Once upon a time, in a land much like ours, summer was a down time for the theatre community. You’d have an outdoor Shakespeare production, perhaps, but by and large, companies drew down the curtain for a few months, especially at community and amateur theatres.
Those times are gone, and this weekend is a phenomenal example of the sort of theatre that eastern Iowa has to offer all year long. No less than half a dozen productions are premiering on June 16 and June 17, from theatre for children, to theatre by children, to challenging musicals and yes, of course, Shakespeare. Opportunities abound to beat the summer heat in an air conditioned theatre, or bask in it instead, with a picnic under the stars.
Here’s a lowdown of all the openings in the area this weekend, roughly from north to south. Some of these productions run one weekend only, so choose your weekend plans wisely:
School of Rock
Giving Tree Theater — opens Friday, June 17 at 8 p.m.
Based on the 2003 Richard Linklater classic film starring writer Mike White and comedian Jack Black, School of Rock follows a down-and-out musician who surreptitiously snags a substitute teaching gig and turns a bunch of prep school kids into break out rock and roll stars. Giving Tree Theater is the first company in the area to produce the new stage adaptation, which was produced on Broadway by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who also wrote 14 new songs for the show to round out the score. School of Rock the Giving Tree’s summer youth production. In addition to an all-kids rock band in the pit, actors in the show will be playing the instruments appropriate to their roles. Seem incredible? Anything’s possible with local rock stars Gerard Estella and Alisabeth VonPresley guiding the music! Giving Tree co-founder Richie Akers directs. The show runs through July 3; tickets are $16–26.
Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre presents: South Pacific
Brucemore Mansion’s Peggy Boyle Whitworth Amphitheatre — opens Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre (CROT) is taking the music to the great outdoors, with a one-weekend-only presentation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, the 1949 Broadway smash success about a young World War II nurse who falls for an older plantation owner while stationed on a remote island. The themes of race and acceptance in the show are just as well-known and part of our common vernacular, as are its classic songs (including “Younger Than Springtime,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”). CROT’s production is part of its Young Artist Program, an opportunity for pre-professional singers that pairs performance opportunity with master classes. South Pacific runs from June 16–19 at 7:30 p.m. at the outdoor amphitheatre at Cedar Rapids’ Brucemore Mansion. Tickets are $15–25, and are available at brucemore.org or by calling 319-362-7375.
RHCR Theatre presents: House of Yes
Artisan’s Sanctuary — opens Thursday, June 16 at 7 p.m.
Guest director Kerry Covington guides a cast of local favorites through this production of Wendy MacLeod’s 1990 play, popularized in 1997 by a stunning movie with Parker Posey, Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Geneviève Bujold. The story explores the wild and treacherous machinations of the Pascal family, living on an estate just outside of Washington, D.C. All sorts of wickedly funny events are triggered when son Marty brings his fiancé home to meet the clan, including his twin sister, Jackie-O. The show runs this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., at the Artisan’s Sanctuary in Cedar Rapids. Tickets are $18-20.
City Circle Acting Company presents: In the Heights
Coralville Center for the Performing Arts — opens Friday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m.
City Circle Acting Company presents its summer teen musical this weekend, with a production of Broadway darling Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first work, In the Heights. Set in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, the show tracks just three days in the lives of the area’s Latinx residents, with a story told through hip hop and soul. The original Broadway production won four Tony awards — less than half of Miranda’s current smash hit Hamilton, but a phenomenal achievement for a scrappy show with genre-breaking music that Mirana wrote much of while still in college. City Circle’s production runs just three performances: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12–27.
Riverside Theatre presents: Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Lower City Park Festival Stage — opens Friday, June 17 at 8 p.m.
Riverside Theatre celebrates its triumphant return to the Lower City Park Festival Stage with a production of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The rarely-performed play begins with a riddle, and takes its hero on epic sea-faring adventures to distant lands. Riverside’s artistic director Sam Osheroff compares it to the range and scope of The Odyssey. You can enjoy this action-filled romp through July 7; tickets are available online (call the box office at 319-338-7672 to purchase tickets using one of the available discounts).
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Old Creamery Theatre — opens Saturday, June 18 at 1 p.m.
Opening Saturday afternoon is splash of summer joy for the young ones — Old Creamery Theatre’s current Theatre for Young Audiences production, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Based on the classic Hans Christian Anderson story of a vain ruler brought low by enterprising costumers, this production is from the adaptation by Jeanine Dwinell Henry and Meg Bryant Davenport. Sean McCall directs. The show is rated G, and all performances are at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m., a perfect diversion for youngsters on days when it’s too hot to play outside! Tickets for all audience members are $10.
Take the time to take in a show this weekend. The opportunities are vast!