Familiar, Fun and Family-Friendly Favorites Headline Heritage Theatre Festival's 2009 Offerings

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story:

May 13, 2009 — Theater lovers looking for a little bit of everything this summer will find it at Heritage Theatre Festival. One of Charlottesville's most beloved professional summer theater traditions, Heritage has announced a 2009 season filled with familiar favorites, family fun and uproarious laughs.

It all begins on June 25 with one of the theater world's ultimate family classics, "Oliver!" The beloved rags-to-rags-to-riches story offers the perfect platform from which to jump into a summer that showcases what the magic of the theater is all about, from beloved musical comedies to a family drama that has touched hearts on stage and screen alike.

The season will also include:

•    The hottest and most hilarious horticultural sensation ever to hit theaters, "Little Shop of Horrors"
•    Deep-fried Southern strums, twangs and laughs in "Pump Boys and Dinettes";
•    Fabulous farce in the hilarious old time Hollywood sendup "Moonlight and Magnolias";
•    A trip to the woods of Maine and the Thayer family in the moving and enduring "On Golden Pond"; and
•    A round trip to the wackiest little town in Texas in "Red, White & Tuna."

"After a successful summer last year that featured a continuous parade of Tony and Pulitzer award-winning plays and musicals, we are going back to our roots in a variety of ways in 2009," said Robert Chapel, the festival's producing artistic director.

"These are times in which it is more important than ever to feed our souls, and that is what great theater is all about," he said.

Festival patrons are invited to join in a special Kick-Off Party on June 13 at 8 p.m. in the Helms Theatre. There, Chapel will introduce some of the summer's star performers in an hour-long performance followed by a coffee and dessert reception in the Culbreth lobby, catered by Clifton Inn. Tickets for the event are $30, and will be available online beginning June 1 and by phone 434-924-3376 and in person starting June 8.

A closer look at the lineup:

• "Oliver!"
Directed by Robert Chapel
Culbreth Theatre
June 25-27, June 30 and July 1-3

"Oliver!" will once again leave audiences wanting "more" when it hits the Culbreth stage for a ride through the seedy underworld of 19th-century London and reacquaints them with its cast of remarkable characters. From the sinister Fagan to tragic and lovely Nancy to the cunning Artful Dodger and the sweet-hearted and-voiced title character, Charles Dickens' characters are propelled by a score chock-full of Broadway's greatest songs in one of the theater world's all-time family classics. Catherine Ogden, who gave such a memorable performance in Heritage's production of "Ragtime," will be back this summer as the tragic heroine of "Oliver," Nancy.

• "Pump Boys & Dinettes"
Directed by Renee Dobson
Helms Theatre
June 30, July 1-4 and July 6-11

Want directions to an evening of fun and music? Set your GPS to Highway 57, between Frog Level and Smyrna. It's where you'll find the "Pump Boys & Dinettes," the silly, swinging story of a sassy duo of singing diner waitress-sisters and their song-swapping, beer-guzzlin' good ol' boy neighbors. It's a night's worth of toe-tapping tunes celebrating the simple pleasures of small-town country life, from fresh pecans to farmer tans and more.

• "Moonlight & Magnolias"
Directed by Douglas Sprigg
Culbreth Theatre
July 9-11, July 28, 31 and Aug. 5

"Moonlight & Magnolias" is a farce that shows what might have happened if Hollywood super-mogul David O. Selznick tried to rescue the troubled script for "Gone With the Wind" by locking himself in a room with his writer and director for five straight days,— fueled by a diet of only peanuts and bananas. Nuts and bananas are particularly appropriate terms for the fast-paced hilarity that ensues in this off-the-wall comedic gem. One of Charlottesville's favorite sons, Dave Cupp, returns to play "Gone With the Wind" director, Victor Fleming.

• "On Golden Pond"
Directed by Robert Porter
Culbreth Theatre
July 16-18, July 27, 29, Aug. 1, 3 and 6.

Have a summer sojourn deep in real nature while getting a fascinating glimpse of human nature in the timeless classic "On Golden Pond." Marvel at the power of love to melt the heart of even the crustiest curmudgeons among us and the power of family to both drive us apart and bring us back together in the course of a single memorable summer.

• "Red, White & Tuna"
Directed by Robert Chapel
Helms Theatre
July 21-25, 27-31, Aug. 1 and Aug. 4-8

Heritage audiences have long been hankerin' for a return trip to the tiny town of Tuna, Texas, since their first trip in the production of "Greater Tuna." Now is their chance. The town is all aflutter thanks to an upcoming high school reunion, which predictably brings out the best, and worst, in all its citizens. Two of Heritage Theater Festival's favorite comic actors, John Paul Scheidler and Evan Bridenstine, use their lightning-quick minds and equally quick costume changes to play more than 20 men, women, children and even animals.

• "Little Shop of Horrors"
Directed by Geno Carr
Culbreth Theatre
July 23-25, July 27, 30, Aug. 4, 7 and 8

"FEED ME!" — two of the most memorable words in modern theater history, set to be sung again at Culbreth Theatre by the most famous man-eating plant ever to grace the stage. "Little Shop of Horrors" is the story of down-on-his-luck plant store clerk Seymour, who sees this out-of-this-world carnivorous herb as his ticket to fame, fortune and true love. Throw in a delightful Motown-inspired score, a simple-minded and pure-hearted leading lady and a sadistic biker/dentist, and you'll see why audiences across the world have cheered this show on for decades.

Tickets for the 2009 Heritage Theatre Festival season will go on sale June 8. Season and single-show tickets will be available online[link to www.uvahtf.org] and in person at the Culbreth box office and by phone at 434-924-3376.

For more information on the upcoming 2009 season at Heritage Theatre Festival, visit www.uvahtf.org.