The costume shop at Rhynsburger Theatre is bursting with sweeping crimson evening gowns and black feather boas. Sawdust erupts from every footstep taken on the stage, where the bang of hammers and the buzz of band saws fill the air as a huge battleship is constructed. A welcome breeze drifts through the open theater doors, through which actors will arrive to rehearse in only a few hours. The summer theater season has begun.
For now, the costumes, set and actors are being perfected at MU’s Summer Repertory Theatre. But on July 5, the season will open to the public with the musical “Dames at Sea,” the farce “Laughing Stock” and the comedy “Greater Tuna.”
Production schedule"Dames at Sea," a musical, at the Rhynsburger 8 p.m., July 5-6, 11, 13, 19, 21, 25, 28 2 p.m. July 15 and 29 Tickets $15 for the public, $13 for faculty/students "Laughing Stock," a comedy, at the Rhynsburger 8 p.m., July 7, 12, 14, 18, 20, 26, 27 2 p.m. July 8, 22 Tickets $12 for the public, $11 for faculty/students "Greater Tuna," a comedy, at the Corner Playhouse 8 p.m., July 15, 17, 22, 24 2 p.m. July 14, 21 Tickets $10 for the public, $9 for faculty/students
Jim Miller, director of “Dames” and a theater professor at MU, said audiences can expect a light-hearted musical romp that “spoofs the great Warner Brothers musicals like ‘42nd Street.’” The production is a special one for Miller, who is also designing and choreographing. He played the lead in a production of “Dames” 35 years ago.
“It’s all very iconic,” Miller said. “It has a great story, amazing songs — it’s very family-friendly.”
“Dames at Sea” was first produced in 1966, and it made now Tony Award-winning actor Bernadette Peters a celebrity. Set in the 1930s, it’s the story of a chorus girl who becomes a star. This summer’s cast is made up mostly of students from MU and other schools. Miller thinks that despite the show’s old-time feel, people of all ages will enjoy it.
“I’ve found that when young people see musicals like this, they rediscover the past,” Miller said. “A time of fabulously structured music. Back then we had stars with personality, like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Today we have Paris Hilton. People are refreshed and delighted by these shows.”
“Laughing Stock” is a fairly new show that spoofs theater itself. Directed by Clyde Ruffin, also a theater professor at MU, it’s a farce that follows actors and directors as they try to put on a trio of plays.
“Greater Tuna” is a comedy set in small-town America and is being directed by guest director Douglas Powers. The show requires only two actors, and each plays 10 characters. Brett Johnson and Matt Salzberg, both MU graduate students, said the production was a welcome challenge.
“We’re carrying the entire show, just the two of us,” Johnson said. “We’ve really had to listen and respond to each other. But it’s a great, fast-paced, hilarious show.”
The season will run from July 5 to July 29, featuring a different production each night. Kerri Packard, managing director of Summer Repertory Theatre, said this gives audiences a greater opportunity to see a variety of shows.
“Audiences can see three shows in three days if they want,” Packard said. “The summer theater is so different than during the school year and so fun. It’s a really concentrated amount of time when everybody’s working together and is so focused on the shows.”
Packard said the MU Theatre Department relies on ticket sales from summer shows to help finance shows during the school year, so fun, light-hearted productions are chosen for the summer.
“It is my hope that people will come to the theater and really enjoy themselves,” Packard said. “These shows are very professionally done, and I’d like people to see that.”