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May 9, 2017 12:24 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Bay Street Theater Unveils Its 2017 Summer Lineup

May 9, 2017 12:24 PM

A boy cartoonist, an African-American seamstress and a clever court jester will be sharing the Mainstage at Bay Street Theater this summer. Just not at the same time.

Scott Schwartz, Bay Street’s artistic director, unveiled the three Mainstage productions in greater detail late last month, along with a host of other summer programs and events that the Sag Harbor venue will offer, including musical one-nighters by big name performers and an expanded camp program.

“I’m so happy that the theater has grown into such a vital and necessary institution” during the slower winter and spring months, he said.

“It’s thrilling,” Mr. Schwartz continued, “to be ‘the place’ in Sag Harbor where people know they can come all year round to see live entertainment and have educational opportunities.”

But Mr. Schwartz and the Bay Street staff are focused now on the upcoming summer months. First on the roster is the musical adaptation of “The Man in the Ceiling,” with book by East Hampton resident and Pulitzer Prize winner Jules Feiffer. The adaptation was presented as part of Bay Street’s New Works Festival last year. “Jules is one of our most important living writers,” Mr. Schwartz said. “And the show itself is amazing.”

Mr. Feiffer wrote the book for the musical—a first for him—and Broadway composer Andrew Lippa (“Big Fish,” “The Addams Family”) plays Uncle Lester, a struggling composer and one of the supporting characters in the story of pre-teen illustrator Jimmy Jibbet, who just might be the next Walt Disney, if he could only learn how to draw hands.

Leading the production as director is Jeffrey Seller, the theatrical producer responsible for “Rent,” “Avenue Q” and “Hamilton.”

“Jules has never written the book for a musical, Andrew is one of the actors, and Jeffrey is directing instead of producing,” Mr. Schwartz said. “This is three major artists all stepping outside of their comfort zone. It’s a dream team that you could see opening the show on Broadway.” He added that he felt “The Man in the Ceiling” was going to be one of the biggest art events of the summer. “It will be a thrilling world premiere.”

Next up is “Intimate Apparel” by another Pulitzer Prize winner, Lynn Nottage, who is currently nominated for a Tony for the Broadway production of “Sweat.” The story follows Esther, an African-American seamstress in 1905 New York, who makes “unmentionables” for both the upper classes and the ladies of the night. Esther strikes up a pen-pal relationship with George, a man working on the Panama Canal. It is based loosely on the life of Ms. Nottage’s great-grandmother and tells a universal story, Mr. Schwartz said. “Esther is successful, but she’s lonely. How does she find love? How does she find someone to share her life with?” The production features costumes by Emilio Sosa, a designer who began on “Project Runway” and has since won awards for his Broadway creations. Kelly McCreary, fresh from her story line on “Grey’s Anatomy,” will play Esther. “We’re really lucky to get her,” said Mr. Schwartz, who is directing this production.

“Now we’re finally doing Shakespeare on the Mainstage,” Mr. Schwartz said of Bay Street’s third major production of the season—a reworked production of “As You Like It,” set in the Jazz Age with additional music by Mr. Schwartz’s father, the famed Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell,” “Pippin,” “Wicked”).

“It’s more musical than any of Shakespeare’s other plays,” said Mr. Schwartz, who admitted he has been angling to get the Bard on the Mainstage since his first day at Bay Street. The production is being co-produced with New York City’s Classic Stage Company. “We’re premiering the show here,” Mr. Schwartz said, “and then it immediately goes into rehearsal with CSC. A show we’re doing here will be in New York City in the fall.”

Broadway veteran Andre de Shields has been cast as Touchstone, the court fool who takes the main characters under his wing, and John Doyle is directing. “It’s going to have a real Cole Porter/George Gershwin/Cotton Club feel,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Some of the actors will play instruments on stage. We’re treating it like a musical, but with the original text.”

“I have to say—at the risk of slight immodesty—of my time here, this might be the most exciting season yet,” he said. “All of the productions are very different, but speak to central issues of identity, love, and self-discovery.”

Comedy, Music And Camp

Bay Street is changing up its summer comedy schedule, which had traditionally been held Mondays. Now, it’s Comedy Saturdays, making room for Music Mondays.

Perennial Hamptons favorite Colin Quinn will make a one-night appearance on Saturday, May 27, with two other comedians to follow in July and August. Six shows by veteran musical performers will held as a Music Monday series, with tickets available as a series or a la carte. Performers include Betty Buckley, Lorna Luft, Stephen Schwartz and friends (featuring Liz Calloway), and Ben Vereen.

“If the audience is enthusiastic, this could become a centerpiece of what Bay Street is about,” Mr. Schwartz said.

The Bay Street gala this year will honor Michael Wilson, the director of the film “The Trip to Bountiful” and many Broadway and off-Broadway shows, who led Bay Street’s 2015 production of “Grey Gardens,” which profiled Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier of East Hampton. “Grey Gardens was a turning point for us,” Mr. Schwartz said. “People started re-engaging with Bay Street in a big way.”

The theme of the gala this year is “Imagine.”

“It’s about how theater and live performance and art can spark all of our imaginations,” Mr. Schwartz said.

Children age 4 and up also have more opportunities to participate in the Bay Street summer camp programs, which this year are being expanded. “The biggest expansion is in our teen programming,” said Mr. Schwartz, adding that the theater will open six master classes for teenagers, taught by professionals, some of them well known. “Liz Caplan, the premier vocal coach on Broadway, is teaching singing. Paul Hecht is teaching Shakespeare. Rob Reese of the Upright Citizens Brigade is teaching improv. These are great opportunities with top-level Broadway and national talent.

“I hope people view Bay Street as this big educational resource. Theater is about bringing us together and learning new things.”

The Under the Stars free event that the theater puts on toward the end of the summer in Mashashimuet Park has traditionally offered a Shakespeare play. But with “As You Like It” indoors, Bay Street is offering up the next best thing: a concert reading of Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate,” the classic musical about a theater company putting on a production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” “It’s totally free for the community,” Mr. Schwartz said. “We get such wonderful support all year from the Sag Harbor community, and this is our thank-you to them.”

All in all, Mr. Schwartz is “so excited” about the season ahead. “There’s a fresh new page being turned in our story,” he said. “Not because things are changing, but because we’re continuing to build.”

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With Scott Schwartz, Bay Street’s artistic director at the helm, this season once again promises to be truly great theater. Best Wishes to All at Bay Street!
By elliot (238), sag harbor on May 15, 17 12:04 PM
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