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Summer Guide: Upper Valley Is a Stage This Summer

  • Emily Geller, center, cast in the role of Helene's male cousin Orestes, appears in a scene from Opera North's production of "La belle Helene."

  • Matthew Hennig, of Newport, N.H., and Heather Chrimes, right, also of Newport, battle with Elise Boyle, of White River Junction, Vt., during a dress rehearsal for the World Under Wonder theater troupe's performance of 'Dracula' at Claremont Opera House in Claremont, N.H., on Aug. 10, 2017. Boyle is playing the lead role while Hennig is Harker and Chrimes is Artemis. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Actress Leah Romano, of Norwich, gets friendly with Andra Kisler, to the disgust of Leah's stage daughter in "A Perfect Fit" at Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph. The play is part of the eighth annual Summer Pride Festival. (Courtesy of Chandler Center for the Arts)

  • Compagnia de’ Colombari will perform "Merchant of Venice" at the Hopkins Center for the Arts June 26-28. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Commander Effingham Swan (Aaron Michael Hodge) looks on, pleased, at the assassination of Doremus Jessup's son-in-law, Dr. Fowler Greenhill, while guards (Christian Coffman and Quanah Tokarski) restrain Jessup (Peter Mendes) during the BarnArts Center for the Arts production "It Can't Happen Here." (Courtesy of BarnArts Center for the Arts)



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, June 29, 2018

It happens every summer: My wife, Goodie, and I pledge to catch at least one of the many plays and musicals that theater companies stage around the Upper Valley.

And almost every summer — the one exception I can recall was Opera North’s production of West Side Story in 2015, and that was because I was reviewing it for the Valley News — we wind up instead choosing a leisurely walk or a village-green band concert, the better to enjoy and inhale those balmy evenings of which we dream through winter and mud season.

This summer, we — and you — really have few excuses. Outdoor productions include the BarnArts Center for the Arts’ staging of the dystopian play It Can’t Happen Here in Barnard; an Italian theater company’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at Dartmouth College’s Bema Amphitheater in Hanover; and, before its Summerfest moves to the Lebanon Opera House with two classics, Opera North’s circus-themed show Singers & Swingers at Blow Me Down Farm in Cornish.

And on rainy and equatorial evenings and afternoons, the indoor options abound: In addition to the traditional fare at the New London Barn Playhouse, to Opera North’s Summerfest lineup in Lebanon and to the New York Theatre Workshop’s avant-garde offerings at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center, the Old Church Theater in Bradford is staging a musical and then a comedy at its temporary home on Waits River Road; and the annual Vermont Pride Festival returns to Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts.

In Lebanon, North Country Community Theatre is performing a “musical-comedy whodunit” in July at the opera house. And in South Pomfret, the ArtisTree Community Arts Center is planning several productions at its new Grange Theatre, including a comedy that kicks off ArtisTree’s second annual Music Theatre Festival.

And if the Puritan in you fears that you’re just having way too much fun, World Under Wonder is presenting Arthur Miller’s The Crucible starting next weekend at its new playhouse in Weathersfield.

Here are some details and highlights:

New London Barn Playhouse

While The Barn lowers the curtain on its season-opening production of Camelot this afternoon, the parade of musicals and comedies stretches all the way through Labor Day weekend. Starting this coming Wednesday, June 27 and running through July 8 is an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women.

Subsequent plays follow:

July 11 to 15: Sylvia, A.R. Gurney’s comedy about a stray dog who strains the relationship between a young couple newly arrived in New York City.

July 18 to Aug. 5: The show-biz musical 42nd Street.

Aug. 8 to 19: Newsies, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony Award-winning adaptation of the 1992 Disney film that reimagines the strike by newsboys 1899 strike against New York City’s publishing titans of the day.

Aug. 22 to Sept 2:Murder for Two, a musical whodunit and comedy.

For tickets ($20 to $40), and more information, visit nlbarn.org or call 603-526-6710.

BarnArts Center for the Arts, Barnard

Just down the road from Twin Farms, where Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here during the Depression and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, Barn Arts is tackling a recent adaptation of the novel on the outdoor stage at Fable Farm on Royalton Turnpike. The production, with Hartland resident Peter Mendes leading a cast of 18 Upper Valley actors, opened on June 16 and closes this coming weekend with 7 p.m. shows on Friday (June 29) and Saturday (June 30) and with a matinee at 4 in the afternoon on Sunday, July 1. For tickets ($15 to $20) and more information, visit barnarts.org or call 802-234-1645.

And during the first weekend of August, campers from BarnArts’ summer youth theater program will present Monty Python’s musical farce Spamalot at Barnard Academy. To learn more, call 802-234-1645.

Old Church Theater, Bradford, Vt.

