Sunday, April 15, 2012

Community Players Announces Its 90th Season!

Community Players is a Bloomington-Normal institution, founded in 1923 by a group of local theatrical enthusiasts that (as I've heard the story) included movers and shakers like playwright Rachel Crothers and Carl Vrooman, Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of Agriculture.

For their 90th season, CP will undertake a mix of musicals and straight plays, classics and newer works, comedies and dramas. Something for everyone!

First on the schedule is the musical "Legally Blonde," based on the movie of the same name. It's about a smart but kind of daffy blonde named Elle, who decides to try Harvard Law School after being dumped by a boyfriend who's on his way there. But once she hits Harvard, Elle's priorities change, even if her love of pink fashion does not. Bright and charming, "Legally Blonde" featured Christian Borle, now starring in NBC's "Smash," when it was on Broadway, with Laura Bell Bundy as Elle and former Miss America Kate Shindle as her rival. "Legally Blonde" will be presented from July 12 to 29. Note that it is considered a summer show rather than a regular season offering for CP.

Opening August 30 is the Kaufman and Hart classic "You Can't Take It With You," one of the most-performed comedies in the history of the American stage and winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The movie version, which starred Jean Arthur and James Stewart as the young lovers and Lionel Barrymore as happy-go-lucky Grandpa Vanderhof, who doesn't believe in paying taxes, won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director (Frank Capra). "You Can't Take It With You" has a large cast of eccentrics, with two guys making fireworks in the basement, a would-be ballerina trying out her moves in the living room, a drunken actress who falls asleep on the sofa, and a former member of Russian royalty who is now a waitress.

"Leaving Iowa," a comedy that centers on family vacations, will be performed as a Lab Theatre presentation from October 4 to 7. "Leaving Iowa" comes from playwrights Tim Clue and Spike Manton. Clue says, "The real spark behind this work comes from being children of parents from the now dubbed 'greatest generation.' Leaving Iowa is a toast to their idealism and character, and perhaps a little roast of their undying dedication to the classic family road trip. Leaving Iowa is a postcard to anyone who has ever found themselves driving alone on a road, revisiting fond memories of their youth."

CP will finish up 2012 with "Irving Berlin's White Christmas," a stage version of the perennial fave Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye movie. The stage musical keeps the plot about a pair of musical comedy performers who are also WWII veterans who put on a show to honor their old commander. The book is by David Ives and Paul Blake, with a score that includes Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" as well as other Berlin hits like "Happy Holiday," "Blue Skies," "Let Yourself Go" and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." Of that last bunch, only "Blue Skies" appeared in the movie. "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" opens November 29 and plays till December 16, 2012.

The first show of 2013, scheduled for January 24 to February 3, 2013, will be Ken Ludwig's door-slamming opera farce "Lend Me a Tenor," wherein a man who always wanted to sing Otello gets drafted to do just that after the famous Italian tenor who was supposed to sing the role with the Cleveland Opera takes too many sleeping pills and can't be roused. "Lend Me a Tenor" was revived on Broadway in 2010 with a cast that included Tony Shalhoub and Anthony LaPaglia, with "Hangover" star Justin Bartha as Max, the lowly assistant (and tenor) who finds himself in the middle of the mess.

The lone drama on the schedule is "To Kill a Mockingbird," a stage version of another much-loved book and movie. Harper Lee's original novel about a lawyer taking on a racially-charged case in Alabama during the 1930s and the effect on his family won a Pulitzer Prize, while "To Kill a Mockingbird" the film won Oscars for Gregory Peck for Best Actor, Horton Foote for Best Adapted Screenplay and a trio of designers for their Art Direction. From March 14 to 24, 2013, Community Players will be performing the stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel which was presented at Steppenwolf Theatre in 2010.

And they'll finish the season with "Monty Python's Spamalot," another Tony-Award-winning Broadway musical based on a film ("Monty Python and the Holy Grail"). Monty Python's Eric Idle put together a combination send-up of Broadway shows in general with a spoofy storyline about King Arthur and his knights wandering around having adventures, with favorite bits from the movie (the Black Knight who keeps losing appendages and insisting it's just a flesh wound, the Knights Who Say Ni, a psychotic rabbit, a snotty French guy who tells them "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries") as well as new characters and outrageous situations and songs. "Monty Python's Spamalot" will play at Community Players from May 9 to 26, 2013.

For subscription information as well as updates about auditions, casting and directors, visit the Community Players website.

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