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Summer Theater Preview

Summer Theater Preview

Summertime, Summertime Sum, Sum Summertime… I often marvel at the never ending flow of the seasons, how fall gives way to winter….or a winter like period followed by a mild couple of days then back to winter again, then the first whispers of spring emerge which turn into the heat of deep summer, then back to spring for a few hours, oh wait, it’s winter again?

It felt that way, didn’t it?

Well, the sun’ll come out tomorrow….or the next day….hopefully, and we can all look ahead to warmer days and a bounty of summer theater experiences to enjoy. But the economy is still sputtering and the cost of gas is through the roof.

Fear not, my fellow New Jerseyans, we live in a state where no matter where you live theatrical fun is just a short drive away. How do we get there, you ask? Well, how ‘bout we take the road in NJ most associated with summer, the Garden State Parkway.

Stretched like a grassy, piney, 172.4 mile ribbon down the back bone of our state, the GSP is the gateway to our state’s theatrical treasures. So mount your E-Z Pass, plug in your GPS, set your coordinates and let’s take a drive down NJ’s venerable highway.

Now, I know I won’t be able to get through this blog without the obligatory, “New Jersey?...What Exit?” line but lets use that to our advantage, shall we? Because we all know our exit and we all answer the joke quite proudly.

I share mine with our first stop:

Exit 142A, then westward takes you to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Outdoor Stage at The Greek Theatre, an open-air natural amphitheatre located on the College of Saint Elizabeth campus in Morris Township. You are guaranteed a ribald time as STNJ transports you back to the days of the Bard where if you’re not careful you could end up on stage and part of the action. A picnic atmosphere is encouraged as many patrons use the opportunity to stage elaborate feasts before the show. Due to its proximity to a local airport, the action on stage is often paused to let the small aircraft pass. When you go, don’t be surprised to see the cast use the interlude to dance, sing or curse “The Gods!!, The Gods!! as the planes make their approach. Family-friendly performances are chosen and this season is no exception, Comedy of Errors the zany tale of identical twins and mistaken identities, plays June 20 – July 29.

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Exit 130 takes us to Edison’s Plays in the Park, currently celebrating their 50 anniversary. Grab the family and your most comfortable lawn chairs and sit back for Broadway’s best. The doors open at 5:30 and the show starts at 8:30 so that gives you plenty of time to get there from the Suburban Diner on Route 1 (the diner to see and be seen before the show) or to enjoy a picnic dinner on the spacious lawn with 1,500 of your favorite friends. Known for its history of grooming talent for the big leagues you may witness a star in the making. The season opens with My Fair Lady, then Damn Yankees (for the baseball fans) and rounds out with a bit of Summer Lovin’ with Grease. See you at the Park!

Exit 105 gets us “Down the Shore” and to a venue a stone’s throw from the beach, NJ Rep. Residing in the Lumia Theatre on Broadway in Long Branch, NJ Rep is known for its spectacular ensemble theater presenting challenging work from some of the world’s great new playwrights. Couple a great meal at one of the many eateries on the Pier Village boardwalk with a performance at NJ Rep and you are set for a perfect summer’s evening or afternoon. The World Premiere of American Stare runs June 14 - July 22. Come and discover something new.

Exit 63, ahh, Exit 63, so many memories….Long Beach Island or “LBI” to the rest of us, is the home to Surflight Theatre. Presenting a year’s worth of productions in the span of a summer and beyond, vacationers are assured a fantastic time at the theatre’s seemingly endless variety of musicals, concerts and plays. Rainy summer day? No worries! Surflight Theatre offers a wonderful selection of children’s programming to keep the kids occupied until the sun returns.  Steamy summer day? You’re in luck, adjacent to the theater is the famous Show Place Ice Cream Parlor. Stop by for ice cream and be serenaded by the staff or take up a tune yourself!

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Exit 0 could seem like the end of the world. Fortunately for us, “Exit Zero” takes us to Cape May where nestled among B&Bs and stately Victorians live Cape May Stage and The East Lynne Theater Company. Cape May Stage offers a mix of new and lesser known works and a series of Monday night concerts featuring some of Broadway’s biggest stars. The Broadway Series for 2012 presents RENT’s Anthony Rapp, The Producers, Lee Roy Reems and Grey Garden’s Christina Ebersole and many others. Rub elbows with the performers after show with a drink at the Washington Inn, you don’t know who you might bump into!

The East Lynne Theater Company celebrates “The American Spirit Onstage”, a mission that perfectly fits this quintessential American town.  Their season opens with Ruth Draper’s Company of Characters. Draper was the original “monologist” inspiring modern American performers such as Lily Tomlin, Mike Nichols and Whoopi Goldberg. East Lynne has the distinction of being only the second theatre company ever given permission to produce this show! Later in the season East Lynne offers a treat for Edgar Allen Poe fans with The Poe Mysteries. Six actors take on 40+ parts in a tour de force performance. A feat not to be missed! Opening nights feature a cast party after the show at Pier House and the Washington Inn. Zero never sounded so full.

So, those are a few of my stops New Jersey. “What Exit” are you taking this summer?

Glenn Allen Sims of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Glenn Allen Sims of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

John Guare, Playwright

John Guare, Playwright