The summer theater season is flourishing on our local stages — both indoors and out. If you are in search of a diversion from the beach, instead of dealing with the throngs of tourists in sweaty Manhattan, check out some of the many offerings nearby. All are well-priced (many are free), and with a wide variety of enjoyable productions to choose from, you’ll find that best of Broadway is close at hand — from classic musicals to musical revues, with some Shakespeare thrown in, of course, and something for the kids.
It’s an annual ritual to take in some outdoor theater this time of year and Plaza Theatrical Productions leads the way with its well-received shows, which have been a staple of the local summer theater season for years. The Lynbrook-based theater company — founded by Kevin Harrington (a Molloy College alumnus and East Rockaway resident), who guides his troupe as artistic director —continues its summer tradition of presenting free productions at nearby parks and libraries, in addition to performances at its home base in Bellmore, The Showplace at Bellmore Movies. Plaza just finished its run of “The Sound of Music” and will be performing “My Way,” a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, next month.
This revue celebrates the mystique and music that Frank Sinatra made famous. Audiences will once again get caught in the swagger and swanky appeal of ‘Ol Blue Eyes as four performers make their way through more than 50 songs from the Sinatra songbook. The cast, featuring Lisa Berman, Kyle Cheng, Long Beach’s Scott Earle, and Kristine Renigen, captures that special Sinatra vib as interpret Sintra’s memorable songs. There are so many to choose from — the romantic charmers, the torch ballads and those anthems to independence — that you’ll think you’re back in the Rat Pack days. You’ll be swooning to such songs as “Fly Me to The Moon,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and, of course, “New York, New York.” Savor that Rat Pack spirit at Eisenhower Park’s Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre, on Aug. 7, at 12 p.m. It is also being staged at Planting Fields in Oyster Bay on Aug. 22. Or see it indoors at the Showplace at Bellmore Movies, on Aug. 11, at 2 p.m.
Harrington’s troupe also reaches out to the kids. This year’s summer schedule features Disney’s “Camp Rock: The Musical,” based on the hit Disney Channel original movies “Camp Rock” and “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.” In this vibrant production, Mitchie and her friends arrive at Camp Rock, ready to spend another summer jamming out and having the time of their lives. But the new, flashy Camp Star across the lake threatens Camp Rock’s very existence. To keep the doors open, Mitchie steps up, rallies her fellow Camp Rockers, and gets them into top shape for the ultimate showdown.
It is being performed through August, at varied locations outdoors, including this weekend at Eisenhower Park’s Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre on July 28, at 6 p.m. You can also find the show at Lynbrook’s Greis Park on Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. and in East Rockaway, at Memorial Park, on Aug. 9, at 7 p.m.
There’s still more Disney to appeal to the kids, in the form of Beauty and the Beast, which Plaza stages at Long Island Children’s Museum this weekend, July 27, and continues Saturdays through August. Performances, which run for one hour and are followed by a meet and greet with the cast, are at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. The kids will be fascinated as dancing flatware, menacing wolves, and singing furniture fill the stage in this beloved fairy tale about very different people finding strength in one another and learning how to love.
Of course, a summer theater season always involves some Shakespeare. For that, look to Arena Players once again. Arena’s founder and longtime director Frederic De Feis presents his annual summer production in the Vanderbilt Museum’s cobblestone courtyard, set against the magnificent backdrop of the historic Vanderbilt Mansion, in Centerport. This season features “The Taming of the Shrew,” performed in full Elizabethan costume with the mansion’s grand architecture as the setting for Shakespeare’s lively, sometimes bawdy, tale of the rambunctious Kate and her love affair with Petruchio. This story reflects the Elizabethan conviction that men owned their wives and consequently had the right to beat them or deny them food or sleep. Petruchio does not beat his new bride, Kate, but he does deprive her of food, water and sleep in his efforts to reform her. He mimics her own churlish behavior in the hope that, seeing herself mirrored in him, she will change her ways. Theatergoers are encouraged to picnic on the majestic lawns overlooking the Long Island Sound before the show. Performances are Wednesday, Friday and Sunday through Aug. 25 (except Aug. 2).
For the younger set, Arena Players delights kids with its audience-participation production of “Pirates of Treasure Island.” Follow the adventures of young Jamie, heir to a treasure map, who soon sails with his masters to Treasure Island with a crew of pirates chosen from the audience. It can be seen Saturday and Sunday, also through Aug. 25.
Those who find themselves in a need of a Broadway fix can sample some of the Great White Way’s best moments when Neil Berg’s popular “100 Years of Broadway” heads back to Eisenhower Park, on Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. Described as a “Bruce Springsteen concert for the Broadway set,” the musical revue revives the show-stopping numbers of the popular productions of today and yesterday. Stars from such shows as “The Phantom Of The Opera,” “Les Miserables,” “Cats,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Jekyll & Hyde” will shine on the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre stage. Hear hits from Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Leonard Bernstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Frank Loesser, and Frankie Valli, along with thrilling numbers from Broadway’s newest hits.
Indoors, the BroadHollow Theatre Company offers the zany “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at its Elmont venue, at Elmont Public Library, which ends its run this weekend, July 28. This retelling of the legendary tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Roundtable abounds with hilarity that only Monty Python and his merry band of comics could inspire. Featuring a bevy of beautiful showgirls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits and French people, this is a “show that “raises silliness to an art form,” as described by critics.
The kids will also enjoy “Rapunzel,” its hair-raising antics involving the heroine, her Prince and the evil witch. It plays Aug. 2 and Aug. 8, at 1:30 p.m. “A Pirate’s Tale,” an original story of lost treasure and swashbuckling pirates, is another choice for the family at BroadHollow’s Elmont theater. It also can be seen Aug. 2 and Aug. 8, at 10:30 a.m.
And for those who just can’t get enough of “Grease,” the musical takes a new spin from the newly reinvigorated Harbor Musical Theater Company (the musical theater division of Port Washington Play Troupe), which is staging a new production at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington, now through July 28. There is a twist to this version: adult actors play all the parts as the characters revisit their youth at the Rydell High’s 25th reunion of the class of ‘59, performing the original book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.
“When people think of Grease they generally think of the movie version,” said David Barnett, the musical director for this production, which is directed by Brian E. Long. “This show is based on the original script as it was written for the stage. It has a different feeling than the movie. The original story is much grittier as you’ll see in our show.”
Barnett, who grew up in Port Washington, but now lives in Woodmere, has had a varied musical career as a composer, musical director, arranger/orchestrator and instrumentalist. He welcomed the opportunity to be involved with Long and help him execute this version of the popular musical.
“I am really proud to be a part of revitalizing this community theater group and especially proud of this show. Everyone has worked hard to pull off something outstanding. The actors are having the time of their lives doing this show and our audiences are responding to that.”
Ken Young, Molloy College’s Director of Public Relations/Marketing also appears in the production, as one of the ‘Greasers.’ The show opened last weekend and continues July 26-28, at 8 p.m.
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