Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Take Your Marks: August Entertainment Is Already Racing Ahead

As we come to the end of the summer, lots of people are looking for something to see or do, even as they gear up for back to school and the start of the official fall season. If you've already finished the new Harry Potter script and you're not ready to jump into fall just yet, you might want to check out these options:

Prairie Fire Theatre opens its production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! tonight, with performances at 7:30 pm August 4 to 6 and matinees at 3 pm on August 6 and 7. Director Rhys Lovell's cast includes John McHugh as Curly and Megan Koch as Laurey, with Aric Diamani (Ali Hakim), Reid Gramm (Will Parker), Anna Karnick (Ado Annie), Blake Miller (Jud) ad Carolyn Stucky (Aunt Eller). All performances will take place in Westbrook Auditorium in Presser Hall on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University. The box office number is 309-824-3047 if you'd like to call for tickets or check out the event's Facebook page for more information. As an added bonus, the Summer on Stage youth theater program will present Oklahoma! Jr. at 11 am on Saturday August 6, also in Westbrook Auditorium. Their info is here or here, if you look directly below the image for the full Oklahoma! production.

A handful of performances remain at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. If you haven't had a chance to visit Ewing Manor for a show (or a picnic, a walk in the gardens and a show), you can still see Peter and the Starcatcher tonight or August 6, 9 or 11; Twelfth Night tomorrow or August 7 or 12; and Hamlet August 5, 10 or 13. Philip Dawkins' Rodeo is also offered free of charge on the grounds of Ewing Manor at 10 am on August 6 and 13, and The Improvised Shakespeare Company will perform August 7 at 5:30 pm. For tickets to Starcatcher, Twelfth Night, Hamlet or Improvised Shakespeare, check out the tickets page for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival here.

The Art Theater Co-op continues its Big Screen Noir series with Cape Fear tomorrow night at 10 pm and Kiss Me Deadly at 10 pm Friday and Saturday, 11:30 am Sunday, and 10 pm on August 11th. This is the original 1962 Cape Fear with a good guy (Gregory Peck) trying to protect his family from a very bad guy (Robert Mitchum), fresh out of prison and stalking all of them to get revenge. The Simpsons sent it up in their famous Cape Feare episode, which itself inspired Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, with her characters re-enacting the episode as a sort of religious experience. Mr. Burns will be on a couple of area theaters' 2016-17 schedules, so if you want to see where it all started, now is the time. Even if you don't care about Washburn's play, it never hurts to further your Noir education.

And, of course, the Rio Olympics are also happening. Some games and matches have already started, although the big kickoff is August 5, when NBC brings us the opening ceremonies at 6 Central/7 Eastern. Swimmer Michael Phelps will be carrying the flag for the United States. You can find lots of video pieces, the broadcast schedule and results on the NBC Olympics site, or try out an official trailer from Brazil to clue you in on the different venues. For my taste, this one from the BBC is shorter and way more fun, however.

Closer to home, the Normal Theater will air The Court Jester, the 1955 Danny Kaye musical that features songs by Sammy Cahn and Sylvia Fine along with the famous "vessel with the pestle" speech to keep Danny's character from drinking poison. Hint: Stick with the chalice from the palace, Danny. Glynis Johns, Angela Lansbury, Mildred Natwick and Basil Rathbone are all part of The Court Jester's fabulous cast. The film is part of the Normal Theater's Tuesday Night Classics series, on screen August 16 at 7 pm.

Galaxy Quest is part of a different Normal Theater series, the Friday Night Late Show.  Given that we lost Alan Rickman this year, that Comic Con was last week, and that Star Trek is back with a new film, Galaxy Quest couldn't be more timely. In the film, Rickman plays one of the cast members of a very cultish TV show called (not surprisingly) Galaxy Quest that ended years ago but still inspires an incredibly faithful following. When the cast of that show, including characters played by Rickman, Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Tony Shalhoub, attend a fan convention, they are kidnapped by real aliens who think they are the heroic characters they played on TV. It's not as complicated as it sounds, but it is a pretty adorable movie, with Rickman's classical actor Alexander Dane, who's been trapped playing a sort of Spock-like character called Dr. Lazarus, a real highlight.

And in the world of series TV, Mr. Robot is back on USA and UnREAL is trashing up the place on Lifetime, Dancing on the Edge promises to finally tell us who really killed chanteuse Jessie on PBS, The Get Down, a hip hop miniseries from Baz Luhrmann set in the 1970s in the Bronx, begins August 12 on Netflix, Fear the Walking Dead returns to Netflix August 21, and a show called Gomorrah (although the poster says Gomorra) that looks at power and machinations inside an Italian crime syndicate, premieres August 24 on the Sundance Channel.

That's enough to keep anybody busy!

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