News Column

Summer theater: Tunes take the stage across KC

May 23, 2013

YellowBrix

May 23--Here's what summer theater in Kansas City means: Musicals, heat, musicals, air-conditioning, musicals, Shakespeare, musicals, drama, musicals, comedy, musicals and and more musicals.

And summer 2013 is shaping up to be firmly in that tradition.

The annual mix of elevated language and accessible entertainment known as the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival this year returns to "As You Like It," one of the Bard's comedies. It was also staged by the festival in 2000.

As usual, artistic director Sidonie Garrett has assembled some of the best actors in Kansas City as well as out-of-town performers who have worked with the festival before. Carla Noack, John Rensenhouse, Mark Robbins, Bruce Roach, Todd Carlton Lanker and Cinnamon Schultz lead a cast that includes Matthew Rapport, Michael Linsley Rapport, Jaques Roy, Scott Cordes, Jake Walker and Emily Peterson, among others.

"As You Like It" runs June 18-July 7 in Southmoreland Park, just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Call 816-531-7728 or go to KCShakes.org.

In terms of musicals, the big gorilla is, of course, Starlight Theatre in Swope Park, which this year offers six shows through the summer and into September. The lineup: "Monty Python's Spamalot," May 31-June 6; "Catch Me If You Can," June 11-16; "Flashdance the Musical," July 9-14; "Disney's Little Mermaid," July 23-28; "Footloose," Aug 5-11; "Miss Saigon," Sept. 7-13. Call 816-363-7827 or go to KCStarlight.com.

But there's plenty of musical entertainment beyond Starlight. The New Theatre, which wraps up its production of "Weekend Comedy" June 16, reprises one of its most popular shows: "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story." The nostalgic bio-musical runs June 20-Aug. 25. Call 913-649-7827 or go to NewTheatre.com. The theater is at 9229 Foster St. in Overland Park.

At the American Heartland Theatre, the comedy "Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage" runs through June 23, followed by the last show in the Heartland's history -- "The Bikinis," about a '60s girl group reunion, July 12-Aug. 25. After that the Heartland will close. Crown Center officials have announced no plans for the 420-seat playhouse that opened in 1987.

"Ragtime," the epic musical based on E.L. Doctorow's novel, runs May 30-June 16 at the intimate Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, 3614 Main St. The show features a book by Terrence McNally and a score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Call 816-569-3226 or go to MetKC.org.

Quality Hill Playhouse, meanwhile, closes out its current season with the revue "Great Big Broadway," May 31-June 20. The theater is downtown at 10th and Central streets. Call 816-421-1700 or go to QualityHillPlayhouse.com.

Musical Theater Heritage, which performs in the Off Center Theatre on the third level of Crown Center, presents a concert performance of the classic musical "Hello, Dolly!' Aug. 8-25. The show features Debra Bluford and Gary Neal Johnson. Call 816-842-9999 or go to MusicalTheaterHeritage.com.

In Olathe, the Chestnut Fine Arts Center runs its current production, "Banjo On My Knee," through June 23, followed by "America's Veterans," a musical salute to men and women who served in the military, July 11-Aug. 25. The theater also will offer a special performance, "Gulley and Granner," featuring operatic singers Ben Gulley and Nathan Granner, Aug. 12-14. The theater is at 234 N. Chestnut. Call 913-764-2121 or go to ChestnutFineArts.com.

Lest you think summer theater is all fun and games, consider "The Mountaintop," a drama by Katori Hall that speculates on the last night of Martin Luther King's life. The show runs June 5-23 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main St. It features Walter Coppage and Chioma Anyanwu and is directed by Mykel Hill. Call 816-531-7529 or go to UnicornTheatre.org.

And Kansas City Actors Theatre is offering two American classics, "Picnic" by William Inge and "Long Day's Journey Into Night" by Eugene O'Neill at the H&R Block City Stage in Union Station. "Picnic" runs Aug. 6-23; Mark Robbins will direct a cast that includes Melinda McCrary, Kathleen Warfel, David Fritts and Emily Peterson. "Long Day's Journey" runs Sept. 3-15. The cast includes Jim Birdsall, Merle Moores, Brian Paulette, Doogin Brown and Jessica Franz. Visit KCActors.org for more information.

The annual KC Fringe, slated July 28-28, is a place to see new, alternative theater. The full schedule has not been announced. Go to KCFringe.org.

Younger audiences can check out the musical "Lyle the Crocodile," co-directed by Ron Megee and Missy Koonce, at the Coterie Theatre on the first level of Crown Center. The show runs June 18-Aug. 4. Learn more at TheCoterie.org. And Theatre for Young America, which performs at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station, presents "The Boxcar Children," June 11-29. Go to TYA.org.

To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to rtrussell@kcstar.com.

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(c)2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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