Live Theatre Returns!
P45, GLCFA, and Old Town Playhouse summer shows
By Ross Boissoneau | June 26, 2021
Theatre in the (almost) post-pandemic summer? Well, yes, at least a bit. Stalwarts such as the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival and Lakeside Shakespeare in Frankfort are MIA, and the performances by campers at Interlochen are closed to the public. Other pickings are slim as well, as community theatre organizations typically go dark for the summer. But not to worry — there are still some excellent opportunities to see performers treading the boards.
The powerhouse local theatre organization Parallel 45 will bring back live outdoor summer shows once again under its open-air pavilion on the grounds of the Grand Traverse County Civic Center — two very familiar, family-friendly shows, at that: the musicals “The Sound of Music” (opening July 8) and “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown" (opening July 21), and the lesser-known "Ugly: A New Pop Musical," which will be presented by p45's Youthquake Company July 31 and Aug. 1.
The local theatre organization brings in talent from across the theatre world for its performances. After its initial season there in 2019, however, the pandemic changed everything. There was no 2020 season, and how this year would look remained up in the air. “We planned out five versions of what the season could be,” said P45 Executive Director Joe Beyer. “They’ve all changed.”
Beyer said plans originally called for distancing between the cast and the audience members and between audience members themselves. “We were wondering about the singing and interaction in rehearsals and performance … with (things like) plexiglass and masks,” Beyer said.
With vaccines available — the entire cast and crew have been vaccinated, with the exception of the actors portraying the younger Von Trapp children — and the easing of restrictions, those concerns were mitigated.
While things seem to have stabilized, there remains the possibility the pandemic will further alter presentations at the Civic Center (and elsewhere). In the meantime, however, plans call for the audience to be spread out on the lawn, using their own blankets or chairs, though Beyer said there will be some reserved seating.
“It will be much more casual,” he said. Adding to the picnic-like atmosphere is the fact Oryana will be supplying food, and beer and wine will also be available for purchase.
Beyer said besides being familiar to audiences, both shows offer insights into issues even more familiar now, given what the world has gone through the last year and a half. “The Sound of Music speaks to powerful themes of a world falling apart. Charlie Brown’s major theme is about children facing challenges, how you need teamwork.” For the latest information and tickets, visit Parallel45.org.
GREAT LAKES CENTER FOR THE ARTS
In August, Great Lakes Center for the Arts will host the musical “Always…Patsy Cline.” The show is based on the true story of the country music legend’s friendship with a fan from Houston. The two corresponded during the last years before Cline’s death in a plane crash.
The musical recaps their relationship, with much of the script derived directly from the letters the two exchanged. The play includes many of Cline’s hits, such as “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Walking After Midnight.” Go to GreatLakesCFA.org.
OLD TOWN PLAYHOUSE
While the stage inside Old Town Playhouse remains dark, the parking lot will remain open. Like last year’s pandemic-influenced slate of performances, Theatre Under the Tent will host a summer’s worth of comedy, music, and yes, some theatrical performances.
The lattermost kicks off with “The Belle of Amherst,” a one-woman play based on the life of Emily Dickinson. The reclusive nineteenth-century poet’s diaries, letters, and poems are woven into a portrait detailing her encounters with the significant people in her life. It will run June 19 and July 9 and 10.
The musical “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!” explores all the facets of a relationship, from dating through marriage, kids and in-laws. The series of vignettes was the second-longest-running Off-Broadway musical. July 23, 24, 29, and Aug. 6.
Featuring a small cast of young adults, the Young Company’s Showstoppers offer a musical revue. Songs are sourced from a variety of Broadway musicals. It runs July 30–Aug. 1.
“Hate Mail” tells the tale of a spoiled rich kid who gets the assistant manager of a department store fired when he writes a furious letter demanding a refund for a broken snow globe. He and the now ex-store manager begin an epic, acrimonious correspondence as their lives intertwine. Think of it as the darkly funny alternative to the poignant “Love Letters” playing Aug. 5, 7, 14.
Also a series of monologues, “Love, Loss and What I Wore” explores the lives of five women, marking significant events in their lives in relation to their clothing. It’s been described as witty, wistful, and bittersweet. On stage Aug. 21, 26, 27.
All Theatre Under the Tent performances start at 7pm. Go to OldTownPlayhouse.com for information on and tickets to all these plays and the other performances there.