On Stage This Summer
From Connecticut to the Berkshires
By: Karen Isaacs - Jul 05, 2023
Summer once meant shows performed in actual barns by talented and young kids. Or tours led by well-known movie and TV stars whose popularity had diminished. Not anymore.
Today, you can choose from musicals, plays, and comedies, Theater in Connecticut doesn’t slow down when summer begins.
Would you like to be outside under the stars? In a tent? Or would you prefer an air-conditioned space? Close to home or exploring the countryside?
Connecticut theaters let you choose. In addition, you can easily combine your theatergoing with concerts and day or overnight trips that let you enjoy our beautiful state.
Want to Stay Close to Home?
The shoreline has five theaters offering musicals this summer. Two old favorites The Sound of Music and Beauty & the Beast are suitable for children.
Ivoryton Playhouse has assembled a fine cast for The Sound of Music which runs from Thursday, June 29 to Sunday, July 30. David Pittsinger who played Emile de Becque in South Pacific on Broadway, on tour, and at Ivoryton is Captain von Trapp. He is joined by operatic soprano Patricia Schuman as the Mother Abbess, and Adrienne Hick who played Nellie Forbush in the Ivoryton South Pacific production is Maria.
Later in the summer, The Legacy Theatre in Stony Creek is presenting Beauty and The Beast from Thursday, Aug. 10 to Sunday, Aug. 27.
In addition, the hit musical Jersey Boys, about Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons is at Ivoryton from Thursday, Aug. 10 to Sunday, Sept. 10.
Madison Lyric Stage will present the multiple Tony award-winning musical Spring Awakening. It combines rock/pop music composed by Duncan Sheik with a story based on the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind. The story is about a group of teenagers living in a conservative German town in the late 1800s as they grapple with issues of independence, success, failure, and sexuality.
Want to see a new or unfamiliar show? You have three to choose from.
Goodspeed’s main stage will start previews on Friday, July 7 (through Sunday, Aug. 27) of the world premiere musical Summer Stock. It’s inspired by the MGM/Warner Brothers 1950 film which starred Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, and features selections from the American songbook. One of the outstanding songs from the film was “Get Happy.” The story is familiar: a theater troupe ends up using a farm for rehearsals, and the farm owner (the Garland role) and one of the actors (Gene Kelly) fall in love. She saves the day and becomes a star. Cordon Bleu, who is a terrific dancer, has the Kelly role, while Danielle Wade plays the Garland role. Blue has danced up a storm on Broadway – and gotten multiple award nominations – in Kiss Me Kate and Holiday Inn. Wade was in the Broadway cast and tour of Mean Girls.
Goodspeed’s theater in Chester is reopening. This smaller theater presents full (but scaled down) productions of new musicals which are still in the development stage. Here You Come Again is the summer show running from Wednesday, July 26 to Sunday, Aug. 27. In the musical a diehard Dolly Parton fan uses his imaginary version of her to get him through a trying time. The music features songs written or recorded by Parton.
The Musical of Musicals is a satire of the most popular Broadway composers. It isn’t a new show, but it hasn’t been done in the area. The cast creates five brief scenes with songs, all based on the same plot, in the style of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Steven Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerry Herman, and Kander & Ebb. It’s at the Legacy Theatre from Thursday, July 13 to Sunday, July 30.
Attend a Performance and Explore Connecticut
Travel to the Hartford area, Westport, Waterford, or the western part of the state, and you’ll find some intriguing productions.
In the Hartford area, TheaterWorks Hartford and Playhouse on the Park in West Harford are offering their last productions in their 2022-23 season.
Clyde’s by the well-respected playwright Lynn Nottage is at TheaterWorks from Saturday, July 8 to Sunday, Aug. 6. This comedy is, as press material says, about some formerly incarcerated kitchen staff at a truck-stop sandwich shop who are challenged to create the perfect sandwich.
It’s post-WWII in Bandstand, the musical at Playhouse on Park from Wednesday, July 12 to Sunday, Aug. 20. A WWII vet gathers a group of fellow veterans to win an NBC competition to find the next swing band sensation.
In Fairfield county, the Valley Shakespeare is not presenting a Shakespeare play. Instead, their summer Theater in the Park is presenting one of the greatest comedies of all time: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. From Thursday, July 13 to Sunday, July 16 it’s at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Shelton. Thursday, July 20 through Sunday, July 23, the show is at Quarry Walk in Oxford.
A classic mystery/thriller, Dial M for Murder will give you some chills no matter how hot the weather. Westport Country Playhouse is presenting this classic play, from Tuesday, July 11 through Saturday, July 29.
Summer Theatre of New Canaan has moved inside to the New Canaan High School auditorium, after years of performing in a tent. This summer’s production is Beauty & The Beast from Saturday, July 15 to Sunday, July 30.
Head to the western part of the state and you’ll find two theaters that are perfect for day trips exploring that beautiful area.
