Whether you're into contemporary outdoor spins on Shakespeare, massive Broadway hits, regional one-act play festivals or just quirky musicals about nuns, this summer's theater will leave you spoiled for choice.
If you've taken your time reading this issue, you're at risk of missing three noteworthy shows. PASS OVER (until June 19), Antoinette Nwandu's acclaimed play about two Black men seeking the promised land, is in the final weekend of its three-week run at Spokane's Stage Left Theater. Likewise, time's running out to catch Spokane Civic Theatre's 32ND PLAYWRIGHTS' FORUM FESTIVAL, a showcase of one-acts by regional playwrights. The festival runs in two rotations of roughly five plays each until June 19. Fortunately, you still have just over a week to catch Spokane Ensemble Theatre's contemporary take on the Shakespearean rom-com MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (until June 26) in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture's amphitheater.
SPOKANE VALLEY SUMMER THEATRE
"There seems to be something special about each show" in Spokane Valley Summer Theatre's 2022 season, says Managing Director Marnie Rorholm.
For THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (June 17-26), that special something is the hiring of an Equity union actor, J. Clayton Winters, to play the lead opposite local talent Andrea Olsen as Francesca.
"This is the first time we've done that. Most of the time we want to search locally and hire locally, but in this case, we cast a wider net. He's amazing and is going to be really dazzling in the role of Robert Kincaid," she says.
On top of that, this run marks the regional premiere of this musical adaptation of Robert James Waller's enduring heartland romance story.
What makes NEWSIES (July 8-24) unique is that the theater's rented a former Broadway set designed exclusively for this Disney film turned hit musical about young news sellers leading a charge against the unfair practices of publishing magnates. Rorholm describes it as a "phenomenal" three-story scaffold structure that can be dynamically reconfigured for different numbers and scenes. Along with lending the show some extra glitz, it's giving the theater's camp and theater education students the opportunity to work with a Broadway-quality set.
The remarkable thing about SISTER ACT (Aug. 5-21) might be less visible but is no less important. For this gospel-infused comedy musical about a lounge singer who joins a convent as part of the witness protection program, a large portion of the cast has stuck with it throughout the pandemic downtime.
"It was cast back in February of 2020, and now in 2022 we're finally able to perform it with all the original 'nuns' who committed to this project," Rorholm says.
"We're calling this the blockbuster season because, coincidentally, all of these shows have been a movie at one time or another. And this is our first full season after two years. We're thrilled about it, and we think that audiences will be just as excited as we are."
Get tickets at svsummertheatre.com.
PLAYTIME IN THE PARK
Geared for midteens to young twenty-somethings with at least a smidgen of experience on the stage, Spokane Civic Theatre's Summer in the Park (June 28-Aug. 20) is a program of eight different performing arts classes to hone your acting chops. There are dedicated workshops on improv, comedy, drama, playwriting and even tried-and-tested Shakespearean techniques, not to mention weekly "Play in a Week" camps throughout the summer. Groups meet at the Civic before heading down to the Forestry Shelter in Riverfront Park. Find more info at spokanecivictheatre.com.
HOT TOWN, SUMMER IN THE CITY
Did you feel that? The temperature just went up. It must be because the STCU Best of Broadway series is bringing the hottest musicals in the theater world to the First Interstate Center for the Performing Arts this summer, starting with HADESTOWN (July 5-10), an award-winning modern retelling of the ancient Orphic myth. That's followed by COME FROM AWAY (Aug. 9-14), which recounts how a small town showed its big heart during the 9/11 attacks. And a scorching new production of the '60s-inspired HAIRSPRAY (Sept. 20-25) keeps the dance party going after the solstice. Find tickets at broadwayspokane.com.
COEUR D'ALENE SUMMER THEATRE
After six seasons at the Kroc Center, followed by two years of COVID hiatus, Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre is back on the stage of the Schuler Performing Arts Center (SPAC) at North Idaho College.
"The [Schuler] is a big part of the excitement of coming back," says Executive Artistic Director Chuck Etheridge. "It has 1,160 seats versus the just under 400 seating capacity of the Kroc Center. It's just a much bigger venue with more seats and a big orchestra pit. We love the Kroc, but the SPAC has always felt like home."
The theater is capitalizing on that extra space by going big, big, big — starting with the more than 50-person combined cast and orchestra of MAMMA MIA! (July 1-10). This jukebox musical about the topsy-turviness of love and marriage is built around a playlist of ABBA's pop hits, including "Dancing Queen," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "Take a Chance on Me," "Super Trouper" and, of course, "Mamma Mia."
Next up is LITTLE WOMEN (July 22-31), a musical based on the hugely successful 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott. It chronicles the formative years of the March sisters, with focus often falling on Jo, the headstrong aspiring writer of the bunch. Incidentally, this musical also features a song called "Take a Chance on Me," but it's set a good 100 years before ABBA's heyday.
Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre rounds out its 2022 season with NUNSENSE (Aug. 12-21), which turned a clever line of greeting cards into a global phenomenon and a long-running entertainment franchise. It's a delightfully ridiculous tale of the surviving members of a convent staging a chaotic variety show in an attempt to offload a few frozen corpses.
Etheridge says the summer lineup includes "some of the best pop music ever written," "one of the best stories and best American novels ever written," and "one of the funniest musicals ever written."
"These might sound like superlative descriptors, but they're true," he adds. "It really is just an amazing season."
Tickets for the 2022 season are at cdasummertheatre.com.
PERFORM LIKE THE PROS
Kids and teens who want to return to school in the autumn as triple threats — that is, actors, singers and dancers — might be inclined to sign up for THE MAGIC OF BROADWAY day camps offered by Christian Youth Theater (CYT) Spokane. These two one-week sessions July 11-29 will give 8- to 18-year-olds the chance to perform songs, choreography and scripts from famous Broadway Musicals. CYT North Idaho, meanwhile, will offer a full slate of weeklong camps: SURF'S UP! (July 11-15), Little Rascals (July 18-22), BROADWAY: NEXT GENERATION (July 25-29) and Disney's HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL JR. (Aug. 1-7). Aimed at newcomers and seasoned performers alike, each camp has a different age-appropriate grouping.
FOND OF PLAYS IN PEND OREILLE
This year, the Pend Oreille Players received 78 one-act play scripts from around the world and whittled them down to just eight. Now it's time to perform those winning entries as part of their annual One-Act Play Festival at the Pend Oreille Playhouse in Newport. You can catch all eight of them daily Aug. 12-14. Better yet, conquer your stage fright and audition for a role July 11-12. There's a total of 22 roles for actors ages 18 to 80; get the inside scoop at pendoreilleplayers.com.
Join the Spokane Shakespeare Society (aka S3) as they reimagine the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. Directed by Jeffrey Phillips Christiansen, this production reframes things from the point of view of the two titular star-crossed lovers. Spoiler alert: Things still don't go so well. Live performances take place under the Pavilion in Riverfront Park from July 21-31, Thursday through Sunday. Learn more at spokaneshakespearesociety.org.
Jointly co-directed by Josephine Keefe of Spokane Ensemble Theatre and Jeremy Whittington of Stage Left Theater, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is about a rock singer whose sex-change operation goes wrong, leaving her disfigured, tormented and challenged to find happiness in love and music. Told through a musical language that draws deeply on glam rock and proto punk, this fiery show, running July 29-31 at the Bing Crosby Theater, has been an award magnet and popular hit since it debuted in 1998. ♦