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Thursday, May 24, 2012 06:30 pm

Summer theater has something for everyone


During the Civil War Medical Encampment at the Old State Capitol June 8-10, historian Herschel Stroud of Topeka, Kan., presents the kickoff event for History Comes Alive.

It’s that time of year again. Yes, ’tis the season for summer barbecues, local festivals and a boat on the lake. It also marks the start of a magnificent summer of local theater in central Illinois.

Here are some highlighted theatrical venues and their summer schedule:

Theatre in the Park at New Salem’s season begins with Father of the Bride directed by Leona Edwards and takes the stage June 1-3 and 7-9. Patrick O’Brien leads an outstanding cast through a father’s life journey. Bye, Bye Birdie plays June 22-24, 28-30 and July 1. It’s a musical centering around the fictional rock icon Conrad Birdie’s arrival in a small town. Sangamon Songs will play July 7, directed by Tom Irwin, who wrote the piece inspired by an actual journal written by a boy in 1893. To continue with the 19th century theme, Civil War Journeys, directed by John Woodruff, will play July 13-15 and 19-22. Damn Yankees is another musical set to hit the stage Aug. 3-5 and 9-12 and is filled with catchy tunes and an interesting plotline. For two performances (Aug. 17 and 18), Prairie Voices will feature two of the most exciting local actors, Aasne Vigesaa and Kevin Purcell, and is comprised of poetry and songs inspired by the Illinois prairie and works of Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg. Finally, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Phil Funkenbusch, will round out the season. This Pulitzer prize-winning piece will present Aug. 24-26, 30-31 and Sept. 1. It will feature Ed MacMurdo as Atticus and the up and coming child actress Cecilia Donathan as Scout. For tickets call 217-632-5440 or visit www.theatreinthepark.net.

The Muni Opera is another popular venue that will have something for everyone this summer. First is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, directed by Flynn Hanners, which is set to appear June 8-10 and 13-17. A favorite for many, this piece brings biblical tales to life through Andrew Lloyd Webber’s brilliant musical styling. Next is Gershwin’s Crazy for You (Jun. 29-July 1 and July 5-8), co-directed by Doug Hahn and Gary Shull. Starring Nathan Peak and Anna Bussing, this 1930s-based musical is filled with tap dancing and crowd-pleasing familiar tunes. From the creators of Ragtime, Once on This Island, directed by Laurie O’Brien, will play July 20-22 and 25-29 and features a beautifully told story of a peasant island girl. Finally, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, directed by Craig Williams II, will close out the season Aug. 10-12 and 15-19. The story of Belle comes to life as she befriends characters through this whimsical love tale made famous by the classic movie. For tickets to these shows or more information call 217-793-MUNI (6864) or visit www.themuni.org.

The Legacy Theatre is the revitalized former home of the Springfield Theater Guild, recently purchased by Scott Richardson. Little by little, this Springfield gem is coming to life with renovations and exciting events happening almost monthly. This summer, be sure to check out Legally Blonde: The Musical, directed by Greg Donathan, which plays July 13-15 and 19-22. Fun for all ages, bend and snap with Elle as she brings the famous movie to life. For more information call 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.atthelegacy.com.

The Little Theatre On The Square in Sullivan is a local professional theater providing breathtaking entertainment. This summer brings an exciting array of shows, including Grease (June 6-17), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (June 20-July 1), Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance (July 5-15), The Music Man (July 18-29), and finally, the recent Broadway smash based on the hit movie 9 to 5 (Aug. 1-12). For details and tickets, contact the box office at 217-728-7375 or visit www.thelittletheatre.org.

Jacksonville Theatre Guild is sure to bring many laughs with its two productions this summer. First is Drinking Habits, which plays June 7-10 and is a hysterical comedy about two nuns secretly making wine to keep the convent doors open. Next is Misfits the Musical playing July 26-29 and Aug. 2-5. Written by the local playwrights Ken Bradbury and Roger Wainwright, it depicts the lives of pets nobody wants. Come see the misfit marsupials and the secondhand-songbirds in this comedy. For ticket information contact 217-245-1402 or visit www.jaxtg.com.

The Hoogland Center for the Arts has seen its fair share of hard times, yet thanks to the fundraising efforts of the community, the doors are wide open and bringing in a plethora of theatrical opportunities. Notably, on June 24 at 2 p.m., Chicago cabaret artist Laura Freeman will present Sentimental Journey – The Music of Doris Day. In addition, Leigh Steiner’s astounding direction and theatrical team will bring the classic Man of La Mancha to life on Aug. 24-26 and Aug. 31-Sep. 2. For information and tickets call 217-523-ARTS (2787) or visit www.hcfta.org.

Grease at Little Theatre, Sullivan, June 6-17 and Joseph at Springfield Muni, June 8-10 and 13-17.

The St. Louis Muny brings in exquisite professional talent every year and surely this year is no exception. This season consists of Thoroughly Modern Millie (June 18-24), Chicago (June 25-July 1), Aladdin (July 5-13), Dreamgirls (July 16-22), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (July 23-29), The Muny premiere of Pirates! (or Gilbert and Sullivan’s Plunder’d) (July 30-Aug. 5), and The King and I (Aug. 6-12). For tickets call 314-361-1900 or visit www.muny.org.

Peoria Eastlight Theater will present the regional premiere of Les Miserables June 22-24 and 27-30. Starring some local favorites such as Mary Kate Smith and Adam Sitton, this internationally renowned hit is arguably the most admired musical in the world. Get tickets by calling 309-699-SHOW (7469) or visit www.eastlighttheatre.com.

History Comes Alive will feature Prairie Voices on Fridays at 5pm and Lincoln and Shakespeare on Saturdays at 5pm throughout the summer in the Representative Hall at the Old State Capitol. For more details visit the OSC Facebook page, www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/historycomesalive/ or call 217-785-7960.

So pack up the family or plan a night with friends and support your community. The arts will stay alive as long as we help sustain them. I hope to see you under the stars.

Cory Blissett is an actor and site interpreter at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and can be contacted at coryblissett@gmail.com.

Cory’s Must Sees

Must see drama:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, at TIP.

Must see children’s show:
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Springfield Muni.

Must see for all ages:
Legally Blonde: The Musical at The Legacy Theatre.

Must see classic:
Man of La Mancha at The Hoogland Center for the Arts.

Also from Cory Blissett

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