Fittingly for a theater situated within a village once called home by the future 16th U.S. president, New Salem’s Theatre in the Park kicks off its summer season with The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (June 7-10), taking a dramatic look at the former Mary Todd’s life in the years following her husband’s 1865 assassination. As the season continues, Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. (June 22-24, June 28-30) brings the beloved animated film of aquatic romance to life and Distant Thunder (July 13-15, 19-21) tells the musical story of a half-white, half-Blackfeet attorney struggling with his dual identity. Next, consider yourself invited to the lively, Charles Dickens-inspired Oliver!, a high-spirited musical romp about poverty, child pickpockets and other delights (Aug. 3-5, 9-11). Finally, director Phil Funkenbusch’s production of Spoon River Anthology (Aug. 24-26, Aug. 30-Sept. 1) explores the lives of deceased Petersburg and Lewiston citizens via the celebrated poems of Edgar Lee Masters, replete with music and square dancing. For tickets call 632-5440 or visit www.theatreinthepark.net.
As usual, The Muni Opera brings the musical fun this season, beginning with the cheerfully surreal B-movie wackiness of Little Shop of Horrors (June 1-3, 6-10), featuring a carnivorous talking plant laying waste to all and sundry. Elsewhere, a fake nun goes on the run from the mob in Sister Act (June 22-24, June 27-July 1); an habitual airhead becomes a top law student in Legally Blonde (July 13-15, 18-22); and a scrappy orphan is taken under the wing of a follically challenged millionaire, to their mutual benefit, in Annie (Aug. 3-5, 8-12). For tickets to these shows or more information call 793-MUNI (6864) or visit www.themuni.org.
The Legacy Theatre has only one big production this summer, but it’s a doozy. The popular jukebox musical Mamma Mia! (July 6-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29) utilizes the hits of once-and-future Swedish pop stars ABBA to narrate an epic destination wedding in the Greek islands. For more information call 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.atthelegacy.com.
Sullivan’s Little Theatre on the Square kicks their summer off with the rockabilly gloss of the Million Dollar Quartet (June 6-17), dramatizing the legendary one-time 1956 session that found Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and, yes, Elvis Presley passing the mic; followed by the toe-tapping, turn-of-the-20th century matchmaking farce of Hello Dolly! (June 20-July 1). Next, Damn Yankees (July 5-15) brings the Faustian baseball antics; you’ll also get another of several chances this summer to see Annie from July 18-29. No matter how you pronounce it, Young Frankenstein (Aug. 1-12) is more fun than a barrel of reanimated corpses. Noises Off! (Aug. 15-26) opens up the backstage of a dysfunctional production with hysterical results. For younger theatergoers, Aladdin Jr. (June 8, 9, 12, 14-16), SuperKids (July 6, 7, 10, 12-14) and Madagascar Jr. (Aug. 3, 4, 7, 9-11) offer wholesome family fun. For details and tickets, contact the box office at 728-7375 or visit www.thelittletheatre.org.
Hoogland Center for the Arts has an eclectic lineup this summer, beginning with Becoming Dr. Ruth (June 1-3), a biographical drama chronicling the true story of that diminutive 1980s-era media sensation, sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. In a very different vein, the Springfield Youth Performance Group will present the self-explanatory Alice In Wonderland, A Children’s Ballet (June 9). Also for young audiences, Peter Pan and the Pirates (July 7) and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (July 13) put new spins on old classics. Meanwhile Big River (Aug. 17) does the same for Mark Twain’s beloved Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, featuring songs by Roger “Dang Me” Miller. For information and tickets call 523-ARTS (2787) or visit www.hcfta.org
For those willing to make the journey 90 minutes south on I-55, the St. Louis Muny offers some of Broadway’s greatest numbers gathered on one stage in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (June 11-17). A little later in the season, the proverbial road is sure to be eased down in The Wiz (June 19-25). Singin’ in the Rain (June 27-July 3) adapts the great Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds vehicle for the stage, and the perennially popular Jersey Boys (July 9-15) brings the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to life. You’ll also have a chance to see how Annie (July 18-24) feels across state lines. Gypsy (July 27-31) brings the memoirs of burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee to life with some of the best-loved songs of the 20th century. Finally, hometown favorite Meet Me in St. Louis (Aug. 4-10) rounds out the season with another piece of nostalgic Broadway razzamatazz. For tickets call 314-361-1900 or visit www.muny.org.
A few miles in the other direction, Peoria Eastlight Theater will provide yet another rendition of Annie (June 15-17, 20-23 followed by the Great Depression-set showbiz success story of 42nd Street (Aug. 3-5, 8-11). Get tickets by calling 309-699-SHOW (7469) or visit www.eastlighttheatre.com.
Scott Faingold can be reached via email@example.com.