Williamstown Upstages Barrington Stage Company
Same Day Season Announcements
By: Charles Giuliano - Jan 31, 2014
The Berkshire theatre media gathered at Barrington Stage Company for an announcement and extensive commentary on the 20th season. It launches with The Other Place by Sharr White opening on May 21 through June 14. Programming extends into the fall shoulder season with An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Arthur Miller from Oct. 2-19.
Actually we won’t have to wait that long as Barrington’s now annual 10×10 New Play Festival runs from February 13 through March 2. In Lenox, Shakespeare & Company has a Valentine’s treat with the romantic comedy Private Lives from February 14 through March 30.
The conventional wisdom is that high season spans from the Fourth of July Weekend through Labor Day. That’s certainly when vacationers and tourists most densely populate the Berkshires.
Asked about the importance of the critical mass of the July Fourth weekend and the launch of media and marketing Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage, deflected and downplayed the question. For her company the season starts earlier and builds with two productions in the smaller St. Germain Theatre.
In Boyd’s strategy she front ends the Main Stage season with a musical. Last summer was the smash On the Town which will transfer to Broadway either in August or September. Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate will open well before the Fourth on June 11 and run through July 12.
Last summer, on the all important opening holiday weekend, there were three musicals running head to head. Barrington had a hit with On the Town while Williamstown Theatre Festival did just fine with a spoof on the Marx Brothers Animal Crackers. Oklahoma the production by Berkshire Theatre Group opened to mixed reviews at the Colonial Theatre. The fourth theatre group Shakespeare & Company does not stage musicals and offered audiences an alternative.
Looking ahead to the Fourth this season the pieces are now in place. Last year James Taylor took a break from Tanglewood. Singer/ songwriter Jackson Browne was strong in that slot. This year Taylor returns to the Shed and we anticipate the usual capacity crowds in Lenox. That means a shot in the arm to the hospitality and restaurant industry. And a maximum potential audience for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the four major theatre companies.
It is unusual to be able to mark up the summer calendar by the end of January.
In a surprise move yesterday, within minutes of posting the Barrington schedule, from O&M in New York we received a release on the Main Stage schedule of Williamstown Theatre Festival. It has been curated by Jenny Gersten who has already taken another, non theatrical job in New York City. The programming for the smaller Nikos Stage is expected soon.
Ironically, during the Barrington press conference I asked Boyd about synergy and marketing strategies among the four theatre companies. That seed fell on sand. Although there were such attempts several years ago. The concept was to pool money for advertising in Boston and New York. But the companies lacked reserve resources and it was impossible to launch a coordinated campaign as traditionally WTF and Berkshire Theatre Group don’t announce seasons until March. Other than its opening musical BTG has yet to post a full schedule.
While the media was informed well in advance of Barrington’s press conference we were blind sided by the late in the day timing of the WTF release.
Which was, to say the least, sensational.
It seems that Gersten pulled out all the stops with maxi girrrrllll power for Williamstown. Be still dear heart.
Opera diva, Renée Fleming has moved from starring roles at the vast Metropolitan Opera in New York to the diminutive, intimate, warm and cozy Main Stage in Williamstown. She plays, what else, an opera diva in Living on Love from July 16 – July 26, 2014. Three time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall will direct. In this rare dramatic appearance by Fleming the production is sure to be sold out in a flash.
During Gersten’s first season the brilliant comic actress Jessica Stone made her debut with a smash hit, all male production of Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. She returns this season directing June Moon By Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman from July 2 to July 13.
This year the WTF musical The Visit, book by Terrence McNally; music by John Kander; lyrics by Fred Ebb, choreographed by Graciela Daniele; directed by John Doyle with the amazing Chita Rivera will close the Main Stage season from July 31 to August 17. On Gersten’s watch Doyle directed the controversial musical Ten Cents a Dance. In that moody, melancholy production the one male and several women each played musical instruments. It remains to be seen whether the redoubtable Rivera will be so tasked.
