2016 local theater season offers wide range of choices

Nittany Theatre at the Barn’s 2015 production of “1776” featured an all-female cast, and the production company may cast “12 Angry Men” the same way in 2016.
Nittany Theatre at the Barn’s 2015 production of “1776” featured an all-female cast, and the production company may cast “12 Angry Men” the same way in 2016. Photo provided

This year, Centre County theater fans will be able to see a rock musical about long-haired hippies, the classic story of a girl taking lessons to pass as a lady, the story of a Beast and his true love and much more.

For the upcoming 2016 season, the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center in State College will be used by groups other than Penn State. With State College Community Theatre still without a permanent home, the Penn State School of Theatre will assist during this time of transition, as will other area venues. In addition, the Penn State School of Theatre students and faculty will be performing, directing, designing and stage managing for the various theaters in town.

Fuse Productions

Fuse Productions will begin its 2016 season with the hit Broadway comedy from 2011, “Seminar” by Theresa Rebeck.

“In 2013, we did ‘Seminar’ as part of our Contemporary Play Reading series at The State Theatre and it was one of the best received scripts we did, which said to me that we should eventually do a full production,” Producing Artistic Director Richard Biever said. “It’s a perfect show for a college town as it deals with four writers hiring a famous author to give them a writing seminar.”

In June, the theater company will produce “My Fair Lady,” which will play for eight performance at the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center.

Penn State School of Theatre

As director of the Penn State School of Theatre, Dan Carter is excited about the variety of shows on tap for local audiences this spring. In February, Richard Roland will direct the musical “110 in the Shade,” based on the play “The Rainmaker.”

“Rich has a special connection to this piece, as his father was in the original Broadway production,” Carter said. “Emmy Frank, who directed Fuse Productions’ recent, ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,’ will direct ‘Hair,’ which is very exciting. I’ve already heard from a number of people who are thrilled we’re doing this great show.”

In April, Richard Robichaux will direct one of the funniest shows by the one of the world’s cleverest playwrights, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” at the Pavilion Theatre.

Nittany Theatre at the Barn

For this summer, Nittany Theatre at the Barn in Boalsburg is excited to build upon the success of its inaugural season. Season ticket sales for 2016 have nearly doubled, and the theater has just received its official trade mark approval of their logo as America’s Summer Stock Theatre. The theater also recently won an important regional grant to help support their work.

“We served over 6,000 patrons last summer at our theater in Boalsburg, which is the oldest Barn arena theater in Pennsylvania, dating back to 1953,” Associate Producing Artistic Director Emmy Frank said. “We are certain that our 2016 season will continue to challenge and delight our audiences.”

Nittany Theatre at the Barn will open its season with “Company” by George Furth and Stephen Sondheim. “Company” was groundbreaking when it first premiered on Broadway as one of the first concept musicals, which examines marriage and contemporary relationships.

Following “Company” will be “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose. This gripping drama is widely considered one of the top plays of the 20th century. Building upon the success of last summer’s all-female cast of “1776,” Artistic Director Dave Saxe said he is interested in possibly gender-bending some of the cast in this typically all-male production.

Nittany Theatre will next produce “All Shook Up,” which will be the Pennsylvania premiere of the show, and “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” will also make its Happy Valley premiere at the Nittany Theatre at the Barn this summer.

Nittany Theatre will close out its season with a brand new play, “Play Murder!” by Sterling Saxe, author of their mega-hit last season, “Betty Crocker, Kinsey and Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts

Following the success of the Broadway’s “Jersey Boys,” at Penn State, the Center for the Performing Arts will present other major productions at Eisenhower Auditorium in 2016. It starts Feb. 13 with a performance of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

On Feb. 23, NETworks presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” with more family-friendly theater coming in April when the Dallas Children’s Theater brings “The BFG (Big Friendly Giant” adapted from the novel by Roald Dahl.

In April, the smash musical “Chicago” will make a stop at Penn State.

State College Community Theatre

State College Community Theatre’s 2016 season will kick off in February with the musical comedy, “The Wedding Singer.” The summer season includes “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “The Heidi Chronicles” and “Disney’s High School Musical.”

Millbrook Playhouse

“For our 2016 season I am very excited about all eight shows for different reasons,” said David Leidholdt, producing artistic director at Millbrook Playhouse in Mill Hall. “I feel we have a great variety once again: comedy, mystery, drama, rock musical and a classic musical.”

Millbrook Playhouse’s most technically ambitious show of the season will be “Disney’s Little Mermaid,” with dancing fish, evil sea-witches casting spells and transformations from fins to feet.

Once again, Millbrook will be producing a play on the Ryan Main Stage with “Steel Magnolias,” which most people know from the movie starring Dolly Parton and Sally Field. In the Poorman Cabaret will be the sequel to last year’s hit, “The Marvelous Wonderettes” called “The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns.” The show features the same characters on two different nights in 1958 and 1968.

Rounding out the Cabaret season will be a hysterical farce, “Unnecessary Farce,” a murder mystery, “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” and a fun interactive comedy, “The Kitchen Witches.”

On the web

Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State, www.cpa.psu.edu

State College Community Theatre, www.scct online.org

Nittany Theatre at the Barn, www.nittanytheatre.org

Penn State School of Theatre, www.theatre.psu.edu

Fuse Productions, www.fuseproductions.org

Millbrook Playhouse, www.millbrookplayhouse. org