Taking the stage

Summer theater returns

click to enlarge Taking the stage
The Muni presents The Spongebob Musical, May 27-29 and June 1-5

Auditions have taken place. Stagehands are ready. Sets are being created and wardrobes selected. Now, it's time for the curtains to be raised and the shows to begin. Let's take a look to see what our local theater scene has in store for its audiences this summer.

After a two-year hiatus, The Muni is ready welcome back it patrons, volunteers and actors, and once again be in the limelight as one of the area's best outdoor theaters. If you hurry, you can catch a performance of The Spongebob Musical. This energetic, family fun show is running May 27-29 and June 1-5. Ragtime the Musical is up next on June 17-19 and June 22-26. The play is an epic that captures the American experience of three diverse families and follows them as their lives intertwine at the turn of the 20th century in the volatile melting pot of New York. You can catch Disney Newsies the Musical on July 8-10 and July 13-17. Based on a true story, it follows a courageous group of New York City newsboys as they become unlikely heroes when they team up to fight an unscrupulous newspaper tycoon in 1899. Matilda the Musical, based on one of Roald Dahl's last published stories, will round out the season on July 29-31 and August 3-7. If you have never experienced the clever, brave and book-loving Matilda Wormwood, this will be an excellent opportunity to meet her.

Another wonderful example of great outdoor theater is the Theatre in the Park at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site. It, too, has had an empty stage for a stretch of time and is ready to once again see a packed house, or packed Kelso Hollow in this case. The season will open on June 10 with A Little Princess, a story of a little rich girl, Sara Crewe, and her struggle to survive in a London boarding school during World War II. It will run through June 12 and again June 16-18. The next show, Babes in Arms, is scheduled for July 22-24 and July 28-30. Set at a summer stock theater, it tells the story of a group of young apprentices who are determined to mount the original revue they've created while dodging the underhanded attempts of the surly theater owner to squash their efforts at every turn. The theater will close out its season with Inherit the Wind, a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes Trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes' conviction for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to a high school science class, which was contrary to a Tennessee state law. It is scheduled for Aug. 12-14 and Aug. 18-20.

The Legacy Theatre, Springfield's oldest theater, is featuring a production of My One and Only on June 24-26, July 6-10, July 13-17 and July 20-24. According to the New York Times, the musical is a "triumph of swank, savvy, and style. Bright and fun and grandly entertaining – it's a wonderful, wonderful time!"

click to enlarge Taking the stage
The Legacy Theatre presents My One and Only, June 24-26, July 6-10, July 13-17 and July 20-24

University of Illinois Springfield Performing Arts Center pulls back its curtains on June 2 with An Officer and a Gentleman, The Musical. Based on the 1982 Oscar-winning film, it is the timeless love story that celebrates triumph over adversity. Not to be missed on June 8 is the spectacular and powerful Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show, celebrated the world over for its Grammy award-winning score and the thrilling energy and passion of its Irish and international dance. On June 23, the dazzling Anastasia the Musical will take over the stage, and is guaranteed to transport you from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past.

The Hoogland Center for the Arts steps into summer with a local production of The Laramie Project. Based on the true story of Matthew Shepard, it tells about the kind of hate that society can promote and how it can simmer within people until it boils over into murder, simply because a person is different. It's scheduled for May 27-29. Conor McPherson's play, The Night Alive, will hit the stage on June 3-4. Set in the drawing room of an Edwardian house in Dublin, Ireland, it's about a collective dream of what it's like to be alive in the world. With a reputation as the best laugh generator around, Springfield's own Capital City Improv is geared up for their off-the-cuff performance of An Evening with Armando on June 4. On June 18, get ready to have The Absolute Best Friggin' Time of Your Life, presented by the Second City comedy troupe. From sketch comedy to original songs to world-famous improv, this troupe knows how to get a laugh. On July 22-24 and July 29-31, The Spencer Theatre Company will present the story of the relationship between a crotchety southern Jewish woman and her African American chauffeur in Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Driving Miss Daisy.

So, it looks like we can catch some musical theater, comedy, dance, drama, history and lots of family entertainment – a little something for everyone. It's still early in the year and other shows are bound to pop up, so be sure to visit the venues' websites to get the most up-to-date information.

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