Kansas City stages offer plenty to enjoy this summer

05/28/2014 7:00 AM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

As summer approaches, some theater companies — such as Kansas City Repertory Theatre — prepare to take a few months off.

Others, however, are just getting warmed up, and some just keep moving forward.

A sample of summer theater offerings in Kansas City reveals an eclectic mix: Shakespeare in the park, big musicals, small dramas and quirky alternative shows.

Starlight Theatre: The city’s venerable outdoor showplace has been part of Kansas City’s cultural fabric since 1950, when the city-owned theater in Swope Park became the venue for the town’s centennial pageant. Since 1951, the 8,000-seat theater has presented an annual season of musicals — including tours and shows produced or co-produced by Starlight — as well as concerts.

The theater lineup this summer is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revision of “The Wizard of Oz” (June 10-15); the Queen musical “We Will Rock You” (June 17-22); Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (July 8-13); the classic “The Sound of Music” (Starlight’s own production, July 25-31); and “Blue Man Group” (Sept. 9-14), which is neither a musical nor a rock show but includes elements of both.

Call 816-363-7827 or go to kcstarlight.com.

Theater League wraps up its 2013-14 season with “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show,” an evening of music and comedy celebrating Frank Sinatra and his satellite celebs: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop. Peter Lawford, the fifth member of the chain-smoking, tuxedo-clad crew, seems to be missing in action. The show runs through Sunday at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Call 816-994-7222 or go to theaterleague.com.

The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival this year presents a title new to its repertoire: “The Winter’s Tale,” a tragicomedy in which the Bard mixed serious drama with mirth and a happy ending. The show runs June 17-July 6 in Southmoreland Park, just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The festival is free, although donations are requested.

Each year the event brings together an experienced design team and some of the best Equity actors in the city. This year the roster includes Bruce Roach, Cinnamon Schultz, John Rensenhouse, Mark Robbins, Jan Rogge, Scott Cordes, Robert Gibby Brand, Matthew Rapport and Emily Peterson. 816-531-7728; kcshakes.org.

KC Fringe Festival, the city’s annual festival of alternative theater, music, dance and visual art, runs July 17-27 at venues in the midtown/downtown/Crossroads Arts District corridor. The festival has become an incubator for new work by playwrights and performers and attracts artists from Kansas City, across the country and overseas. Learn more at kcfringe.org.

The creatively bold Living Room, 1818 McGee St., presents the world premiere of Kyle Hatley’s “Master of the Universe” June 11-29. Hatley is writing, directing and performing in this adaptation of Georg Buchner’s “Woyzeck.” 816-533-5857; thelivingroomkc.com.

The Unicorn, 3828 Main St., the city’s most respected small nonprofit theater, closes out an exceptionial 2013-14 season with “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” a satire by Lynn Nottage about racial stereotyping in Hollywood in the 1930s. Missy Koonce directs a cast that includes Dianne Yvette, Katie Karel, Tosin Morohunfola, Donette Coleman, Emily Shackelford, Marc Liby and Justin Speer. The show runs June 4-29. 816-531-7529; unicorntheatre.org.

The scrappy Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, 3614 Main St., concludes its season with the classic musical “The King and I” June 5-22. As this title suggests, artistic director Karen Paisley doesn’t believe any show is too big for the MET. Mykel Hill stars as the King of Siam. 816-569-3226; metkc.org.

The vibrant Kansas City Actors Theatre will kick off its 2014 season in late summer and try to build on its reputation for producing some of the best theater in Kansas City. The season opens with the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,” featuring Melinda McCrary and directed by Kyle Hatley, Aug. 13-31 at the Living Room.

That show will overlap one of KCAT’s most ambitious undertakings: repertory performances of William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet” and Tom Stoppard’s absurdist “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” a philosophical comedy focused on two minor characters in “Hamlet.” Actors will play the same roles in each production. Performances will alternate from Aug. 26 through Sept. 28 at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station. Mark Robbins directs “Hamlet” and Richard Esvang directs the Stoppard play. 816-361-5228; kcactors.org.

Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St., known for its flawless performances of popular music and Broadway standards, continues its season with “Rhapsody in Gershwin” (June 6-July 6), followed by “Great Duets of Musical Theatre” (July 18-Aug. 17). 816-421-1700; qualityhillplayhouse.com.

The Coterie, a young audiences theater in Crown Center, will continue its tradition of revamping existing stage musicals in a more concise form for younger viewers with “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” a world premiere adaptation of the original Broadway show. The show is based on the 1968 British movie musical, which in turn was adapted from an Ian Fleming novel for young readers. The show runs June 17 through Aug. 3. The cast includes Jake Walker and Stefanie Wienecke. 816-474-6552; thecoterie.org.

The New Theatre, the successful commercial dinner playhouse at 9229 Foster St. in Overland Park, runs the comedy “Miracle on South Division Street” starring Connie Stevens through June 15, followed by the company’s big annual musical. This year the show is “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” a celebration of Leiber & Stoller as the premier pop songwriters of the 20th century. The show runs June 19 through Aug. 24. 913-649-7469; newtheatre.com.

The affiliate companies at Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central Ave., will present two productions this summer. Journeyman Theatre Company will stage John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men” June 12-22. And MeltingPot KC will produce a new play by Michelle T. Johnson, “Echoes of Octavia,” Aug. 7-24. Call Just Off Broadway at 816-784-5020 or go to justoffbroadway.org.

The Chestnut Fine Arts Center, 234 N. Chestnut, Olathe, celebrates the artistry of two show-business icons with “Bob and Bing,” featuring the music and comedy of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. The cast includes Brad Zimmerman, Cary Mock and Beth Benedict; the show runs through June 22. Call 913-764-2121 or go to chestnutfinearts.com.

Theatre for Young America, the city’s venerable young audiences theater, performs “Cinderella” June 10-28 at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station. Call 816-460-2083 or 816-460-2020 or go to boxoffice.unionstation.org.

Martin City Jr., the youth theater wing of Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Co., continues “Aesop’s Amazing Fables!” through Aug. 1 at the company’s performance venue at Metcalf South Shopping Center, 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park. 913-642-7576; martincitymelodrama.org.

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