Theater

See Shows by the Seashore

Another year of raucous entertainment in Matunuck

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From 9 to 5 to four-part harmony and seven Von Trapps, you can count on a terrific time at Theatre By The Sea (TBTS) this summer. The five show line-up at the historic barn theatre promises memorable music, clever choreography and loads of laughs. As producing artistic director Amiee Turner puts it, “This is a great season, with each show really being a crowd pleaser. There is something for everyone!”

First up, listen to an angelic quartet return – and croon – from beyond the grave. “Forever Plaid is one of the sweetest, most heartfelt shows I know of, with a joyous sense of humor and an unbelievable score,” notes Turner of the musical revue, playing June 1-17. Written by Stuart Ross, it’s the wholesome story of a ‘50s-era singing group whose dreams of stardom end suddenly. But death is no match for dulcet tones like these, and the boys in plaid get a second chance to harmonize on such golden oldies as “Rags to Riches,” “Heart and Soul” and “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.”

Next, see the sprightly Maria become super nanny to an unruly but adorable bunch of Austrians in the 1959 classic, The Sound of Music (June 20–July 14). Relive the romance of being “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” bid “So Long, Farewell” to a country on the brink of war, and delight in the simple pleasures of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” Turner directs the production, and calls it “the quintessential Rodgers and Hammerstein musical: inspirational and beautiful and perfect for the whole family and multiple generations to enjoy together.”

Then, prepare your press-on nails and shoulder pads for the Rhody premiere of 9 to 5: The Musical (July 18–August 11). The show is based on the 1980 film, with music and lyrics by the inestimable Dolly Parton – including the hit title track. Cheer as over-worked and under-valued colleagues seek revenge on their tyrannical boss... and live to tell about it. Turner reveals, “This is a really fun show that very few people have seen yet.”

Don’t get up from that office chair just yet. The last musical of the TBTS season offers another comic take on scaling the corporate ladder, this time with a score by Broadway legend Frank Loesser. How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (August 15–September 2) follows the zany journey of a young opportunist, from window washer to top executive. Turner considers it “an amazing coup that we were given the rights to present while it’s still running on Broadway.” She adds that it will have the biggest dance numbers of the lot.

Keep laughing with the season closer God of Carnage, another RI premiere, onstage September 6-16. Written by Yasmina Reza, the award-winning comedy pits two pairs of parents against each other in an attempt to sort out a playground scuffle. Turner describes the contemporary satire as “a very funny look at how easily adults can resort to childish behavior.”

Expect incredible, hand-selected casts to bring all five fun shows to life. “We auditioned about 350 folks locally, 900 at the Southeastern Theatre Conference professional auditions, and 1,200 actors in New York City,” Turner reports of the arduous casting process for Ocean State Theatre Company, the not-for-profit producing arm of TBTS. “There is only a small handful of true ‘barn’ theatres still operating in the U.S., and we take great pride in the quality of our productions.”

Turner, a Missouri native, officially moved to South Kingstown in ’08. She observes that, “Although the work we do is so often very high stress, South County is such a friendly and relaxed place to live and work. I love the constant surprise of truly amazing sunsets.” You can count on catching a few of those on the beautiful TBTS grounds as well. See you there, and save us a seat.

Forever Plaid (through June 17)
The Sound of Music (June 20–July 14)
9 to 5: The Musical (July 18–August 11)
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (August 15–September 2)
God of Carnage (September 6–16)