Summer used to be a time when local theaters went on vacation and area performers, directors and designers recharged their batteries. Nowadays, many South Florida theaters run year-round or at least have one hot weather show and/or showcases for its student training programs.
So consider avoiding the summer superhero movies in favor of live theater, like the following (listed geographically from north to south):
While the Maltz Jupiter Theatre focuses on its multimillion-dollar expansion project this summer, its student conservatory is in high gear, training future performers and producing showcases of their progress. But the runs are brief, so you have to act fast. On June 28 and 29, students in grades 6-12 present In the Heights, Lin Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical about a bodega owner in Washington Heights and the challenges facing his tight-knit community.
Next up is All Night Strut, a jazz- and blues-filled revue featuring standards from the American songbook by such composers as Frank Loesser, Duke Ellington and George Gershwin, performed by members of the Maltz’s Professional Training Program, on the verge of graduating from the two-year curriculum. (July 12 and 13).
The youngest conservatory students – grades 3 through 5 — will be performing You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (July 26 and 27), bringing to life the Charles Schulz cartoon characters in the stage musical by Clark Gesner. Not classy enough for you? If Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is what you crave, circle Aug. 10 for a look at the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers (yes, that inspired West Side Story), entirely produced by middle and high school students as part of the Theatre’s Youth Artists’ Chair program.
A company that performs mainly in the summertime is Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival, which has been providing Shakespeare-by-the-Sea free of charge (well, donations would be appreciated) for the past 28 years. Now well-ensconced at the Seabreeze Amphitheater in Jupiter’s Carlin Park, a venue that has been gradually upgraded over time, the company returns to the Bard’s most enduring, albeit tragic, romance, Romeo and Juliet, for two weekends (July 11-14, 18–21). But it wouldn’t be Palm Beach Shakespeare if this classic tale of star-crossed lovers weren’t shaken up a bit, with some editing and transformation in time and locale. So grab your blanket, picnic basket and binoculars and brace yourself for a new take on the feuding Montagues and Capulets.
Palm Beach Dramaworks usually produces a show or two each summer, but it is resting on its recent Carbonell Award wins and taking the season off. Instead, it will present a trio of concerts — Ukelele by Taimane Gardner (June 19); The Lubben Brothers (June 21-23), those versatile siblings previously featured in Woody Guthrie’s American Song and The Spitfire Grill, and Jill and Rich Switzer (Aug. 2-4), the stars of the “Morning Lounge” on Legends Radio 100.3 FM, paying tribute in word and song to some of their favorite American songbook artists, including a centennial celebration of Nat King Cole.
In addition, Dramaworks has a summer academy, dedicated to theater training for teens with material that emphasizes contemporary social issues. The first of two works this summer will be Edges: The Musical (June 28-30), a revue of songs about self-discovery and coming of age by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Tony Award-winning team of Dear Evan Hansen. It will be followed by a modern adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s dramatic classic An Enemy of the People (July 26-28), about one man’s fight against corruption and greed in his community.
The 66-year-old Lake Worth Playhouse, one of Palm Beach County’s leading community theaters, will be producing the toe-tapping Footloose this summer (July 11-28), the stage adaptation of the 1984 Kevin Bacon flick. His character, Ren, has to adjust when he and his mother are forced to move from Chicago to a small farming town, ruled by a embittered local preacher who has banned dancing. Hey, it’s a musical, so you know that edict won’t last long.
A summer fixture in the area for the past 21 years is Florida Atlantic University’s Festival Rep, a showcase of the school’s drama graduates and near-graduates. This year’s rep features Samuel Taylor’s classic romance Sabrina Fair (June 7-22) and the musical Sister Act (July 6-21), Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s recycling of the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg movie comedy. The former is a romantic triangle with modern echoes of Cinderella, while the latter focuses on a cabaret singer wannabe hiding out from the mob in a convent.
Slow Burn Theatre, the resident troupe of Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center, offers its version of the campy and touching Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (June 13-30), about a trio of lovelorn performers on tour in the Australian outback. This jukebox musical features a lively score of familiar disco hits and lots of outrageous costumes. Meanwhile, in the Broward’s larger Au Rene Theater will be A Bronx Tale (June 11-23), a nostalgic tale of growing up in the New York borough in the 1960s, as a young man is caught between his loyalty to his bus driver father and an influential mob boss. Based on the one-man show and subsequent film by Chazz Palminteri, who co-directed the musical.
The main resident company at Lauderdale’s Vanguard Theater, Thinking Cap, is taking the summer off, but New City Players is keeping the place lit with its take on Shakespeare’s Scottish play whose title is not to be uttered. You know, the one with the three witches, the general destined for political power and his over-ambitious wife (Aug. 15-Sept. 1).
Island City Stage in Wilton Manors, the region’s only theater company devoted to works on LGBTQ themes has expanded to producing year-round. On the schedule this summer is a Rich Orloff farce, Veronica’s Position (May 31-June 30), about a fading stage star, her errant ex-husband, her right-wing senator fiancé and her gay assistant, all embroiled in love, politics and an ill-conceived production of Hedda Gabler. Also on Island City’s summer menu is a world premiere by the prolific Michael Leeds, Starmaker (Aug. 8-Sept. 8), about the real-life relationship between handsome, closeted Rock Hudson and his homely, openly gay agent Henry Willson, who turned him into a movie star.
Miami’s M Ensemble, which features plays of the black experience, offers up Sisters (June 6-23) by Marsha Jackson Randolph, which examines two African-American women at opposite ends of the “color spectrum,” snowbound together in the middle of a power outage. What could go wrong?
Coral Gables’ Actors’ Playhouse ends its subscription season with John Patrick Shanley’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Doubt (May 15-June 9), a who-do-you-trust morality play pitting an iron-fisted nun (Laura Turnbull) and school principal against an amiable priest (Terry Hardcastle), who may have molested a student. Then in midsummer (July 17- Aug. 11), the company produces Murder for Two, a hybrid of musical comedy and a whodunit, a two-man show with one actor investigating the crime and the other playing all 13 suspects. Oh, and they both play the piano.
In between his continuing efforts to move his operations to Coconut Grove, Joe Adler’s GableStage has plans to present a couple of area premieres of topical, political dramas this summer — Kings (May 18-June 16) by Sarah Burgess and Skeleton Crew (July 20-Aug. 18) by Dominique Morisseau. The former concerns a whip-smart female lobbyist stuck representing an idealistic campaign neophyte, and features Diana Garle, Leah Sessa, Karen Stephens and Tom Wahl. The latter is set in a small Detroit factory where its workers — Patricia DeGraff Arenas, Jean Hippolite, Rita Joe and Allan Lewis — are struggling to survive.
Still running on Broadway after two years is the surprise hit Come From Away, with the touring edition playing Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center on June 18-23. Its fact-based story is set in tiny Gander, Newfoundland, where 7,000 passengers from around the world were stranded after the air traffic chaos of 9/11.