click to enlarge Act fast: The run of Bare: A Pop Opera is coming to an end soon.
Act fast: The run of Bare: A Pop Opera is coming to an end soon.

The Heat Is On

If you want to catch the last vestiges of the 2018-19 theater season before summer officially begins on June 21, you're going to have to scramble. Bare: A Pop Opera (spokanestageleft.org, $20) and Young Frankenstein (spokanecivictheatre.com, $32), two profoundly different musicals about unorthodox love and alienation, are both closing on June 16. With Bottoms Up! (igniteonbroadway.org, $15), a wacky farce about a suitcase mix-up between an aerobics instructor and a gangster at a Caribbean hotel, you've got until June 23. After that, it's summer programming until everything ramps back up in September.

A Summer of Showstoppers

The bar for summer musicals is typically set by Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre (cdasummertheatre.com), which has a well-earned reputation for top-notch productions that draw from the crème de la crème of local and national talent. Each month features a different family-friendly showstopper, starting with Beauty and the Beast (June 13-30) before moving on to Oklahoma! (July 11-28) and finally wrapping up with the revue of classic Lieber and Stoller hits, Smokey Joe's Cafe (Aug. 8-25).

It's All About the Music

To say that music is integral to musicals risks stating the obvious, but some musicals seem more, well, musical than others. Spokane Valley Summer Theatre is staging three of those distinctly musical musicals this year, all of which come with instant name recognition: Always, Patsy Cline (June 21-30), The Sound of Music (July 12-28) and Mamma Mia! (Aug. 9-18). Tickets to each are $39; visit svsummertheatre.com for details.

Cheap Laughs

Comedy is hard. The upside is that it can also be cheap. Alongside its usual cavalcade of stars (Carlos Mencia, Jay Chandrasekhar and Melissa Villasenor to name just a few), Spokane Comedy Club (spokanecomedyclub.com) has several $5 or even free events throughout the summer. On June 16 and July 14, there's Drink 'n' Debate, a monthly battle of rhetorical skills between four teams of three comedians. Roastamania (July 21) is a no-holds-barred battle royale of insults. Open mic is every Wednesday, accompanied by an all-evening happy hour to amplify the highs and soften the lows.

Summer @ Civic

Along with its usual Academy play (this year it's Tom Sawyer, July 19-28) and Academy musical (the intriguingly titled 13, Aug. 16-25), the Spokane Civic Theatre (spokanecivictheatre.com) is mounting a full main-stage production of Spring Awakening, July 12-28. Though it's set in Bismarck-era Germany, this rock-inflected musical tackles contemporary subjects and features music by Duncan Sheik. Spring Awakening tickets are $25 and Academy shows are $15-$20 — or see them all for $50. And don't forget the 31st Annual Playwrights' Forum Festival (June 20-23, $15), which showcases a host of new one-act plays.

click to enlarge Sally Field (left) and Jenna Coleman in a highly acclaimed production of All My Sons, playing at the Bing on Aug. 18.
Sally Field (left) and Jenna Coleman in a highly acclaimed production of All My Sons, playing at the Bing on Aug. 18.

Horrible People We Can't Get Enough Of

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were no saints, but the tale of their lawless escapades is one heckuva thrill ride. On July 12-21, Lake City Playhouse (lakecityplayhouse.org) is bringing audiences along on that fateful crime spree via the Tony-nominated musical Bonnie and Clyde and its unconventional score of blues, gospel and rockabilly. Tickets are $25. If that doesn't fill your iniquity quota, check out Improv Against Humanity: Improv for Horrible People at the same venue on July 27 (21+ show, $10).

Melodramatic and Proud

Classic, unabashed melodrama is rare these days. And yet, as its name suggests, Sixth Street Melodrama (sixthstreetmelodrama.com) in historic Wallace, Idaho, prides itself on this unique style of tongue-in-cheek live performance. Billing itself as "hard-boiled... with a side of hash," the all-ages whodunit Sam Shovel, Private Eye, and the Case of the Maltese Pigeon runs July 13-28. That's followed by The Carpet Caper, or Who Stole the Mayor's Rug (July 31-Aug. 25), where the stakes are admittedly pretty low but the potential for amusement is high.

