The Woodstock Playhouse launches its Summer Repertory season this weekend with J. M. Barrie’s iconic work of kid lit, Peter Pan – not the original 1904 play, but the beloved musical adaptation from 1954 that starred Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard on Broadway and TV. The music is by Mark “Moose” Charlap and Jule Styne and the lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Lots of folks with long memories have a sentimental attachment to this version of Peter Pan, with its wire-assisted flying scenes, audience-participation rescue of the dying Tinker Bell and its sweet, catchy score, featuring songs that became classics like “I Won’t Grow Up,” “I’m Flying,” “Never Never Land,” “I’ve Gotta Crow” and “Tender Shepherd.” But to the folks at the Playhouse, it’s a work with extra-special meaning because that venue is where Mary Martin’s son, Larry Hagman – best-remembered as J. R. Ewing on Dallas and Major Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie – made his professional stage debut back in 1950.
This production is a collaboration between the Playhouse and the New York Conservatory for the Arts, known for its theatre arts camps for kids. So, to accommodate young audiences, curtain time for evening performances will be a little earlier than usual and ticket prices significantly cheaper. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 30 and 31, with a 2 p.m. matinée on Sunday, June 1. Tickets cost $21 general admission, $18 for students and senior citizens.
The season will continue with Monty Python’s Spamalot, running from June 19 through 29. The book and lyrics are by Eric Idle and the music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. You’ll hear a lot of whistling along with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and lips moving in the audience as fans recite their favorite catchphrases from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The stage version preserves many of the movie’s best-loved routines – protesting plague victims, a fearsome killer rabbit, the Knights Who Say “Ni!” demanding shrubbery, castle defenders taunting King Arthur and his “silly English k-niggits” in awful French accents, catapulted cows – but also brings in the character of the Lady of the Lake in order to create a romantic subplot and give a lead actress something to do. It’s absurd and silly and fun, and if you snag an aisle seat near the front you might even get to help find the Holy Grail. Shows begin at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with Sunday matinées at 2 p.m.
Next on the schedule is Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock musical that first put Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber on the map and made a star of Ben Vereen as he played a surprisingly (and controversially) sympathetic Judas in the original 1971 Broadway production. The show runs from July 10 to 20, and the curtain goes up at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. It will be followed from Thursday to Saturday, July 24 to 26 at 8 p.m. by The Three Musketeers – presumably Ken Ludwig’s 2006 adaptation of the definitively swashbuckling Alexandre Dumas novel, although there is also a 1968 stage version by Peter Raby.
The summer season at the Woodstock Playhouse wraps up with the 20th-century classic West Side Story, with a book by Arthur Laurents (inspired, of course, by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Jerome Robbins. How can you go wrong? It runs from July 31 to August 10, with an 8 p.m. curtain Thursday through Saturday and Sunday matinées beginning at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices for all productions this season except for Peter Pan range from $32 to $40. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at (845) 679-6900 or visit ulsterpub.staging.wpengineplayhouse.org.
NYCA presents Peter Pan, Friday/Saturday, May 30/31, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, June 1, 2 p.m., $18/$21, Woodstock Playhouse, Playhouse Lane, 103 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock; (845) 679-6900, ulsterpub.staging.wpengineplayhouse.org.