The sunny season is finally drawing near, which means a whole host of summer shows will soon be gracing area stages. Traditionally a time for lighter fare, this summer there are plenty of good reasons — both comic and tragic — to abandon the backyard barbecue and head to a theater near you. These are some of the productions I’m particularly looking forward to. Find something that tickles your fancy or ignites your imagination, and go support great local theater all summer long!
Jim DeVita in "Arcadia"
The Comedy of Errors, Death of a Salesman, Arcadia, Mary’s Wedding
American Players Theatre, Spring Green
In repertory June 3-Nov. 20 americanplayers.org
Whether you’re in the mood for a classic Shakespeare comedy of mistaken identity (The Comedy of Errors), a cornerstone of American drama (Death of a Salesman)or a contemporary play exploring mathematics, history, chaos theory and the impact of love on the universe (Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia), put an evening of amazing drama under the stars on your summer calendar. And this fall, come back to the intimate indoor Touchstone Theater for a beautiful love story set against the backdrop of World War I in Mary’s Wedding. Whatever you choose, pack a picnic, a good bottle of wine — and a gallon of bug spray— and enjoy some of the best regional theater productions in the country, just an hour from Madison.
Michelle Ragusa in "Gypsy"
Capital City Theatre
June 17-18, Capitol Theater, Overture Center. capitalcitytheatre.org
Mama Rose is back, and “everything’s comin’ up roses” for Capital City Theatre, as the company presents its second major production. The classic Broadway musical Gypsy features the ultimate ambitious stage mother, pushing her two daughters towards success in vaudeville at almost any cost. Based loosely on the 1957 memoir of famed striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, audiences will recognize songs including “Let Me Entertain You,” and “Some People.”
Artistic director/musical director Andrew Abrams will lead a 25-piece orchestra, which will be seated at the back of the stage. In front of them, the full cast will perform with minimal sets and costumes. The show features Broadway performer Michele Ragusa as Mama Rose and Madison’s own Liz Griffith as Louise, with choreography from the Madison Ballet’s W. Earle Smith.
Monty Python's "Spamalot"
Monty Python’s Spamalot
Four Seasons Theatre
Aug. 5-7, Wisconsin Union Theater, Madison. fourseasonstheatre.com
Cue the coconut shells. The knights of Spamalot are cantering into Madison this summer with their own hilarious version of Arthurian events. Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot riffs on the legend of the Knights of the Round Table, who are now charged with finding the grail, fighting some ill-tempered Frenchmen, rescuing Prince Herbert and putting on a Broadway show. (They also eat ham and jam a lot.) Along the way they meet a bevy of beautiful show girls, the Lady of the Lake, killer rabbits and the Knights who say “Ni.” Winner of three Tony awards, Spamalot includes many new tunes, as well as “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” “Brave Sir Robin” and “Knights of the Round Table.”
"A New Brain"
A New Brain
Music Theatre of Madison
July 8-9 and 14-16, Wisconsin Union Theater, Madison. mtmadison.com
Specializing in bringing new and lesser-known musicals to Madison audiences, Music Theatre of Madison presents the truly unusual piece A New Brain this summer in the Play Circle at the UW Memorial Union.
William Finn’s highly autobiographical tale focuses on a composer who is unhappily employed writing for a children’s TV show and dreaming of a Broadway career. When he collapses into a plate of ziti, it is revealed that he has a devastating brain disease. Knowing that his time may be running short, he fights for his life and the chance to write all the songs that are still inside him. Complemented with catchy tunes and a guy in a frog suit, A New Brain is an ultimately uplifting portrayal of a composer rediscovering his art.
July 12-17; overturecenter.com.
As they say, don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his heels.
The winner of six Tony Awards, Kinky Boots was a surprise Broadway hit when it opened in 2013, featuring songs by Grammy- and Tony-winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Based on the 2005 film and inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots follows Charlie Price, an aspiring young businessman who is forced to abandon his life in London and come home in order to save the family business in northern England.
When Charlie inherits his father’s bankrupt shoe factory, he finds unexpected inspiration in the form of Lola, a fabulous drag performer in need of some sturdy stilettos. As happens in Broadway musicals, Lola helps Charlie turn the factory around while transcending prejudice and bridging cultures with high kicks and a lot of sass. There are also plenty of show-stopping numbers in this fluffy but fun story.