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Summer Born Great 

Area theater companies break out the tights for summer

June 13-19, 2007

Because Shakespeare once said "Summer's lease hath all too short a date," he might, were he resurrected, be just a little bit stunned to see how much theater has been planned by local companies for the few short months between now and September. This is true in spite of the fact that Shakespeare on the Green in Windsor has cancelled plans to produce two free shows again this year. Even with that sad omission, this is shaping up to be an outrageously tempestuous, and unusually challenging, summer season on local boards. With a total of five Shakespeare shows and with six impressively non-run-of-the-mill musicals planned for the same period, there will be a lot of intriguing theatrical entertainment to choose from over the next three months.

Perhaps the biggest news is that Healdsburg's hard-working community theater company, the Raven Players, is tackling a modern Broadway behemoth: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's epic musical Evita (June 22&–July 14). Under the direction of Carl Hamilton, who is known for staging stripped-down versions of American dramas and comedies, the play features a strong cast borrowed from the seasoned ranks of the Santa Rosa Players and other local companies. Featuring a full-scale orchestra and a set by former SRP technical director Doug Faxon, this might be the one to see, a make-or-break moment for this up-and-coming company.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is Rupert Holmes' adaptation of an unfinished Charles Dickens whodunit, conceived as a rollicking spoof that allows the audience to choose which of several alternate endings they want to see. It will open the Santa Rosa Junior College's annual Summer Repertory Theater program on June 21 in the Burbank Auditorium on the SRJC campus and runs through Aug. 11. The other ambitious musicals planned for SRT's season (alternating with two nonmusical dramas: Molière's Learned Ladies and a stage adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley), are Working, a sprawling musical-documentary adaptation of Studs Terkel's bestselling exploration of America's working class, and Tick, Tick . . . Boom!, a modern rock 'n' roll musical by Jonathan Larsen, the guy who wrote the phenomenal Rent, in which a young composer on the brink of oblivion finds the courage to follow his dreams and sings about it to a really hot beat. For the family audiences, SRT has added Aladdin Jr., a kid-friendly adaptation of Disney's flying-carpet extravaganza.

Meanwhile, at Santa Rosa's Sixth Street Playhouse (recently renamed the G. K. Hardt Theater at the Sixth Street Playhouse), will take a stab at The Man of La Mancha (June 15&–July 14), with a sensational cast led by baritone Bill Neeley, usually seen on stage at Petaluma's Cinnabar Theater. Cinnabar's artistic director Elly Lichenstein is also lending her directorial hand to Sixth Street for this high-energy production, which gives her five times the space she usually has.

On the Shakespeare side of things, there are a number of intriguing productions planned for these parts. The Marin Shakespeare Festival at Forest Meadows is doing the marvelously manic-depressive Hank Four plays: Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, running in repertory (Aug. 25&–Sept. 29). They start their season with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (July 6&–Aug. 12).

A relatively new company on the scene, the nomadic Narrow Way Stage Company, plans a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Road Warrior version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, running in repertory with David Rabe's Dog Problem. It promises to be bold and bloody, and will be staged in the outdoor courtyard of Santa Rosa's Glaser Center Aug. 2&–19.

North Bay Shakespeare (formerly Shakespeare at Stinson) stages the comedy Twelfth Night at Novato's outdoor Hamilton Amphitheatre from Aug. 24 to Sept. 30.

And finally, all the park's a stage as the Sonoma County Repertory Theater has some fun indoors with The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) (July 6&–22) and opens its annual Shakespeare Festival with the poetic love-romp As You Like It (Aug. 10&–26), staged outdoors at Sebastopol's Ive's Park.

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