Thrown Stone Theatre, is a small company in Ridgefield that has begun producing new works, often based on area or Connecticut history. Seven Cousins for a Horse is the latest commissioned work. This world premiere is based on the life of Ammi Phillips who is described as the most prolific folk artist in American history. He was born in Colebrook in 1788 and traveled through the northeastern US painting portraits of everyday people. Playwright Tammy Ryan has done extensive research at local historical societies. The play runs from Thursday, July 13 through Sunday, July 23.
Visit Sharon, Connecticut, and you can see the nearby covered bridge in West Cornwall. Sharon Playhouse is presenting two popular musicals: Simply Rotten, a fanciful and satiric look at two Elizabethan playwrights who, to compete with Shakespeare, invent the musical comedy. It runs from Friday, June 23 to Sunday, July 9. Oliver! (based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist) will be on stage from Friday, Aug. 4 to Sunday, Aug. 20.
Waterford, in the other direction offers the opportunity to see very new works – still being developed – at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. Stroll the grounds that look out on Long Island sound, and perhaps you will discover the next August Wilson, Terence McNally or others whose careers were supported. The National Playwrights Conference runs from to Monday, July 3. Following is the National Musical Theatre Conference from Friday, July 7 to Friday, July 28.
It isn’t clear why, but summer seems the time to produce Shakespeare plays, often outdoors. Elm Shakespeare hasn’t yet announced its production, but it usually runs from the end of August to early September at Edgerton Park on the New Haven/Hamden line.
As You Like It, a comedy, will be at Pinkney Park in Rowayton through Sunday, July 2. It is a typical Shakespeare comedy with brothers plotting against each other, girls disguising themselves as boys, and multiple weddings at the end. You are encouraged to bring food and drink to enjoy before and during the show.
A popular (and relatively short) Shakespeare tragedy, MacBeth will be performed on the grounds of St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford from Thursday, July 13 through Sunday, July 30. They move indoors if it rains. Capital Classics produces the show as part of the Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival, which says it’s the oldest continuously running outdoor Shakespeare Festival. Again, you can bring food and drink. The Elizabethan Consort provides pre-show harmony and humor on Friday and Saturday evenings.
You can explore the beautiful Hudson Valley region and take in a production by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which performs in a tent in Phillipsburg (near Garrison), New York. The history play, Henry V runs through Sunday, August 20. Love’s Labor’s Lost, a comedy, joins it from Wednesday, July 23 through Sunday, Aug. 27.
Heading into the Berkshires
Looking to get away for a few days or longer? The Berkshires are an easy drive and offer a surplus of theater, dance, and concerts as well as antique shopping, fine restaurants, and opportunities for fishing, hiking, and other activities.
Barrington Stage, Berkshire Theatre Group, and Shakespeare & Company offer a variety of musicals, comedies, dramas, and, yes, even Shakespeare. You can see old favorites as well as world premieres of new works.
Alan Paul is taking over from Julia Boyd as artistic director of Barrington Stage Company, in Pittsfield. While he worked at The Shakespeare Company in Washington, DC, he directed significant musicals as well as Shakespeare and plays.
This season is opening with Cabaret through Saturday, July 8. The main stage season includes Blues for an Alabama Sky about the Harlem Renaissance (Tuesday, July 18 to Sunday, Aug. 6, and William Finn’s musical A New Brain (Wednesday, Aug. 16 to Sunday, Sept. 10.)
At the smaller St. Germain Stage, also in Pittsfield, the world premiere of Tiny Father about a man figuring out what it means to be a “Dad” runs through Saturday, July 22. It’s followed by Brian Friel’s magnificent play, The Faith Healer, from Tuesday, Aug. 1 to Sunday, Aug. 27.
Berkshire Theatre Group is presenting three works at its Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, close to the Connecticut – Massachusetts border. Through Saturday, July 1 is Photograph 51 about the British scientist Rosalind Franklin who was the overlooked member of the team that discovered the DNA double helix. Following that is the world premiere of The Smile of Her, a solo show written and performed by Christine Lahti about a “perfect” ‘50s suburban family that may not be so perfect. It runs from Wednesday, July 12 through Saturday, July 29. Another world premiere, On Cedar Street, runs from Saturday, Aug. 12 to Saturday, Sept. 2. The musical is about elderly next-door neighbors who find companionship and more. It has a heavy hitter production team: book by Emily Mann, music by Lucy Simon and Carmel Dean, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, and is directed by Susan H. Schulman.
Shakespeare & Company is located in Lenox, MA and performs both outdoor and indoors. At the outdoor theatre is, Dear Jack, Deal Louise – the story of two strangers during WWII who come to know each other through letters. It runs to Sunday, July 30. Also outdoors will be Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Tuesday, Aug. 1 to Sunday, Sept. 10. The larger indoor theater presents The Contention (Henry VI, Part II), through Saturday, July 15. August Wilson’s Fences will run from Saturday, July 22 to Sunday, Aug. 27.
Don’t forget that in addition to all the theater offerings, there are many outdoor (and indoor) concerts and dance performances.
This content courtesy of Shore Publications and Zip06. com