While the actual church on Main Street undergoes a major renovation, the shows go on this summer and fall in a temporary hall on Waits River Road, next door to Farmway. During the first two weekends of July, Melissa Mann will direct a cast of more than 20 people through Stepmothers, her musical adaptation/mashup of the fairy tales Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White.

And during the weekends of Aug. 10 to 12 and Aug. 17 to 19, the company presents the one-act plays Squish, a dark comedy about three sisters dealing with their mother’s death, and The Holding, a drama about three jailed suspects who know that only one of them will live.

To reserve tickets ($6 to $12) and to learn more about these shows and the fall lineup of plays, visit oldchurchtheater.org or call 802-222-3322.

Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover

The summer offerings at Dartmouth College get off to a running start this week, with Italy’s Compagnia de’ Colombari tackling The Merchant of Venice at the Bema Outdoor Amphitheater at 8 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Trumpeter and keyboard player Frank London will provide the live soundtrack to the performances, which the company created to mark the 500th anniversary of the Jewish ghetto in Venice. For tickets ($20 to $45) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

At a free gathering at the Top of the Hop on Monday afternoon at 5, Dartmouth professors Susannah Heschel and Patricia McKee will discuss the play’s relevance to modern audiences.

The summer lineup of indoor theater presentations also includes:

Friday and Saturday, June 29 and 30: During the annual VoxFest, at Warner Bentley Theater, the college’s Department of Theater presents four new plays, three under the direction of Dartmouth graduates and two written by alums. They include Project Black Plague, a look at police shootings of African-Americans. Admission to all plays is free. To learn more, visit hop.dartmouth.edu.

Aug. 4, 11 and 18: Actors and crew from the New York Theatre Workshop will kick the tires on six dramatic vehicles-in-progress, among them We Live in Cairo, Daniel and Patrick Lazour’s musical rumination on the hope and subsequent disillusion of Egypt’s chapter in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. This and the five other plays will each be staged twice in the Warner Bentley Theater, at general admission of $9 to $13. For a schedule and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu.

Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph

This joint will be jumpin’ for most of July, starting with four performances of White Christmas between the 5th and the 8th. Admission to the musical, which features young actors from high schools around central Vermont, is $12.75 to $19.25. To reserve seats and learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

And between July 20 and 29, the Chandler-based Vermont Pride Theater company presents multiple performances of these three plays with lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer (LGBTQ) themes:

A Perfect Fit: Lia Romeo’s multi-generational tale of women questioning their sexual preferences.

Bright Half Life: Tanya Barfield’s exploration, over 45 years, of the evolving relationship between two lesbians.

Aunt Jack: S.P. Monahan’s comedy of manners about a young man introducing his new boyfriend to his two fathers.

Admission to single shows costs $15 to $22; passes to all three plays are $35 to $50. To reserve seats and learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

ArtisTree Community Arts Center, South Pomfret

ArtisTree puts its Grange Theatre through its paces with a wide spectrum of shows this summer, starting June 30 with young performers from ArtisTree’s musical-theater camp staging Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr. Shows at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.; admission is $10.

On a more serious note, students from Woodstock Union High School’s Yoh Theatre Players tune up for their trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by tackling Bakkhai, Anne Carson’s adaptation of the Euripides tragedy, on July 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5 to $10.

The tone turns back to musical comedy over the final three weekends of summer, with a production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. ArtisTree advises that the play contains “adult language and situations.” To reserve tickets ($28 to $35) and learn more about this and the fall lineup of festival productions (season passes available), visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

Opera North Summerfest

As an appetizer for its August repertory of traditional productions at the Lebanon Opera House, Opera North is inviting fans to Blow Me Down Farm in Cornish over the weekend of July 13 to 15 for four performances of Singers & Swingers, a mix of “aerialists and arias.” Admission is $20 to $40.

Between Aug. 3 and 14, the Lebanon Opera House will play host to four performances each of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. To reserve tickets ($20 to $90) and learn more, visit operanorth.org or call 603-448-0400.

North Country Community Theatre, Lebanon

For Curtains, NCCT’s 46th annual summer show at the Lebanon Opera House in mid-July, Hartland’s Mark Boutwell stars as Lt. Frank Cioffi, a Boston detective, trying to solve a backstage murder at a dysfunctional theater in Boston in 1959. Shows are scheduled for 7:30 the nights of July 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21, and at 2 the afternoon of July 15. To reserve tickets, call 603-448-0400 or visit the opera house box office in City Hall.

World Under Wonder Playhouse, Weathersfield

For its second act in its new, 130-seat theater, World Under Wonder stages four performances of The Crucible, the drama that playwright Arthur Miller set during the Salem witch trials of the 1600s to serve as an allegory on the anti-Communist hysteria that swept the United States after World War II. Stagings are scheduled for 7 the nights of June 29 and 30 and July 6, and at 2 the afternoon of July 8. To reserve tickets ($12) and learn more, visit worldunderwonder.webs.com/.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Theater-related news and announcements also can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.