As they say during election night, based on early exit polls, we can now call the Fourth of July lineup. Mark your calendars and rush to get tickets. As stated it will be James Taylor at Tanglewood. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at Jacob’s Pillow. Kiss Me Kate on Barrington Stage and A Little Night Music at the Colonial. June Moon will be staged at WTF. Tony Simotes will direct A Midsummer’s Night Dream at Shakespeare & Company with Johnny Lee Davenport as Bottom.
We will need seven league boots and body doubles to cover all of those openings.
While there will be a lot of music, theatre and dance in what looks to be a very strong June not all the companies have that flexibility. WTF is limited by the Williams College academic calendar. Under Gersten there has been more of a New York presence with productions of musicals Far from Heaven and currently Bridges of Madison County on Broadway. It has been announced that the WTF production Bradley Cooper’s Elephant Man will open on Broadway.
Berkshire Theatre Group has an educational program that determines the season launch. This year its musical at the Colonial will start earlier and run longer from June 30 to July 19. This strengthens the box office potential for what should be an appealing and successful production.
In the dead of winter there are thoughts of summer with an abundance of spectacular offerings. For his 450th Shakespeare & Company is focused on celebrating the birthday of the Bard. The History Cycle that stared last summer with Richard II continues with Henry IV, Parts I & II.
For its 20th Barrington will feature its “family” of artists. Playwright Mark St. Germain will offer another new play Dancing Lessons August 7-24 directed by Boyd. Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore, directed by Joe Calarco will run July 17-August 2. It may well provide a dramatic high point of the Berkshire season. For the first time Barrington has invited another company to its stage. From Mexico The Play Company and Piedad Teatro will present Working on a Special Day June 18-July 6. The production about the rise of Fascism has been traveling internationally.
In addition to Kiss Me Kate Barrington will have two other musicals. The Golem of Havana about a Hungarian Jewish family living in Cuba has its world premiere July 16-August 9. For the first time since Putnam County Spelling Bee Bill Finn and Rachel Sheinkin will be reunited. They plan to entirely revise Romance in Hard Times August 14-31. It’s a workshopped project that will be closed to reviewers. But the media is invited to experience a work in progress.
That’s similar to last summer’s Bridges of Madison County which was reviewed locally but closed to national media. Surely the production has evolved considerably on its way to Broadway.
Which raises the question of a paradigm shift on how shows are developed for New York's Broadway and Off Broadway. Currently three of the four major Berkshire companies have productions running in New York. I asked Boyd about that. She gave an interesting and detailed response. But we’ll save that for another time.
What follows you might want to cut and paste for future reference.
Barrington Stage Company 2014
Kiss Me, Kate Music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Book by Sam and Bella Spewack. Director to be named. June 11-July 12. Press opening: 5 p.m. June 15.
Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore. Directed by Joe Calarco. July 17-Aug. 2. Press opening: 5 p.m. July 20.
Dancing Lessons by Mark St. Germain. Directed by Julianne Boyd. World premiere.Aug.7-24. Press opening: 7 p.m. Aug. 13.
An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen. Adapted by Arthur Miller. Directed by Julianne Boyd. Oct. 2-19. Press opening: 3 p.m. Oct. 5.
The Other Place by Sharr White. Directed by Christopher Innvar. May 21-June 14. Press opening: 3 p.m. May 25.
Working on a Special Day Adapted for the stage by Gigliola Fantoni; translated by Danya Taymor, Ana Graham, and Antonio Vega. Directed by Ana Graham and Antonio Vega. A production of The Play Company and Piedad Teatro. June 18-July 6. Press opening: 3 p.m. June 22.
Musical Theatre Lab -- The Golem of Havana. Music by Salomon Lerner. Lyrics by Len Schiff. Book and direction by Michel Hausman. World premiere. July 17-Aug. 9. Press opening: 7:30 p.m. July 23.
Romance in Hard Times Music and lyrics by William Finn. Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Directed by Joe Calarco. Aug. 14-31. Workshop presentation.
Hairspray Jr Directed and choreographed by Christine O’Grady. July 23-Aug. 10. Berkshire Museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield.
