Summer is when KC’s Starlight Theatre shines, but don’t forget Fringe Fest
Starlight Theatre: The city’s outdoor showplace can seat almost 8,000 spectators and has been a go-to venue for summer entertainment since 1950. In the old days, the backstage area resembled a Hollywood back lot as crews feverishly prepared scenery for as many as 10 shows a season. The schedule has calmed down a bit since then, but the theater’s charms have remained constant — barring heat waves or downpours, of course.
The lineup of Broadway shows this season includes Andrew Lloyd Webber’s update 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.
Tickets for Broadway shows range from $10 to $139. kcstarlight.com
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: Equipped with a 1,600-seat concert hall and an 1,800-seat theater, this is the city’s premier performing arts venue. The center, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, impresses from a distance with its dramatic stainless steel skin and from the lobby, where massive windows looking south offer a view of a sweeping cityscape.
The Kauffman is home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet. In addition, Theater League books touring shows into the Kauffman, and the Harriman-Jewell Series presents part of its annual season there.
The summer schedule includes legendary Tony Bennett, who performs May 23. The Symphony closes out its season with a program of Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff, June 6-8. Pop artist Ben Folds is set to perform with the Symphony June 10-11, followed by cabaret crooner Michael Feinstein on July 11 and Mexican superstar vocalist Paquita la del Barrio on July 11.
KC Fringe Festival: The city’s annual festival of alternative theater, music, dance and visual art runs July 17-27. The eclectic grab bag of creative expression offers something for virtually anyone: adult entertainment, kids shows, R-rated farces, serious dramas, dramatic monologues, live music, burlesque shows, visual art exhibits and mini-film festivals.
Artists come from Kansas City and across the country and from as far away as Australia and Britain. Venues will be found downtown, midtown and in the Crossroads Arts District. The tiered ticketing system requires you to first buy a festival button ($5 last year), which then allows you buy tickets to individual events, most of which topped out at $15 in 2013.
Heart of America Shakespeare Festival: KC’s Shakespeare fest, this year June 17-July 6, has been an annual tradition since 1993.The venue has remained the same since then: Southmoreland Park, a sloping green pocket between Oak Street and Warwick Boulevard just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
The festival has traditionally attracted the talents of the city’s best Equity actors. This year’s production is “The Winter’s Tale,” a unique mix of drama and comedy. Admission is free, although donations are requested.
Celebration at the Station: The Kansas City Symphony’s free annual Memorial Day weekend event at Union Station is happening May 25. It concludes with a fireworks display.
| Robert Trussell, The Kansas City Star
Forest Park in St. Louis hosts outdoor Shakespeare and musicals
Forest Park is the heart of St. Louis relaxation. In the summer, it’s also a favorite theater district.
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis (May 17-June 15) grows dramatically this year, with two shows instead of one. “Henry IV” runs a week; after “Henry V” opens May 24, they play on alternate nights. Jim Butz, one of St. Louis’ favorite actors, stars as the reckless prince who, over the course of two plays, becomes a noble king leading his “band of brothers” to victory. Shows start every night but Tuesday at 8 p.m.; arrive by 6:30 or so to find a good spot on the lawn in Forest Park’s Shakespeare Glen, picnic and enjoy eclectic preshow entertainment. Free.
The Muny, the big open-air theater in Forest Park, has long made St. Louis a favorite destination for musical theater artists and audiences. Nearly all the shows are produced right here, a lively mix of recent hits with classics from musical theater’s golden age. Tickets range from $14 to $85, plus the free seats. Shows begin nightly at 8:15 p.m.
This year’s season opens with “Billy Elliot” (June 16-22), followed by “Tarzan” (June 25-July 2), the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” (July 7-13, a national tour), “The Addams Family” (July 14-20), “Seussical” (July 22-28), “Grease” (July 31-Aug. 8) and “Hello, Dolly!” (Aug. 11-17).
| Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch