Theater troupes rich with classic shows for summer

The Centre Region’s theater groups’ summer seasons soon will be in full swing with an impressive number of performances in the State College area and beyond. Shows filled with drama, comedy, music and family themes will play in several area venues.

Penn State’s School of Theatre

Penn State Centre Stage’s 2014-2015 season will begin with “Next to Normal.”

Dan Carter, director of the Penn State School of Theatre, said he is delighted that the show chosen by Centre Stage to open the season recently was ranked the top musicals since 2000 by BuzzFeed.

“As it turns out — purely coincidentally — we’re doing the top-rated show, ‘Next to Normal,’ this June,” he said.

“ ‘Next to Normal’ is one of only eight musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama,” “Normal” director Cary Libkin added. “With a cast led by an actor from the original production, this rock musical takes one on an emotional roller coaster, finally reaffirming the strength of love and the power of the spirit.”

For the first time in more than 10 years, the school will be producing a summer show in the Pavilion Theatre.

“We’re also opening up our facilities to other theaters and are happy to present the State College Community Theatre’s production of ‘Rabbit Hole’ at the Penn State Downtown Theatre in late July,” Carter said. “We’re also pleased to be bringing back Broadway on Allen, our free noontime series of musical reviews. This will take place mid-week in June.”

The Penn State Centre Stage summer productions include:

• “Next to Normal,” June 6-14, Pavilion Theatre, University Park

• Broadway on Allen and Nu.Musical Theatre Festival

Visit https://theatre.psu.edu/penn-state-centre-stage for more information.

State College Community Theatre

The State College Community Theatre will hold most of its new season at Mount Nittany Middle School, but the group will return to the State Theatre for a portion of the 2014 season. Last summer, the SCCT planned to hold its summer season at the State Theatre after leaving the Boal Barn but left halfway through the summer to perform the remainder of their shows at the school.

“(Last year), we moved half our season midsummer to (the school), and we got a lot of positive feedback on it. Its a very nice 450-seat, air-conditioned theater that is very easy to work in, and for our patrons it’s very easy to get in and out of and has plenty of free parking,” said David Gritzner, the SCCT executive director.

“We have worked out a deal where the State Theatre will be offering our facilities at reduced rates to pay off our outstanding debts to State College Community Theatre,” said Greg Ray, executive director of the State Theatre. “We think it’s a very big deal to have these two local organizations working through our concerns and putting shows on together again.”

The SCCT productions include:

• “Little Shop of Horrors,” June 6-14, Mount Nittany Middle School, 656 Brandywine Drive, State College

• “Noises Off,” June 19-28, MNMS

• “Anything Goes,” July 11-19, MNMS

• “Rabbit Hole,” July 25-Aug. 2, Penn State Downtown Theatre Center, 146 S. Allen St., State College

• “Pinkalicious the Musical,” Aug. 7-9, MNMS

• “Bye Bye Birdie,” Aug. 15-23, MNMS

Visit www.scctonline.org or call 234-7228 for more information.

Fuse Productions

Richard Biever, former executive/artistic director of the State Theatre, started Fuse Productions in July. Now an independent theater company, Fuse Productions will partner with Nicole Swope and Centre Dance to bring the State College area a homegrown production of “A Chorus Line.” The show hasn’t been produced locally in more than 20 years, and its themes are as relevant as ever.

“The script and score sound just as fresh and exciting as they did in 1975,” Biever said. “We’re very excited to be doing a show where dance is the predominant form of storytelling. We’re working with many new faces from the community and will be bringing in several New York City professionals to round out the cast.”

The company will hold auditions June 3 in New York and is looking for five men with significant dance credits.

Fuse Productions shows include:

• “A Chorus Line,” Aug. 7-9, State Theatre

• “The New Normal: A Spiritual Response in Words and Music,” Sept. 11, State Theatre

Visit fuseproductions.org or call 360-9709 for more information.

Nittany Valley Shakespeare Company

Charles Dumas, a professor of theater at Penn State who is planning his retirement, will direct and act in the title role of King Lear for the Nittany Valley Shakespeare Company’s seventh annual summer season.

“Shakespeare plays lend themselves to various interpretations,” he said. “We will be setting ‘Lear’ in modern-day Africa using a multicultural and multiracial perspective.”

NVSC company members also will stage the hilarious hit “The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” at the People’s Choice Festival in in July. The show is being done as a tribute to much beloved local thespian Mark Amer, who passed away this year.

“Charles and Jo Dumas are the people responsible for bringing a Shakespeare Festival to the community with the State College Shakespeare Festival many years ago, and then I picked up the torch where they left off and have been moving forward and expanding our programming with NVSC ever since,” said Susan Riddiford Shedd, co-artistic director of the Nittany Valley Shakespeare Company. “They both have been active in supporting the festival all these years, but it is really very generous and exciting that Charles is willing to help raise the bar with his appreciative creative talents by helping us continue to grow into the professional company that we envision for our community.”

The NVSC’s upcoming shows include:

• “The Compleat Works of Wm. Shakespeare (Abridged),” July 13, Pennsylvania Military Museum grounds, Boalsburg

• “The Tragedy of King Lear,” Aug. 21-24, State Theatre

• “Little Lear,” Aug. 23-24, Orchard Park, Bayberry Drive, State College

Visit nittanyvalleyshakespearecompany.com or call 667-3797 for information.

Millbrook Playhouse

Also on the list of area venues is the Millbrook Playhouse, which will be host to a number of well-known productions for its 51st season of summer shows. Following Millbrook’s successful 50th anniversary season, the theater has acquired an entertaining mix of classic plays and musicals, including four premieres.

Also on tap at Millbrook is a special production based on the classic TV show “Happy Days.” “Happy Days: The Musical” focuses on the famed drive-in malt shop and hangout Arnold’s, which is in danger of demolition. Fonzie, Richie Cunningham and the gang team up to save it with a dance contest and a TV-worthy wrestling match. “Happy Days” will show June 27-29 and July 2-6, with afternoon shows July 2 and 6.

New producing artistic director David Leidholdt is ready for Millbrook’s season.

“Our audiences can rely on the fact that our mission always remains — provide outstanding professional theater for ... central Pennsylvania,” he said.

Millbrook’s season will be staged at the playhouse, 258 Country Club Lane, Mill Hall, and includes:

• “The Wizard of Oz,” June 12-22

• “Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage,” June 20-29

• “Happy Days,” June 27-July 6

• “Rounding Third,” July 3-13

• “Little Shop of Horrors,” July 11-20

• “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” July 18-27

• “Biloxi Blues,” July 25-Aug. 3

• “The Church Basement Ladies,” Aug. 1-10

Visit www.millbrookplayhouse.org or call 570-748-8083 for more information.