As the summer temperatures heat up, so do the offerings on local stages. In Charlottesville, summer is the time for theater activity. Live Arts brings on their souped-up version of a play festival, featuring 10 shows in four weeks; Four County does Shakespeare outdoors in Barboursville; and Ash Lawn invites the community to a summer line-up of operas and musicals. The biggest player in town, though, is the Heritage Reperatory Theater, the professional company associated with the Drama Department at UVA.
Each year for the past 29 summers, the folks over in Culbreth have been offering up some of the best-known and best-loved shows of the contemporary theater world. This year is no exception. From the classic period musical Anything Goes to the calculated drama of Proof, which is still running in New York, this year’s line-up of six productions runs the gamut.
“We are serving the mission of the Heritage Rep in many ways with this season of shows,” says Bob Chapel, producing artistic director for the company. “But what excites me most is the fact that each show is very different and each promises to be a unique and enjoyable evening in the theater for our 18,000+ patrons.”
HRT opens the season on June 20 with Anything Goes, a beloved 1930s musical that depicts a series of comical mistaken identities on board the S.S. American. Chapel directs. Following Anything is Proof, the Pulitzer-winning play that examines family ties as it tells the story of a professor’s daughter who may have inherited her father’s genius for mathematics. Douglas Sprigg, a frequent HRT director and University of Vermont professor, returns for another run this year.
On July 11, British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential opens in the Culbreth. A farcical nightmare, the play shows how life can take a turn for the worse in the future when actors and robotic “actoids” are nearly indistinguishable. On July 16, the Off-Broadway hit I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, directed by UVA alum Jack Donahue, opens in the Helms. Donahue will also appear for one week in June in Summer Songs, a cabaret piece that includes songs from his new CD, Lighthouse.
Smokey Joe’s Café, under the direction of Cate Caplin, closes the season with its toe-tapping review of Lieber and Stoller songs. You’ll know a lot of them. They’ve been made famous by some of the best names in Top-40 history: Elvis, Peggy Lee, The Drifters, The Coasters, and many others. With so much to choose from, start planning your calendar now. And watch this column for more news and reviews as the summer theater scene gets hotter.
Season subscriptions for HRT are available now and run $55-100. Order forms are available in the drama building, 109 Culbreth Road. The box office is also open daily for single ticket sales. 924-3376.