Summer theater steps out of NY

Northeast productions draw a crowd, honchos too

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Musicals, comedies and classics traditionally lure summer theater tourists to the box office as they escape the heat of Gotham for the mountains and the shore in the Northeast.

But commercial producers this season also will be looking to bring shows back to New York as souvenirs as they mix business with pleasure in search of fresh summer awakenings.

After last summer’s well-received “The Burnt Part Boys,” from the frosh season of composer William Finn’s Music Theater Lab at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, Mass., a new slate of tuners in the Berkshires is again thinking young.

“Calvin Berger,” an American high school take on “Cyrano de Bergerac,” kicked off the trio of shows June 26. The musical preemed in Massachusetts at Gloucester Stage last year, with book, music and lyrics by Barry Wyner. Stephen Terrell stages and choreographs.

Another multihyphenate, Kirsten Childs, best known for “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin,” gets a workshop with her latest, “Funked Up Fairy Tales.” The Kevin Del Aguila-helmed work, billed as “twisted takes on classic tales,” runs July 31-Aug. 11. “The Pig Prince” becomes “K-Pig,” “Tamelin” becomes “Tammy Lynn in Her Trailer Park” and “Rumplestiltskin” is now “Mista’ Skin.”

In what may be the most intriguing adaptation of the season, the third entry is by the “Burnt Part” team — a workshop of “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick,” based on the elliptical illustrated children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg and beginning perfs Aug. 21. Chris Miller pens music to Nathan Tysen’s lyrics, with script and staging by Joe Calarco.

Premiering in Williamstown, Mass., July 25 after an earlier Gotham workshop is the tuner “Party Come Here” on Williamstown Theater Festival’s second stage. Christopher Ashley will direct the show about sex, spirituality and miracles on a hot night in Rio. Book is by Daniel Goldfarb (“Modern Orthodox”), with music and score by David Kishenbaum (“Summer of ’42”). Malcolm Gets and Hunter Foster star.

Elsewhere, the Williamstown lineup is a traditional mix of classics and preems, shuffling a roster of marquee names on both sides of the footlights.

The fest opened with B.D. Wong solo starrer, “Herringbone,” directed by Williamstown a.d. Roger Rees; and the preem of “Dissonance,” a drama about the collision of rock and chamber music, starring Daniel Gerroll and Alicia Witt. Kathleen Turner will helm a revival of Beth Henley’s Southern strange-sister comedy, “Crimes of the Heart,” Aug. 8-19, starring Sarah Paulson, while also in August, Rees will star in “The Physicists.”

The world preem of “Villa America,” July 11-22, takes a look at the ’20s lifestyle of Gerald and Sara Murphy and their chic literary pals.

Other actors appearing include Richard Kind (mainstage season opener “The Front Page”), Kate Burton (playing opposite her son in “The Corn Is Green”) and Allison Janney, Elizabeth Franz and Mamie Gummer (“The Autumn Garden”).

Over at the Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge, Mass., the spotlight is on the July revival of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with “Terminator” star Linda Hamilton embracing her dark side as Nurse Ratched. Jonathan Epstein stars as Randall McMurphy, while Randy Harrison as Billy Bibbit continues his post-“Queer as Folk” legit trajectory after being seen in “Equus,” “Amadeus” and “The Glass Menagerie.”

Harrison also returns to the Stockbridge boards Aug. 14-Sept. 1 in “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” which has Jayne Atkinson stepping up to the role of the mother with the unsavory past. Also cast are Sara Drew, Mark Nelson, Walter Hudson and Stephen Temperley.

Of note is the July workshop of Rick Cleveland’s solo play, “My Pal George,” the follow-up by the TV scribe (“Six Feet Under,” “The West Wing) to “My Buddy Bill,” the first of his proximity-to-presidents musings.

Vivian Matalon is gambling that theatrical lightning could strike twice in his “Morning’s at Seven,” beginning perfs July 31 with Anita Gillette, Debra Jo Rupp and Joyce Van Patten. Matalon helmed the celebrated 1980 Broadway revival of the Paul Osborn comedy.

Other musical preems getting tryouts at East Coast summer venues include the rock opera “Turandot: The Rumble for the Ring,” bowing July 10 at Bay Street Theater in Long Island’s Sag Harbor. The creators of “The Donkey Show” take on and take off on “Turandot,” with original lyrics and book by Randy Weiner, conceived and helmed by Diane Paulus.

Over at New York Stage & Film at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., John Patrick Shanley explores his musical side when the Pulitzer-winning “Doubt” scribe writes and helms “Romantic Poetry — A Musical Play,” with tunes by “Dreamgirls” composer Henry Krieger. “Poetry” runs July 19-29. Pete Townshend’s new rock opera “The Boy Who Heard Music” also gets two concert readings, July 13-14.

At Westport Country Playhouse (Conn.), Billy Porter mixes Sondheim with Shakespeare, stirring in an African-American musical twist with the August preem of new revue “Being Alive!”

After helping to foster “Avenue Q” and “In the Heights” in their early stagings, O’Neill Theater Center’s Music Theater Conference in Waterford, Conn., will look to strike tuner gold again with a pair of staged readings: the surrealist rock musical “Notes to MariAnne” and “Red Eye of Love.” A comedy about America in times of war, depression and economic boom, “Red Eye” will star Cheyenne Jackson, on a brief hiatus from “Xanadu,” and Elizabeth Stanley (“Company”).

And after last year’s less-than-thrilling Los Angeles bow of the tube-to-stage adaptation, Garry Marshall is hoping “Happy Days” are here again. Legit version of his ’50s-era feelgood series gets a workshop facelift in August at Goodspeed Musical’s second theater in Chester, Conn., prior to opening the Paper Mill Playhouse season in New Jersey, Sept. 26-Oct. 28. Aim is for the new show to hit the road next year.

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