The Heritage Theatre Festival returns to the University of Virginia this summer for its 40th anniversary season with a highly decorated and fun-filled slate of shows, in addition to a preseason treat that will bring audiences up close and personal with one of the comedy world’s most enduring icons.
Writer/actor/director Frank Ferrante brings his acclaimed one-man show, “An Evening With Groucho” to the Ruth Caplin Theatre from June 17 to 21. Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “nothing short of masterful,” the show looks inside the life and career of one of the world’s most beloved comedy icons, complete with his trademark one-liners, classic songs, tales of his brothers and of his show business contemporaries like Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin and others.
The Heritage season will officially get under way June 26 in the Culbreth Theatre with the Tony Award-winning musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Named “Best Musical” in 2002, this tale of what happens when a Kansas farm girl lands in the middle of New York City in the Roaring Twenties is adapted from the famed 1967 musical film starring Julie Andrews. Robert Chapel, Heritage’s producing artistic director and a U. Va. professor of drama, will produce the show.
Next up in the Helms Theatre will be a comedy that has run for more than 25 years in Boston, Washington and throughout the country. “Shear Madness,” which opens on July 9, invites audience members to become amateur detectives tackling the case of a famous pianist who ends up on the wrong side of a pair of scissors above the Shear Madness unisex hairstyling salon. Clues are gathered, witnesses and suspects are interviewed and sides are split in this show, which features fast-paced and up-to-the-minute improvisational humor. “Shear Madness” will be directed by Bryan Garey, who holds an M.F.A. degree in drama from U.Va., and was a longtime “Shear Madness” cast member in Chicago.
Flesh and felt join forces for the Broadway sensation “Avenue Q,” which will open July 22 at the Ruth Caplin Theatre. The puppet-powered musical follows a young college graduate’s colorful first steps into the real world, starting with the realization that his meager budget will land him in the city’s alphabetical margins of Avenue Q. Heritage veteran Renee Dobson directs this smart, funny and edgy look at the struggles and joys of making the transition into adulthood. The show is intended for mature audiences.
British comedy is on tap beginning July 24 at Culbreth Theatre with the Tony Award-winning “One Man, Two Guvnors.” Chapel will direct this romp about a man whose only hope of keeping his life together is keeping his two bosses apart. Based on the 18th-century Italian comedy, “A Servant of Two Masters,” the show features mistaken identities, oversized appetites, sharp satire, careening plot twists and comedic contortions.
“One thing we can promise our audiences this summer is an awful lot of fun,” Chapel said. “We’ve got one traditional musical, complete with period costumes and music and choreography from one of the most colorful eras in all of history, and one that is anything but traditional and wickedly sharp and funny. We’ve got a show that has made theater history over the last quarter century and remains one of the most unpredictable and enjoyable evenings you will ever spend in a theater, and you have the finely choreographed chaos that comes of what is one of the great modern farces.
“Add in our special preseason treat with Frank Ferrante’s highly acclaimed ‘An Evening with Groucho,’ and you have a season that offers a perfect summer escape all season long.”
Season subscriptions for the 2014 Heritage Theatre Festival went on sale Monday. For information on the coming season, visit www.uvahtf.org.