Back in 1938, playwright Thornton Wilder found himself displeased with the state of American theater.
“I felt something had gone wrong,” Wilder later wrote. “I began to feel that the theater was not only inadequate, it was evasive.”
Wilder’s solution was to write “Our Town,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that stripped away theatrical vanities and boiled the story down to its constituent parts. The result may be minimalist and a tad eccentric, but the meta-theatrical “Our Town” has remained popular during the 80 years since its 1938 debut in Princeton, New Jersey.
Now Gamut Classic Theatre is preparing to open its own production of this groundbreaking work, which acknowledges to audience members that this is, in fact, a play before proceeding to charm them with a warmhearted tale of life in the small town of Grovers Corners.
The show, starring David Zayas in the crucial role of Stage Manager, opens Saturday and continues through Feb. 25 at Gamut Theatre, a converted church at 15 N. Fourth St., in Harrisburg.
Wilder’s original text places the town in New Hampshire starting in 1938, but Gamut’s production treats “Our Town” as a metaphor for the people of any town in any time or place.
With few theatrical trappings such as lighting, scenery and props, “Our Town” pushes the audience to become part of the story, Weaver said. “This requires the audience to fill in all of those blank spaces with their imaginations.”
Singer/songwriter Carole King may be viewed as a fossil by many millennials, but her profound influence on popular music can still be felt today.
Hershey Theatre will showcase King’s impressive songbook when a touring production of the jukebox musical “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” stops there Feb. 20-25.
King’s landmark album “Tapestry,” released in 1971, held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard pop chart for an amazing 15 weeks and stayed on the charts for nearly six years. Songs from that album made the singles charts as well, including the No. 1 hit “It’s Too Late,” “So Far Away,” “Natural Woman” and “I Feel the Earth Move.”
King and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin also created a number of classic hits made famous by other performers, including “One Fine Day” (The Chiffons), “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (Monkees) and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin).
Her songs have been covered by many great artists over the decades, including the Beatles (“Chains”), Rod Stewart (“Sometimes When We Touch”), Kylie Minogue (“The Loco-Motion”) and Amy Winehouse (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”).
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” with Sarah Bockel in the title role, will be at Hershey Theatre Feb. 20-25. The show also contains hit songs (“You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” and “Walking in the Rain” among them) from Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, longtime friends and sometimes competitors with King.
“Carole had the ability to find joy in every moment,” Bockel said. “That joy inspired songs that shaped a generation, and now, by telling her story, a new generation can fall in love with that incredible music.”
And now, as Monty Python would say, for something completely silly.
Allenberry Playhouse this month will launch a production of “Seussical the Musical,” based on the enduringly popular children’s books by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.
The large-cast show, a favorite of high schools and community theaters, is a mashup of Seuss stories ranging from “Horton Hears a Who” to “The Cat in the Hat.” While a bit chaotic at times, “Seussical” has an undeniable charm and energy that appeals to both children and adults.
The show, with songs by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, made its debut on Broadway in 2000, where it was a modest success. Former Python member Eric Idle, who read for the part of the Cat in the Hat, is credited with making several contributions to improve the show. “Seussical” has also been produced in London’s West End, Off-Broadway and in two national tours.
Allenberry’s production of “Seussical the Musical” will run from Feb.16 to March 3 at the long-running theater on the grounds of the Allenberry Resort near Boiling Springs.
Lovers of such Seuss classics as “Green Eggs and Ham,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” will find much to like in this ebullient musical.