Summer arts preview: Musicals and plays take the stage at Upper Valley venues

  • Francesca Mancuso plays Sheila in a scene from the New London Barn Playhouse's production of 'A Chorus Line'. Mark Washburn photograph

  • Dylan Lugosi plays Val in front of the line in a scene from 'A Chorus Line' at the New London Barn Playhouse Mark Washburn photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/15/2022 10:15:32 PM
Modified: 6/16/2022 1:34:12 PM

Maybe it’s something to do with the newfound ease people are feeling about the coronavirus pandemic, whether warranted or not. This summer, theater companies are lofting music into the air.

New London Barn Playhouse is celebrating its 90th summer by performing four musicals, a farce and a winsome comedy set in New England. The season opens this week with a production of A Chorus Line.

Also this week, Northern Stage opens a production of Side by Side by Sondheim, a revue of songs from the legendary composer’s early musicals, notably Company, which is now in revival on Broadway.

With people gathering again, in theaters and everywhere else, the Barn Playhouse opted to celebrate connection, said Keith Coughlin, the company’s artistic director.

“I think that people will find that (the season’s plays) all connect to human relationships, love and humanity,” Coughlin said.

The emphasis makes sense given the past two years. The Barn produced some virtual plays in 2020 and held its season in a tent last summer.

“We’re really excited to be able to welcome people back into the Barn,” Coughlin said.

The venerable company is celebrating a major expansion of its footprint, the opening this spring of the Fleming Center for Artistic Development, along with substantial improvements to the original Barn.

“Those who know and love the Barn, it’s still the Barn,” Coughlin said. “But we’ve done a lot to enhance the experience of people who come” to performances.

There are up-to-date restrooms, a new courtyard where ticket-holders can meet outside the theater, better parking and an improved HVAC system for better comfort and air quality in the 291-seat theater.

The performances will feature the Barn’s mix of professional acting, directing and technical talent and the “Barnies,” young actors and crew from around the country.

For example, A Chorus Line is directed by Deidre Goodwin, who performed in a Broadway revival of the 1975 musical.

For more information about the New London Barn Playhouse’s 90th season, go to

Honoring Sondheim

Northern Stage, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this season, also opens with an homage to Broadway. Stephen Sondheim died in December at age 91, not long after seeing the revival of Company.

“When he passed away, I thought, first of all, our outdoor theater is great for music,” said Carol Dunne, artistic director at Northern Stage. The show opens this week in the Courtyard Theater, outdoors behind Northern Stage’s building.

The White River Junction theater company hasn’t produced a Sondheim show since Into the Woods in 2014, Dunne said.

A revue of songs from multiple shows can seem cold, Dunne said. Side by Side, which like A Chorus Line dates to the mid-1970s, is tied together by a narrator. The Northern Stage production injects some warmth by allowing the four performers to introduce the songs with personal stories.

Sondheim wasn’t as widely appreciated in his early years as he would be later, said Kyle Brand, who’s directing Side by Side.

“I think people love to go back to him,” Brand said.

Both theater companies plan to celebrate their anniversaries throughout their seasons. New London Barn is planning an open house in July, and Northern Stage will celebrate once the season resumes in September, after Side by Side closes on July 10.

For more information about Northern Stage’s production of Side by Side by Sondheim, go to

More theater

■Theatre on the Hill, the partnership cooked up by JAG Productions and King Arthur Baking Co., will return later this summer for performances on Aug. 19 and 20, 26 and 27. Keep an eye on as tickets will go quickly.

■Modern Times Theater remakes the famous Punch and Judy story in The Perils of Mr. Punch in two performances, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on June 25 in Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts. These are HopStop performances, intended for families and free and open to the public.

■ArtisTree in South Pomfret is bringing a production of Shrek by the Weston Young Company to its Grange Theater on June 30. Go to

■BarnArts Center for the Arts produces Alan Ball’s comedy Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, June 24 to July 3 at the Feast & Field Market in Barnard, and Seussical from 5 to 7 at Barnard Town Hall. Go to

A word about COVID-19

The novel coronavirus is still out there. Northern Stage had to shut down its mid-April to mid-May production of Spamalot for a week, said Dunne, who also performed as an understudy in that show.

“I’m an understudy for Side by Side and I’m really scared because there’s a lot of material,” she said.

Theater patrons shouldn’t be surprised if changing conditions close shows, put performers out of commission or warrant mask requirements for performances. Check theater company websites for information about masking and vaccination status.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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