It is always interesting to see what is on the horizon in the theater world. In the summer, theaters sometimes lighten their fare with comedies and musicals, which tend to draw a different type of audience, filling the seats with more families and people who do not usually attend. Springfield's summer theater scene reflects that tradition.
The Legacy Theatre is definitely keeping a light note with Bullets over Broadway the Musical, a jukebox musical written by Woody Allen. Allen based the play on the 1994 film Bullets over Broadway that he wrote with Douglas McGrath. Set it 1929, it's the story of a young playwright whose first Broadway play is financed by a gangster who wants his dim-witted girlfriend to star as one of the leads. The show is loaded with laughs, wacky characters and the jazz and popular standards of that era. It will run June 23-25, July 5-9, July 12-16 and July 19-23.
Although it's not a theater production, it's still going to be fun when internationally acclaimed magicians present "An Evening of Magic," with stunning illusions and hilarious comedy on June 3 at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. The whole family will be entertained by the comedy magicians, stage magicians, comedy juggler and an enigmatist.
On June 9, Tennessee Williams' The Two-Character Play will be on stage in the Hoogland's Club Room. Taking a step in a different direction than the usual summer theater offerings, this is a play within a play so compelling and affecting that it's difficult to tell where the play ends and real life begins, as the audience is confronted with the darker truths of what it is to be human.
The Hoogland will present a new musical on June 15-18. The Lincolns of Springfield: The Love Story We Never Knew, is based on a book written by Terrence Cranert, who also wrote the musical score and lyrics. The play 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 Lexington, Kentucky, aristocracy and received a private education. It follows their story from their first meeting to the end of the Civil War.
Our awesome local improv group, Capital City Improv, has been as lively as ever lately, including holding workshops which may provide us with future entertainment. On June 17, the group will take the stage at the Hoogland with Crowd Pleasers! Expect lots of opportunities for audience participation and all your favorite improv games. It will prove to be a fabulous night, especially since it's a show suitable only for mature audiences.
Of course, what could be better in the summer than an outdoor theater, and we are fortunate that two wonderful open-air theaters are at our doorstep.
The Muni is in full production mode and has some great shows lined up for us. The season starts with Fiddler on the Roof, where the scene is set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia around 1905. The Broadway production of this play first opened in 1964, but it is based on a series of stories of Jewish life written between 1894 and 1914 by Sholem Aleichem. This musical leaves audiences with all the feels, as a good classic should. Catch the production on June 2-4 and June 7-10.
Rock of Ages will be on The Muni's stage June 23-25 and June 28-July 1. This Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical is set on the Sunset Strip in the 1980s and features the familiar hits of artists of that era such as Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar and Twisted Sister.
On July 14-17 and July 19-22, you can step into the enchanted world of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, an international sensation that has been produced in 37 countries and is based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature.
The Muni will close its season on Aug. 4-6 and Aug. 9-12 with some jammin' fun with School of Rock – The Musical, the award-winning smash hit by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The story follows Dewey Finn, a failed wannabe rock star who decides to earn some cash by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There, he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. This show is sure to be a family favorite.
Theatre in the Park's outdoor stage in Kelso Hollow at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site has several fun productions in store for us this summer. First, catch Steel Magnolias on June 15-18. Set in the fictional northwestern Louisiana parish of Chinquapin, the play opens at an in-home beauty parlor where a group of women regularly gather. The plot explores how the women cope with their conflicts over the years and, yet, remain friends.
On July 20-23, the eloquent words of the bard, William Shakespeare, will come to life with the comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor. Written around 1597, presumably at the request of England's Queen Elizabeth I, it features the character Sir John Falstaff, the rotund knight from Shakespeare's earlier works, Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2.
The theater will close its season on Aug. 3-6 with a stage adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. An American tycoon is found dead in his cabin on the luxurious train that's traveling from Istanbul to Western Europe. The remaining passengers are depending on detective Hercule Poirot to identify the murderer before he or she kills again. This is the classic murder mystery that sets the bar high for any that follow.
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 season. Keep your eye on the Illinois Times calendar to see what productions are on the next horizon.