May 24--DENNIS -- It's going to be an all-musical summer this year at Cape Playhouse.
Artistic director Evans Haile listened to what audiences at the venerable Dennis theater have said they want to see, and the message was loud and clear. So the professional company has a six-show season of various types of musicals, including the world premiere of a revue tribute to Marvin Hamlisch with Broadway stars who worked with the acclaimed composer.
The rest of the programming consists of two tried-and-true musicals -- "Hello, Dolly" (starring Tony Award winner Beth Leavel) and "Sweet Charity"; the return of "Radio Gals," a comedy favorite from several seasons ago; the only local stop of a touring show of ballroom dancing; and a revue of work by songwriters Rodgers and Hammerstein, with more Broadway regulars.
Audience response was key to targeting musicals this year, Haile says, but the decision was also based in part on the fact that Cape Playhouse is the rare area theater with a large enough stage, orchestra pit and wing space to put on the big productions. "We're very proud we have the facility to do large-scale musicals," he says. "It's just as if they were on a Broadway stage."
That Broadway connection is key -- Haile has concentrated on bringing Broadway talent to Cape Cod, often touting the chance to see that caliber of talent here at ticket prices lower than in New York.
Beyond that, Haile is bringing in "Ballroom With a Twist," which features talent from "Dancing With the Stars," as well as other, not-yet-announced dancers from "So You Think You Can Dance" and singers from "American Idol."
The Hamlisch show, created by David Zippel, will run June 24-July 6. It is based on a one-night tribute to the composer, who died last year, which was done during the winter in Palm Desert, Cal. Zippel wrote the lyrics to Hamlisch's score for the 1993 stage musical of "The Goodbye Girl," won Tony and Drama Desk awards for his score for "City of Angels" and was nominated for Academy Awards for lyrics from Disney's animated films "Hercules" and "Mulan." Haile says he and Zippel were having lunch when he asked Zippel if he had thought of expanding the show. The result of that talk, with most of the same cast from California, will be "They're Playing His Songs."
"It's an amazing group of artists who all had some kind of relationship with Marvin Hamlisch's shows or were involved or worked with him in different ways," Haile says. "This is a fresh and new celebration of a beloved contemporary songwriter."
Starring in Dennis will be Broadway actors Karen Ziemba, who played several roles in Hamlisch's "A Chorus Line" on national tour and on Broadway, won a Tony Award for "Contact," and also starred in "42nd Street," "Curtains" and other shows; Tony nominee Christiane Noll, who played Mother in the 2009 revival of "Ragtime" and was Emma in the original "Jekyll & Hyde" musical; Jason Graae, whose Broadway credits include "A Grand Night for Singing" and "Falsettos" and who played Nathan Detroit in the 2006 "Guys and Dolls" at Cape Playhouse; and Carol Woods, whose Broadway credits include "Follies" and "Goodbye Girl."
The playhouse season kicks off June 10-22 with "Some Enchanted Evening," a revue of music by the team that created "South Pacific," "The King and I," "Oklahoma!" "Carousel" and other favorites.
"Rodgers and Hammerstein are really riding a high tide right now," Haile says, noting revivals of favorite shows in recent years. "We've seen how popular and evergreen their music is, and a whole new generation is discovering it."
The Broadway-caliber cast includes Leah Hocking ("All Shook Up," "Hairspray," "Mamma Mia"); Bret Shuford ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Little Mermaid"); Kevin Earley ("Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Tale of Two Cities") and Susan Powell, who starred at the playhouse last season in "Kiss Me, Kate." Haile and Phil Reno will play piano for the revue.
The third show of the season is "Sweet Charity," which Haile describes as a "sexy and fun" musical about a dance hall girl seeking love that's known for its dancing and such tunes as "Hey, Big Spender" and "If He Could See Me Now." Starring will be Kirsten Wyatt, who played Paulette at the playhouse last summer in "Legally Blonde."
"Watching Kirsten in 'Legally Blonde,' I thought 'Now I can do "Charity.' You don't do that show unless you have someone absolutely right for the role," Haile says. Also starring are Broadway's Rachelle Rak and John Scherer, a frequent playhouse actor.
"Ballroom With a Twist" runs July 22-Aug. 3, starring celebrity pros Anna Trebunskaya and Tristan MacManus from "Dancing With the Stars," along with finalists from other TV competition shows. An unusual production for the playhouse, it's stopping at several theaters around the Northeast.
"It's a real extravaganza for the whole family," Haile says, "something you won't see anywhere else on the Cape."
"Hello, Dolly" which runs Aug. 5-17, marks the first time the classic Jerry Herman musical has been performed at Cape Playhouse, which is celebrating its 86th year. Haile is thrilled to have Leavel (Tony winner for "The Drowsy Chaperone") to star as matchmaker Dolly Levi, with Broadway/playhouse regular Jen Cody as hat-making assistant Minnie Fay and frequent director Jimmy Brennan as Dolly's love interest, Horace Vandergelder.
The playhouse season winds up Aug. 19-31 with "Radio Gals," a show that was popular with audiences when Haile introduced it here more than a decade ago. The story of a music teacher who sets up a radio station in her own house will star Mary Stout, who was a hit last summer as Mother Superior in "Nunsense."
(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)
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