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Thursday, June 2, 2005 10:09 pm

Summer theater

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Theater companies in Springfield and the region are scheduling some big shows this summer, as well as some intimate dramas. This year, there’s truly something for everyone.

The Muni The season starts with another visit to The Sound of Music (June 3-5 and 8-12), always an audience favorite and a big ticket-seller. Next come Ragtime (June 24-26 and June 29-July 3), Annie Get Your Gun (July 15-17 and July 20-24), and a three-week run of Beauty and the Beast (Aug. 5-7, 10-14, and 18-20). For tickets, call 217-793-MUNI, go to www.themuni.org, or visit the Sangamon Auditorium box office.

The Muni has been taking more risks the past few years by adding new shows to the lineup, and Ragtime (based on the E.L. Doctorow novel set in turn-of-the-century New York) is a big show with a wonderful score.

New Salem Theatre in the Park at New Salem (in the outdoor amphitheater) begins its season with Paint Your Wagon (June 10-12 and 16-19). This 1950s musical has not been produced in the area in many years, and the Old West theme will work well in the New Salem setting. Wagon is followed by Guys & Dolls Jr., a scaled-down production of the classic musical to be performed by area youth (July 1-3 and 7-10), Little Shop of Horrors (July 22-24 and July 28-31), and Pippin — a 1970s musical by Stephen Schwartz, composer of Godspell and Wicked (Aug. 12-14 and 18-21).

The outdoor stage will also host some musical nights, beginning with a musical revue (June 3 and 4) in which performances of songs from the summer lineup will be presented. A choral show, presented June 24 and 25, will feature such local choral groups as the Sound Celebration Chorus, the Menard County Singers, Old Capitol Chorale, and the Lincoln Land Barber Shop Chorus. Branson performer Denny Yeary will play there July 15 and 16, and a big-band revue, Fanfare, featuring Kittie Moller, plays Aug. 5 and 6. The New Salem season ends with the Dean Church Variety Music Show (Aug. 26 and 27). Call the New Salem box office (217-632-5440) or visit www.theatreinthepark.net for ticket information.

Sullivan Central Illinois’ only professional Equity summer theater is in Sullivan, where the Little Theatre on the Square continues to stage popular shows. This year the company offers 42nd Street (June 8-19), Swing! (June 22-July 3), Beauty and the Beast (July 6-17), Fiddler on the Roof (July 20-31), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Aug. 3-14). The new show on the schedule is Swing!, a dance show spotlighting the music of the 1930s and ’40s.

The Little Theatre also stages children’s-theater productions each summer. The first show for the kids is Sleeping Beauty (June 10, 11, 14, and 16-18); it’s followed by Jack and the Beanstalk (June 8, 9, 12, and 14-16) and The Jungle Book (Aug. 5, 6, 9, and 11-13). Call 217-728-7375 or visit www.thelittletheatre.org for tickets and information.

Jacksonville For theatergoers seeking something a little different, Mike Savage is directing Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize comedy/drama, Talley’s Folly, in the studio space at the Jacksonville Theatre Guild office on College Avenue in downtown Jacksonville. The production, which features Felicia Coulter and Darin Harms, plays at 7:30 p.m. June 9-11 and 2 p.m. June 12. For information, call 217-245-1402 or visit www.jacksonvilletg.org. JTG’s summer musical is Oliver!, presented in the Sophie Leschin Theatre at Jacksonville Community Park July 28-31 and Aug. 4-7.

Normal We are lucky to have the Illinois Shakespeare Festival nearby, performing at Ewing Manor in a beautiful new outdoor theater. The plays are presented in repertory throughout the summer, June 29-Aug. 13. This summer’s productions are Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and Henry VIII. For information, call 309-438-8110 or visit www.thefestival.org.

Urbana-Champaign Another repertory company well worth visiting is the Summer Studio Theatre Company at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The company specializes in American comedy during the summer and this year offers three shows running in rep June 17-July 31: My Three Angels (the basis of the Humphrey Bogart movie We’re No Angels), Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers, and Broadway, a rarely revived comedy gem from 1926. For ticket information, call 217-333-6280.

Lincoln Lincoln Community Theatre has been producing summer shows for many years in the Johnston Center for the Performing Arts, on the campus of Lincoln College. This summer’s shows include South Pacific (June 17-19 and 21-25), I Hate Hamlet (July 8-10 and 12-16), and Children of Eden (July 29-31 and Aug. 2-6). Visit www.lincolncommunitytheatre.com for information.

Peoria The Corn Stock Theatre in Peoria has a brand-new tent this year for its season of shows. Corn Stock is another long-running company that tries to bring new works to its audiences along with the tried-and-true. The lineup includes The Will Rogers Follies (June 3-11); the comedy Over the Tavern (June 24-July 2); The Who’s Tommy (July 15-23); a comedy/drama by A.R. Gurney titled Later Life (Aug. 5-13), and the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Aug. 26-Sept. 3). Call 309-676-2196 or visit www.cornstocktheatre.com.

East Peoria East Peoria’s semiprofessional Eastlight Theatre has two big shows this summer: Cats plays June 17-19 and 22-25, and Beauty and the Beast runs Aug. 5-7 and 10-13. Call 309-699-7469 or visit www.eastlighttheatre.com.

Goodfield The Barn II Dinner Theatre at Goodfield continues its hit show Squabbles through June 12; it’s followed by The Taffetas, about a female singing quartet from the 1950s and ’60s, June 16 and 17. The Barn brings back the popular comedy Love, Sex and the IRS July 21-Sept. 11. For show information, call 309-965-2545 or visit www.barn2.com.

Decatur This summer, two dinner-theater shows are being staged at Marcia’s Waterfront Restaurant at Nelson Park in Decatur: an old comedy chestnut from the 1960s, Mary, Mary (July 5-9); and a more recent musical-comedy revue, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! (Aug. 23-27). Call 217-422-7202 for information on dinner-theater packages.

St. Louis The Muny Opera in St. Louis is the country’s oldest (and largest) outdoor theater. This summer, the 12,000-seat theater in Forest Park hosts Beauty and the Beast (June 20-29), Annie Get Your Gun (July 4-10), Jesus Christ Superstar (July 11-17), Singin’ in the Rain (July 18-24), Mame (July 25-31), West Side Story (Aug. 1-7), and The Sound of Music (Aug. 8-14). Call 314-361-1900 or visit www.muny.com for tickets.

Chicago Two big musical hits are playing in Chicago this summer: The Stephen Schwartz musical hit Wicked is running at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts through Sept. 25, and The Lion King plays the Cadillac Palace June 10-Sept. 4. Call 312-902-1400 for ticket information for both shows.