Where: Joseph S. Daddona Lake & Terrace, South St. Elmo and Union streets, Allentown.