IT’S TIME FOR THE LOCALS TO GET OUT and “play”. Decades of love and disco in the era of big hair and bigger shoulder pads, community theaters are exploding in the summer with productions geared towards local residents, young audiences and families. As the older population of seasonal residents and snowbirds flock to their northern nests, many theater companies are abandoning the high-season format of big-ticket classics, classic classics, Broadway darlings and mainline musicals at the adult-themed off-season benefit. content that is often more racy, lecherous, sometimes downright raunchy and even shows a little skin.
“We do our biggest, splashiest shows while the snowbirds are here,” says Laurie Colton, director of marketing and public relations at the Venice Theater. “The theaters closed in the summer. Now summer is for kids and locals.
Summer in South Florida is the season for world premieres, bold and evocative new works and performances, and parent-approved musicals that are just plain fun for the theater. This is our corner of the Florida version of the summer theater – with air conditioning.
“The core of our seasonal residents and subscribers are here from November through March and they love the older classic musicals,” says Melissa Vogt, general manager of the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater in Fort Myers. “It’s the time of year when we can do fun things. We always have a main family show during the summer, and it’s worked out really well. Between visitors, residents planning a stay and grandparents looking for activities with their grandchildren, it’s a good time of year to see a show.
With its heavy metal breaks and power ballad anthems, “Rock of Ages,” at the Broadway Palm in Fort Myers, plays through June 25, is to ’80s generation me like “Oklahoma” and “The Sound of Music” are at Golden Age Theater Lovers. The five-time Tony Award-nominated musical follows the budding romance of a small-town girl and a city boy (yup, lyrics borrowed directly from the song Journey) trying to save the bar ultimate rock, without the cheesy movie editing.
“We push the envelope in the summer,” says Kenzie Currie, program administrator for The Naples Players. “We usually do a more modern show in the summer, a big musical for our volunteers and the locals. They choose the musical.
As an encore to last summer’s hit “The Wedding Singer,” the Naples Players take on the wacky “Something Rotten!” set in the 1590s as playwright brothers, desperate for a come-uppance against the Renaissance rock star known as The Bard, pen and ink (pen) the world’s first musical. Performances take place from June 22 to July 24.
“It’s a love letter to musical theatre,” says Currie. “It mocks the traditions of musical theater.” Lovingly mocking and satirical, this year’s off-season productions also dive deep into racism and societal issues. The Laboratory Theater of Florida offers the Aug. 5-20 premiere in southwest Florida of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fairview,” which The New York Times called “a play about race, but not about race.” race…Fairview (will) make you squirm in your seat. You will also end up questioning your basic right to sit there.
Theater Conspiracy, also in Fort Myers, presents “The Chechens”, hailed as an intense yet funny play. Written in 2019 and on stage August 5-15, it’s an eerie reality mimicking art that takes audiences to present-day Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Chechen Republic bustling amid rumors of a Russian roundup of “certain people” and detention camps.
The Lab Theater takes a parody jab at a Hitchcock horror classic at the world premiere of “The Birds” through June 30 and features the July 15-16 limited engagement “Trap,” a thriller from documentary style researching the strange events that befall the cast of a college play.
In partnership with the American Association of Community Theatre, Venice is hosting its fourth aactWORLDFEST, a week-long community theater experience celebrating performances from around the world presented June 20-26 by troupes from 10 countries. Highlights include the fourth appearance of Rome’s Maner Manush Troupe, performing ‘The Fabulous Journey’ in commedia dell’arte style; award-winning Brazilian puppeteer and musician Caio Stolai; “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” by Yerevan State Puppet Theater of Armenia; and “Passion” performed by the Swiss Theater Studio BELOE.
“Our actors stay in people’s homes, and some perform in their own language,” Ms. Colton says. “The acting is really physical so it’s easy to follow. It is the most exciting international festival.
Many theaters also offer summer family productions and give local children their moment in the spotlight. Teen actors can join The Naples Players “Something Rotten!” Teen Bootcamp from June 6 to July 1, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Whether you’re a teenager into “Something Rotten Teen” and want to dive into the material or a young actor ready to learn some acting, singing and dancing skills, this course is for you. Performances of Something Rotten Teen will take place August 5-7. Young children take the stage during July 1-3 performances of “Dear Edwina Jr.”, the story of a little girl with a column of advice, and larger roles and choreography with appearances from Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant and Gertrude McFuzz during “Seussical Jr.” July 29-31.
“Our children’s programs encourage character building, family and friendships,” says Currie.
For children and families, the Broadway Palm offers “The Emperor’s New Clothes” until June 24 and “The Wizard of Oz” from July 1 to August 13.
Theater’s annual SummerStock for high school and college performers presents “The Fantasticks,” the world’s longest running musical and the timeless story of young love and parents trying to break them apart. Shows run July 19-24.
The Venice theater is also presenting “Godspell Jr.”, the culmination of his fifth-grade summer camp August 4-7.
During Delray Beach Playhouse’s Summer Broadway Camp for Young Actors, public performances of “The Little Mermaid Jr.” July 16-17. ¦