So many shows

Outdoor or indoor, there are plenty of theater options this summer

click to enlarge So many shows
Jersey Boys, playing May 31-June 2 and June 5-8 at The Muni.

Something about an al fresco theater performance changes everything – the spatial relationship between the actors and the audience, the unpredictable lighting, the sound or how a slight breeze can be worked into an ad lib moment. For those passionate about theater, it all adds to the experience. We in the Springfield area are fortunate in that we have two outdoor theaters to feed that passion, and they both have exciting shows waiting in the wings for the summer.

click to enlarge So many shows
Hello, Dolly, July 12-14, July 17-21 and July 24-28 at The Legacy Theatre.

The Muni

The Muni is in full production mode and has some great shows in store. The season starts with Jersey Boys, playing May 31-June 2 and June 5-8. This fantastic jukebox musical is presented in a documentary-style format that dramatizes the formation, success and breakup of the 1960s rock 'n' roll group, The Four Seasons. Their music, however, lived on to become "symbolic of a generation."

June 21-22 and June 26-29 brings us The Music Man. At times "wicked, funny, warm, romantic and touching," the show hits all the feels and is perfect family entertainment. Con man Harold Hill poses as a band organizer and leader, selling instruments and uniforms to naïve Midwestern townsfolk. He promises to train the members of the new band, but plans to skip town without giving any music lessons.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, based on the classic fairy tale, features a protagonist who is forced into servitude and mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters because they fear the power of her fine character and beauty. But with the help of her fairy godmother, she attracts the attention of the prince. It runs July 12-14 and July 17-20.

The Muni wraps up its season on Aug. 2-4 and Aug. 7-10 with Disney's The Little Mermaid. Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen's story and the classic animated film, The Little Mermaid is the story of a young mermaid, Ariel, who makes a deal with a sea witch to trade her beautiful voice for human legs so she can experience life on land and impress a prince. She then learns what a huge risk she has taken.

click to enlarge So many shows
Jersey Boys, playing May 31-June 2 and June 5-8 at The Muni.

Theatre in the Park

Theatre in the Park's outdoor stage in Kelso Hollow at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site offers some drama, tragedy, a children's favorite and one huge, healthy dose of comedy. 

The season opens on May 23-26 with On Golden Pond, the story of Ethel and Normal Thayer who are returning to their summer home on Golden Pond for the 48th year. The play explores the relationship between the couple's daughter and Norman, and the couple's own relationship in the twilight of a long marriage.

On May 30-June 2, Elsa, Anna and the magical land of Arendelle come to life in the theater's production of Frozen Jr. This "enchanting modern classic from Disney" is based on the 2018 Broadway musical and features "all of the memorable songs from the animated film."

Romeo and Juliet, the tragedy written by William Shakespeare, is set for the stage on June 13-16. It is a potent tale of "love, tragedy, and the consequences of feuding and violence."

In the "classic Southern-fried comedy," The Red Velvet Cake War, three Verdeen cousins – Gaynelle, Peaches and Jimmie Wyvette – learned that they could not have picked a worse time to throw their family reunion, and all the eyes of Texas are on their crazy antics and the hilarious consequences. It will run June 27-30.

Another Shakespeare tale, Macbeth, will run July 25-28. In it, three witches tell the Scottish general Macbeth that he will be King of Scotland. Encouraged by his wife, Macbeth kills the reigning king, is crowned the new king and then kills more people out of paranoia. It is political ambition in the finest 17th century form, and yet a timeless theme.

The bittersweet melodrama Picnic is set for Aug. 15-18. It opens in a small town in Kansas in the 1950s when Hal Carter, a charming young drifter, hops off the freight train. He walks into a space dominated by females where his "animal vitality seriously upsets the entire group," hearts are broken and lives are changed.

The summer theater usually means fewer indoor productions, but The Legacy Theatre and the Hoogland Center for the Arts do still have some tempting shows scheduled to round out the season.

The Legacy Theatre

"Isn't the world full of wonderful things?" Hello, Dolly will hit The Legacy's stage on July 12-14, July 17-21 and July 24-28. Mrs. Dolly Levi is a matchmaker extraordinaire who decides that the next match she needs to make is for herself. This is a classic play that first hit Broadway in 1964.

Hoogland Center for the Arts

The Lincolns of Springfield: The Love Story We Never Knew will be returning on May 30-31, June 1-2 and June 6-9. The play, which premiered in Springfield last year, takes a look at the relationship between the self-taught Lincoln, with his backwoods upbringing, and Mary Todd, who grew up in the midst of Kentucky aristocracy and received a private education. It follows their story from their first meeting to the end of the Civil War.

On July 12-14, the Active Creative Teen Theatre will present Into the Woods. This is a modern classic that brings together favorite storybook characters and has been hailed as "enchanting and touching."

August usually marks the end of the summer theater season, but even before the last curtain is closed, directors, actors and choreographers are working behind the scenes for the next theatrical offerings. Keep your eye on the Illinois Times calendar for up-to-date theater listings.

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