North Central College’s Summer Musical Theatre celebrates its 15th anniversary this year with three shows.
The annual productions have been drawing large crowds to Pfeiffer Hall and other venues since 1998, when Fine Arts Director Brian Lynch staged “Brigadoon” in partnership with a local young actors’ group.
“What started out as a fun way to spend the summer has turned into a tradition for numerous families and friends in the area,” Lynch says. “The Summer Musical Theatre program has grown beyond our wildest expectations.
The shows also proven so popular with actors—casts are typically as large as 120 people—that over the years a second and then a third production were added each summer. Susan “Suzy” Craig-Olsen, lecturer of theatre, has directed a summer show ever since the series expanded to two shows per summer.
“When Suzy and I had 140 in ‘Evita,’ we knew it was time for two shows,” Lynch says. “And then we grew from there with 135 in ‘Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)’ and more than 200 in ‘Sound of Music!’”
While the Summer Musical Theatre series offered through the Office of Community Development’s Summer Camps and Conferences program originated in 1998, the tradition of summer musical theatre at North Central College actually dates back at least 50 years. Retired theatre professor Donald “Doc” Shanower, who joined the faculty in 1955, staged summer productions with a student group known as the theatre guild, sometimes in partnership with members of the community. A 1962 article in the Chronicle student newspaper refers to that year’s slate of summer school offerings:
“Summer Theater, instructed by Dr. Donald T. Shanower of the North Central staff, … will concern elements of play production and acting and will culminate with the presentation of two plays late in July,” the Chronicle reported in 1962.
This year’s series begins with one of the greatest family musicals of all time, “The Wizard of Oz.” Craig-Olsen directs the production and Mac Willaert provides musical direction. Six performances will be staged at 7:30 p.m. June 29-30 and July 6-7 and two Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. July 1 and 8 in Pfeiffer Hall. Two shows will be interpreted in sign for the hearing impaired: the 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, July 1, and the 7:30 p.m. show Saturday, July 7.
The second production is the rarely performed Gilbert and Sullivan farcical operetta “Princess Ida,” which will be presented July 10-15. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. July 10-14 and at 2 p.m. July 15 in the theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall.
“Princess Ida” is directed by Matt Boresi with musical direction by Jeordano Martinez. Boresi is a 1997 alumnus and visiting lecturer of theatre, and Martinez is a longtime professor of music who conducts the College’s Concert Choir and the 125-voice Naperville Chorus. This is their fourth collaboration in the Summer Light Opera program; they’ve previously presented productions of “The Mikado,” “HMS Pinafore” and “The Gondoliers.”
Lynch directs the third production of the summer, “South Pacific,” with performances at 7:30 p.m. July 27-28 and Aug. 3-4 and at 2 p.m. July 29 and Aug. 5 in Pfeiffer Hall. The Rodgers and Hammerstein show is set during World War II and features such memorable tunes as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.” The Broadway production won 10 Tony Awards.
Tickets for all performances are $15/adults and $10/students and senior citizens; call the North Central College Box Office at 630-637-SHOW (7469) or visit northcentralcollege.edu/showtix.