Simply put, the High Country knows how to stage a show.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are celebrated for the arts, crafts and creativity woven into its cultural landscape.
Summer theater is showstopping proof.
From professional to community theater and points in between, mountains of entertainment await on the summer stage.
Lees-McRae Summer Theatre
Although Lees-McRae College is known for its academics and unique mountain campus, summertime brings a different curriculum: professional summer theater.
“I think we’re very audience-friendly,” said artistic director Janet Speer, who’s now in her 30th year directing LMC Summer Theatre. “We try to make the plays very obtainable for the audience, and we really work to try to make the energy of it jump off the stage at you. We don’t have the bells and whistles, we don’t have a huge theater, but I think that’s part of our charm. People are often surprised that a little college like us can do what we do.”
Audiences can see for themselves this summer, with LMC Summer Theatre’s productions of “Kiss Me, Kate,” “A Grand Night for Singing” and “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
“Kiss Me, Kate” runs June 29 through July 6 and is directed by LMC’s Dr. Michael Hannah. A crafty combination of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and the wit and musicality of Cole Porter, “Kiss Me, Kate” features such show-stopping numbers as “Why Can’t You Behave,” “Wunderbar,” “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and more.
This particular show is being dedicated to the late Stan Etkin, an avid supporter of LMC Summer Theatre.
Next up is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Grand Night for Singing,” running July 16 to 20.
“It’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue, done with a large group of outstanding singers and dancers,” said Speer, who directs the musical. “Rodgers and Hammerstein did ‘The Sound of Music,’ ‘South Pacific,’ ‘The King and I,’ and the list goes on and on. Some of their major numbers will be put together in songs and dance … and we’re going to put the orchestra on stage, which we’ve never done before.”
“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” directed by Speer, will close out LMC’s summer season Aug. 6 to 10.
Written by Python star Eric Idle and longtime musical collaborator John Du Prez, “Spamalot” is described as “a new musical ripped off from the film, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’”
“We’re going out on a limb with ‘Spamalot,’ and I’m hoping it’ll bring in some younger audiences,” Speer said. “I think it’s going to be great.”
Each performance takes place at Hayes Auditorium, located off Main Street in downtown Banner Elk. Season tickets cost $112.11, and individual tickets cost $42.71 for adults and $21.36 for students and children. Tickets are available at the Hayes Auditorium box office or online at www.lmc.edu/conferencing_and_events/summer_theatre. For more information, call (828) 898-8709.
Ensemble Stage, the Blowing Rock-based professional theater company, is preparing for one of its most exciting seasons yet, with “Tuna Does Vegas,” “The Kitchen Witches,” “Desperate Affection” and “Completely Hollywood (Abridged).”
The season opens with “Tuna Does Vegas,” part of the popular “Greater Tuna” comedy series, running June 21 to 29. In this iteration, the Tuna townspeople find themselves in Sin City. And although the play boasts more than 20 characters, only two actors will portray them — Ensemble favorites Mark Allen Woodard and Stephen Moore.
“It’s a look at small-town life and small-town values, but throw Las Vegas into the mix with the showgirls and Elvis impersonators, and it’s a lot of fun,” Smith said. “I’ve read a lot of the ‘Tuna’ plays out there, and to me, this is the funniest.”
Next up is “The Kitchen Witches,” running July 5 to 13. The setting is a low-budget, cable-access TV station, on which two rival cooking show hosts are forced to work together.
“One of them’s had this cooking show for a long time, but they’re cancelling it, so this is her last show, and it’s being broadcasted live with her studio audience,” Smith said. “An old rival of hers comes in to gloat … and a food fight ensues. But the audience loves it, so they put these two women together as co-hosts on a cooking show.”
“The Kitchen Witches” stars Burlene Franklin, Josephine Hall, Luke White and Daniel Armbrust.
The season them moves into darker territory with “Desperate Affection,” a suspense thriller, running July 26 to Aug. 3. Starring San Francisco-based actor Greg Waller and Asheville’s Jennifer O’Rear, the story focuses on a couple whose relationship is hardly as it seems.
“In the first act, you think you’re watching this perfect, ideal relationship between two people,” Smith said. “And then things change.”
To say any more would spoil the play’s shocking twists and turns, he added, except that it’ll have audiences guessing up until the powerful conclusion.
To lighten the mood, the season will conclude Aug. 23 to 31, with “Completely Hollywood (Abridged),” a madcap rundown of 186 of the greatest movies of all time, condensed into 90 minutes. From the same team that presented “The Complete History of America (Abridged)” and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” “Hollywood” is a vaudevillian take on film, Smith said.
“Completely Hollywood (Abridged)” stars Mark Allen Woodard and Victor Rivera.
For younger audiences, Ensemble presents a children’s play for all ages. “The Short Tree and the Bird That Could Not Sing” will run June 28, July 12 and 19, and Aug. 2 and 9.
“It’s a neat little story about friendship between a short, stubby tree and a bird,” Smith said. “The other trees in the area have been cut down by loggers, but this one was so short that they left it. So, it’s lonely, and this bird comes along, and they strike up a friendship.”
All of the productions are directed by Smith and will take place at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium on Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock.
Season passes for the Main Stage plays are available at $73 for adults and $65 for senior citizens, students and members of the military. To purchase a subscription, interested parties should visit www.ensemblestage.com to pick their dates and seats, and then call the box office at (828) 414-1844 to purchase tickets.
Individual tickets go on sale June 1 and cost $21 for adults, $19 for senior citizens, students and members of the military and $11 for children 16 younger. Tickets to the children’s play cost $6 apiece.
For more information, visit www.ensemblestage.com, or call (828) 414-1844.
Appalachian State University
As part of An Appalachian Summer Festival, Greensboro’s Triad Stage presents “All’s Well That Ends Well” July 10 at Appalachian State University’s Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, located at 733 Rivers St. on campus in Boone.
Written by William Shakespeare and directed by Preston Lane, this production is “filled with comedy, love, bold plans, dirty tricks and brilliantly drawn characters,” according to Triad Stage’s synopsis. “‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ is Shakespeare done Triad Stage-style — a classic re-invented.”
Tickets cost $20 for general admission and $10 for students and children and are available at the Schaefer Center box office, by visiting www.appsummer.org, or by calling (800) 841-ARTS.
Ashe Little Theater
Broadway is coming to West Jefferson, with Ashe County Little Theatre’s production of “Les Miserables.”
Written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, this musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic tale of the French revolution hits the Ashe Civic Center stage June 26 to 30.
From Aug. 28 to 31, Ashe County Little Theatre puts the “fun” in “funeral,” with “Southern Fried Funeral.” Written J. Dietz Osborne and Nate Eppler, this comedy shows how funerals “bring out the best, the worst and the funniest in people,” centering on the Frye family’s struggles to stage a ceremony worthy of its late patriarch.
Tickets for both productions are available at the Ashe Arts Center, located at 303 School Ave. in West Jefferson. The Ashe Civic Center is located at 962 Mt. Jefferson Road in West Jefferson. For more information or tickets, call (336) 846-ARTS, or visit www.ashecountyarts.org.
Beanstalk Community Theatre
The High Country’s newest community theater, BeanStalk, presents “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” Aug. 7 to 9 at the Harvest House, located at 247 Boone Heights Drive in Boone.
Tickets will go on sale July 1. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit www.beanstalkcommunitytheatre.com.