Italian for Beginners

Cosi fan tutte translates to "they all do it" — but what is it, exactly? Why, taking a boat cruise on beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene while enjoying professional opera performed in the round, of course. As the centerpiece of this year's ever-popular Opera on the Lake Cruise on July 14, Inland Northwest Opera (inlandnwopera.com) is staging Mozart's famously lighthearted opera about trust, love and loyalty. And don't worry about translation. It's sung and spoken in English. Tickets are $75 for premium seats, $50 for standard.

Where Every Show Is a Surprise

At just $8 per ticket (or better still, two shows on the same night for $10), the Blue Door Theatre is one of the most affordable entertainment options around. The catch is that you never quite know what you're going to see. Sure, there are themed shows like You Need a Hero, This Just In..., Safari and After Dark on Friday and Saturday evenings all summer long, but its rotating troupe of quick-thinking improv actors makes every show a unique experience. Go to bluedoortheatre.com to see the full schedule and reserve seats.

You'll Have to Wait for Part II

It's been a while since Shakespeare in the Parks (shakespeareintheparks.org) came to downtown Spokane, but they're still performing — for free, no less — throughout the Inland Northwest each summer. On July 27, the Montana-based acting company will be in Sandpoint performing Henry IV, Part I. The following day they'll be in Liberty Lake with The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Notes on Camp

Theater's appeal doesn't just lie in the watching. It also lies in the doing. Spokane Children's Theatre (spokanechildrenstheatre.org) has camps for kids aged anywhere from 5-19 during the summer, though the available slots fill up quickly. You can see the results of the teen camp firsthand with the public performance of Mamma Mia! Aug. 16-17. Christian Youth Theater (cytspokane.org) also offers mini, youth, junior and teen summer camps for roughly the same age groups.

Flashpoints and Hot Flashes

There's no shortage of tense moments in All My Sons, Arthur Miller's 1947 drama about ideals and how respect is earned or lost. A highly acclaimed recent production starring Sally Field comes to the Bing (bingcrosbytheater.com) in video form on Aug. 18. Less well known but no less moving is Small Island (July 21), a triptych of interconnected stories depicting the human cost of Britain's colonial past. Both are prerecorded Stage to Screen showings ($12). For a live and more lighthearted show, there's Menopause the Musical on July 30 and 31 ($42–$57), which finds wry humor in the joys of aging.

A Smorgasbord of Performing Arts

When it comes to the performing arts, there's a lot going on in the Inland Northwest. So much, in fact, that it can be tough — even with the Summer Guide in hand — to get a solid fix on everything that's on offer.

That's precisely why TheaterFest was launched last year. A collaboration between Spokane Arts, the Downtown Spokane Partnership and representatives from various theaters and performing arts organizations, the free, one-day event is like a trade fair for audience members and performing artists alike.

click to enlarge TheaterFest returns on Aug. 25 and includes a number of participants, including Vytal Movement Dance.
TheaterFest returns on Aug. 25 and includes a number of participants, including Vytal Movement Dance.

"TheaterFest is designed to showcase the huge range of the performing arts that exists in the region, and it creates a fun, accessible way for people of all ages to interact with all of them," says Melissa Huggins, executive director of Spokane Arts.

This year, TheaterFest is going to be held on Sunday, Aug. 25, and will be hosted at two venues: Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox and the Bing Crosby Theater. Among the returning participants are the Spokane Civic Theatre, Spokane String Quartet, Inland Northwest Opera and Vytal Movement Dance; they'll be joined by new faces like Quiero Flamenco. The event is completely open to the public, and there will be prize drawings, live performances, kids' activities, special discounts on ticket packages as well as information on the upcoming seasons.

"We had a huge turnout last year, and we're excited to build on that success," Huggins says. "The expansion to two stages will allow us to feature even more of the performing arts and get even more community members involved."

For updates and a full roster of performances, activities and participating artists, visit spokanetheaterfest.com. ♦

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About The Author

E.J. Iannelli is a Spokane-based freelance writer, translator, and editor whose byline occasionally appears here in The Inlander. One of his many shortcomings is his inability to think up pithy, off-the-cuff self-descriptions.