The performing arts season winds down in the spring, but there's still much to be found on local stages. Here's a preview of summer 2009.
Kids come first in Northeast Ohio's summer theater season, as Dobama Theatre presents the Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival for the 31st year. Each year the company gets 400 to 500 scripts from kids ages 6 to 18 and produces the best ones. This year's festival opens with a benefit performance Thursday, June 11, with additional performances through June 14. Benefit tickets: $25; all other performances are free. Performances are in the Westfield Insurance Studio Theatre (1375 Euclid Ave., dobama.org, 216.932.3396).
The rest of the summer is mostly about goofy fun, with a few complications. Porthouse Theatre's production of the Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart musical farce, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, opens June 11. Its season continues July 2 with Neil Simon staple The Odd Couple, and the Irving Berlin musical about the lady sharpshooter from Ohio, Annie Get Your Gun, opening July 23. Porthouse is on the Blossom Music Center grounds (1145 W. Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, dept.kent.edu/theatre/porthouse, 330.672.3884).
Actors' Summit (86 Owen Brown St., Hudson, 330.342.0800, actorssummit.org) inaugurates a summer repertory festival this year. American Mirrors looks at U.S. history and culture with four titles and a mix of comedy and drama. First up is artistic director Neil Thackaberry's Unforgettable, a one-man show about Nat King Cole, performed by Reggie Scott, opening June 19. Ric Goodwin wrote and stars in his one-man show, Mark Twain: semi-literate lecturer, liar, and loafer, opening June 20. Phil and Paul Olson's musical comedy Don't Hug Me is next up, opening July 4, followed by David W. Rintels' bio-drama of the famous attorney, Clarence Darrow, starring Thackaberry on July 11. Performances are at Actors Summit and the Hudson Library (96 Library St., Hudson).
Cleveland Shakespeare Festival offers another summer of free outdoor performances, starting with Antony and Cleopatra June 19 at Lincoln Park in Tremont. Performances continue through August 1. Rotating in repertory will be The Winter's Tale, opening June 26 at Lincoln Park, with performances through August 2. Go to cleveshakes.org for schedule and locations.
Cain Park (14591 Superior Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216.371.3000, cainpark.com) launches a Playwrights Weekend June 19, presenting new works by three Cleveland playwrights. Michael Oatman's Drowning the Flame, a tale of rival hip-hop artists, is on the Alma stage June 19. Deborah Magid's take on Oscar Wilde, Being Earnest, is June 20. Steve Maistros' dark comedy of a workplace grief counselor, Bon Voyage, Nate, is up June 21. Tickets: $8 for one play, $21 for all three. Cain Park's big musical production of the summer, Pippin, opens July 30, with performances through August 23. Tickets: $15.
It would be hard for Beck Center for the Arts (17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216.521.2540, beckcenter.org) to find a better follow-up to its campy send-up of a campy horror film send-up Evil Dead: The Musical (through June 14) than the musical tale of the man-eating plant, also made from a movie of the same name, Little Shop of Horrors. Former artistic director William Roudebush directs the show, which opens June 26 and runs through August 2. Tickets: $20-$31.
CLASSICAL MUSIC AND DANCE
Apollo's Fire is first and foremost a baroque orchestra, focusing on European composers of the 17th and 18th centuries. But the line between court and countryside was not so sharp then, and music director Jeannette Sorrell has consistently scored with summertime programs touching on more rustic traditions and more recent times. This summer, its Come to the River series of concerts presents early American songs and dance music featuring four singer-actors, wood flutes and hammered dulcimer in a program of New England barn dance, Appalachian ballads and other music. The first performance is at St. Noel's Church (35200 Chardon Rd., Willoughby Hills). Performances continue at venues throughout the region, through June 21. Go to apollosfire.org or call 216.320.0012. Tickets: $10-$45.
Ohio Light Opera opens its summer repertory season June 12 with a production of Fiddler On The Roof — reliable at the box office but not exactly innovative. The company's strength lies in the neglected corners of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire and in unearthing lesser known works of 19th- and early 20th-century light opera — like the Gershwin brothers' mix of matrimony and partisan politicking, Of Thee I Sing, opening June 13, and Victor Herbert's Mlle. Modiste, opening July 1. Performances are at the Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St., Wooster, 330.263.2345). For a complete season listing, go to wooster.edu/ohiolightopera. Tickets: $10-$45.
The first week of July is a big one for the Cleveland Orchestra, with the annual free concert on Public Square (July 1) followed quickly by the start of the season at Blossom Music Center (1145 W. Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, 216.231.1111) with a performance by the Blossom Festival Band (July 3-4) and finally, the Cleveland Orchestra's season-opening concert there, July 5. Concerts continue with top soloists and conductors like violinist Nikolaj Znaider (July 18), music director Franz Welser-Möst (July 19), Jahja Ling conducting the orchestra with cellist Johannes Moser (August 2) and pianist Garrick Ohlsson (August 9), and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (August 29). The Blossom season wraps up Labor Day weekend with George Daugherty conducting his trademark Bugs Bunny on Broadway program (September 5 and 6).
The big musical event of the summer, though, is certainly the orchestra's performance with the Joffrey Ballet at Blossom August 22 and 23. The performance marks the first time since 1988 that ballet has had a place in the Blossom Festival season, and it's the first appearance by the Joffrey since 1979. The program with the Joffrey features choreography by Gerald Arpino, Paul Taylor, Tomm Ruud and Christopher Wheeldon. Tito Muñoz will conduct.
Various festivals offer glimpses of dance, but the most reliable venue for Terpsichore is Cain Park, with Groundworks performing June 26-28 ($17-$23), Inlet Dance Theatre July 29 (free), Pointe of Departure July 31 ($16-$23), Verb Ballets August 7 ($16-$23) and Dancing Wheels August 20 ($16-$23).