Season Anniversary Celebration. A revue featuring songs from some of BSC’s most successful musical productions, followed by dinner and dancing. July 7. Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield.
Williamstown Theatre Festival Main Stage
July 2 – July 13, 2014
By Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman; Directed by Jessica Stone
Earnest and gullible young lyricist Fred Stevens boards a train in Schenectady bound for the Big Apple, determined to make a name for himself in the thriving Tin Pan Alley scene. However, the life he’s imagined is rife with seductive distractions -- namely dames -- that threaten to derail his dream of penning the next big ditty. Both bitterly funny and deliciously literate, legendary humorists Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman celebrate and skewer the perishable pop of yesteryear. Director Jessica Stone, whose WTF productions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Last of the Red Hot Lovers left audiences convulsed with laughter, brings her special brand of glee back to the Festival stage.
Living on Love
July 16 – July 26, 2014
By Joe DiPietro and Garson Kanin
Based on the play Peccadillo by Garson Kanin; Directed by Kathleen Marshall
With Renée Fleming
World-renowned soprano Renée Fleming takes the Festival stage as celebrated diva Rachel DeAngelis. When her husband, the fiery and egomaniacal Maestro Vito DeAngelis, becomes enamored with the lovely young lady hired to ghostwrite his long-delayed autobiography, Rachel retaliates by hiring her very own – and very handsome – ghostwriter to chronicle her life as an opera star. As the young writers try to keep themselves out of the story while churning out chapters, the high-energy – and high-maintenance – power duet threatens to fall out of tune for good. A sparkling new comedy from two-time Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro, adapted from a work by the revered Garson Kanin and directed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall.
July 31 – August 17, 2014
Book by Terrence McNally; Music by John Kander; Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Choreographed by Graciela Daniele; Directed by John Doyle
With Chita Rivera
In her Festival debut, Broadway legend Chita Rivera embodies Claire Zachanassian, the oft-widowed richest woman in the world, who returns to the hardship-stricken town of her birth. The locals pray that her wealth will bring them a new lease on life, but the carefully plotted renewal she offers carries a dreadful price. Tony Award-winning director John Doyle helms this incendiary musical – one of the last collaborations between the incomparable John Kander and Fred Ebb, with a book by Tony Award winner Terrence McNally and choreography by Graciela Daniele. Sardonic and morally complex, The Visit asks: What can your heart afford?
Shakespeare & Company
Tina Packer Playhouse:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Tony Simotes
Featuring: Johnny Lee Davenport as Bottom
Packer Playhouse: June 21 – August 30
Henry IV, Parts I & II
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jonathan Epstein
Featuring: Malcolm Ingram as Falstaff
Packer Playhouse: August 2 – August 31
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged
By Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield
Directed by Jonathan Croy
Packer Playhouse: July 4 – August 24
Director & Choreographer Susan Dibble
Featuring: Susan Dibble and many of your favorite S&Co. artists and special guests.
August 31, at 7:30pm
Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre
By Vern Thiessen
Director: Daniela Varon
Featuring: Kristin Wold
Bernstein Theatre: May 23 – August 24
By William Shakespeare
Director Tina Packer
Featuring: Jason Asprey, Nigel Gore, Eric Tucker.
Bernstein Theatre: June 27 – August 30
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
By Christopher Durang
Directed by Matthew Penn
Bernstein Theatre: August 7 – September 14
Edith Wharton’s Home, The Mount:
The Dell at The Mount, 2 Plunkett Street, Lenox, MA
Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jonathan Croy
Cast: Caroline Calkins as Juliet and Marcus Kearns as Romeo
July 17 - August 23
The Rose Footprint and Bankside Festival:
The Servant of Two Masters
By Carlo Goldoni
Adapted and Directed by Jenna Ware
June 20 - August 23
The Declaration of Independence
Bankside Meadow: Friday, July 4, at 3pm. Free!
Shakespeare & Young Company
Rose Footprint: August 13 and 15
Rose Footprint: Alternating Fridays in July and August
Berkshire Theatre Group
A Little Night Music
By Stephen Sondheim
June 30 to July 19