Valdosta Daily Times

May 1, 2013

PSST! It’s almost back

Summer theatre preparing to return to Valdosta

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Peach State Summer Theatre returns within a month to South Georgia, with three new musical productions and a format that differs from the past eight seasons.

In the past, the season opens with what most audiences would consider a big, splashy, general-audience show: “Singin’ in the Rain,” “White Christmas,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” The second show is usually a shorter, often one-act program specifically aimed at children: Disney’s “The Jungle Book,” “Go, Dog. Go!” The third production is a show with themes for a more mature audience: “Ragtime,” “Cabaret,” “Chicago.”

The 2013 season, however, opens with a full-production family show with “The Sound of Music,” says H. Duke Guthrie, PSST! managing director. The season continues with the nostalgia musical show of “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” and concludes with the more mature-themed musical “A Little Night Music.”

Despite the formatting change, and possibly based on the popularity of “The Sound of Music” and the 1950s-60s songs in “Wonderettes,” Guthrie says season membership sales have already surpassed past sales at this time in the pre-season. Compared to past pre-seasons, PSST! has also fielded more group inquiries from organizations wanting to reserve several seats for shows.

“So, we’re very hopeful for the 2013 season,” Guthrie says.

Both Guthrie and colleague Jacque Wheeler, PSST! artistic director, can quickly make comparisons with other seasons. They have worked in these positions since PSST! made Valdosta State University’s Sawyer Theatre home each summer since 2005. Prior to that date, they worked together during the program’s 15-year run on Jekyll Island each summer.

Both Wheeler and Guthrie are VSU Theatre & Dance faculty members. VSU Theatre & Dance is PSST!’s umbrella organization but Peach State remains an independent company, presenting professional theatre with performers culled from area and regional auditions. PSST! has also been designated the Official Musical Theatre of the State of Georgia. The Valdosta Daily Times has long been PSST!’s corporate sponsor.

Though the types of shows have been tweaked a bit this year, how PSST! operates remains the same. The first show opens June 1; two weeks later, the second show opens; a week later, the third show opens; then, all three shows run in rotating repertoire through July 14.

Guthrie shares insights on all three 2013 PSST! productions.

— “The Sound of Music,” opens June 1: Arguably Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s most loved musical. It was also their last pairing as Hammerstein died less than a year after “The Sound of Music’s” Broadway debut. Based on the von Trapp family, this musical premiered on Broadway in 1959 then became the classic film starring Julie Andrews in 1965. The musical includes beloved songs such as “Edelweiss,” “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and the title song.

To ensure audiences more familiar with the well-known movie rather than the live show do not feel short-changed, PSST! acquired the rights to two songs that are included in the movie but aren’t regularly part of the stage production. So, PSST! audiences will hear the songs “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good,” as well as songs that are in the live version but not in the movie, Guthrie says. He adds there will be no puppet show during the stage version.

“Sound of Music” is PSST!’s family-friendly show. It should be appropriate for children as young as 6 or 7 years old, Guthrie says, but he advises parents to realize “The Sound of Music” is a full, two-hour-plus show, not the 45-minute, one-act children’s shows of past PSST! seasons that could entertain 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.

Area youngsters also auditioned to play the von Trapp children and will appear throughout the show’s summer run.

Jacque Wheeler directs and Eric Brandt Nielsen choreographs “The Sound of Music.”

— “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” opens June 15: In Act I, audiences meet four girls ready to attend their 1958 high school prom. In Act II, audiences catch up with these young ladies a decade later as they prepare for their 10-year high school reunion. Created by Roger Bean, this off-Broadway hit presents several songs from the ’50s and ’60s, such as “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Lipstick on Your Collar,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” “It’s My Party” and 20 more classics, Guthrie says.

“The title is less familiar but the audience will be familiar with the music in this show,” Guthrie says.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is a different type of production for PSST!

“It’s a fun show and I think our audience will respond to it,” Guthrie says, “but the tricky part is the ‘what is that?’ factor.”

As a smaller, more intimate show, “Wonderettes” will slide nicely between the larger musicals of “Sound of Music” and “A Little Night Music.”

“We’re already creating the costumes for ‘Wonderettes,’ which only has eight costumes as opposed to 75,” Guthrie says.

PSST! and Jekyll Island regular Barbara Hartwig returns to direct and choreograph “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”

— “A Little Night Music,” opens June 22: Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night,” Stephen Sondheim developed this musical which takes its English name from the German of Mozart’s Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major. The musical revolves around the relationships of several couples. It’s best known song is “Send in the Clowns.” “A Little Night Music” premiered on Broadway in 1973.

This is the more mature-themed show. Guthrie describes it as a “PG art piece.” As he has for the past eight seasons, retired VSU Theatre professor and Jacque Wheeler’s husband Dr. Randy Wheeler directs the concluding PSST! musical. Randy Wheeler calls “A Little Night Music” ... “a swirling, romantic melange of misguided passions, mischievous machinations, and witty glances at the foibles of those who dare to fall in love under a midsummer moon; a soaring Sondheim score filled with his usual comic insights into human nature and highlighted by his greatest hit, ‘Send in the Clowns.’”

The show revolves around the twists and trysts of a love triangle.

In addition to Randy Wheeler’s direction, Jacque Wheeler choreographs movements.

All three shows will be staged in Sawyer Theatre, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. More information: Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst