Smile Politely

Singers and tigers and bikers, oh my

The Station Theatre in Urbana has announced its lineup for its 42nd summer season, and it has the potential to be as crowd-pleasing as it is ambitious. A musical revue, a dark-comic view of war, and a new family drama will grace the boards this summer, giving audiences plenty to feel, think about, and hum along to… 

June 5-21

Putting It Together

Drawing its title from a song in Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, this musical revue of Sondheim’s work features 30 songs performed by a cast of five people thrown together at a party in a Manhattan penthouse. These party guests transform the penthouse into the stage of an abandoned theatre, an estate in Sweden, an island, a street near the Roman Forum, and a fairy tale forest, among other locales.

This musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie, will be directed by Tom Mitchell, with music direction by Kent Conrad.

Mitchell is no stranger to Station audiences, having directed last summer’s big hit, Freud’s Last Session, as well as this season’s Come Back, Little Sheba. Mitchell has also directed a host of plays at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, including Battle of Angels, Dracula, and the musical Gone Missing, a collaboration with music director Conrad. Conrad has been music director for several KCPA productions, including Cabaret, [title of show], and Spring Awakening.

The Station’s annual Summer Benefit will take over the theatre on June 14. Per tradition, this performance will be reserved for those patrons who attend the benefit dinner (catered, and with live music) at the home of Station Artistic Director Rick Orr. Details for the start time of this shindig aren’t available yet, but anyone with questions about the benefit can call the theatre at (217) 384-4000. Following dinner, the party will then travel to the Station in time for the show at 8:00 p.m. Champagne and dessert will be served at intermission. A catered dinner in a lovely garden, a frothy musical performance, and a mild buzz — what more could you want from a summer’s eve.

July 3-19

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

In an impressive deviation from previous summers’ tendency to keep things “light and bouncy,” the inclusion of Rajiv Joseph’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist is unexpected and just…really effing cool.

The titular tiger here is the ghost of a zoo animal killed by a US Marine during the invasion of Iraq. (To be fair, the tiger did bite of the man’s hand.) Now haunting the place of its demise, the tiger contemplates life and death, as do the Americans and Iraqis dealing with the war around them. Of the play, which was named Outstanding New American Play by the National Endowment for the Arts, the NY Times had this to say:

“Set in the chaotic first days of the American invasion of Iraq, this boldly imagined, harrowing and surprisingly funny drama considers the long afterlife of violent acts, as well as the impenetrable mysteries of the afterlife itself.”

Bengal Tiger will be directed by Timothy O’Neal, who, while a first-time director at the Station, was recently recognized for directing Orestes 2.0 at the University of New Orleans. That production won the Big Easy Award for Best University Production. Locally (and most recently) O’Neal served as stage manager for this season’s sold-out Station production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

[Editor’s Note: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo has been replaced in the second summer slot by Lyle Kessler’s Orphans. The play will be directed by Timothy O’Neal and will feature actors Lincoln Machula, Maxwell Tomaszewski, and Coy Benning Wentworth. Please refer to the Smile Politely Splog post on this matter for more information.]

July 31-August 9

4000 Miles

A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize, Amy Herzog’s “funny, moving, altogether wonderful drama” (NY Times), will be directed by another Station newbie, Sara Boland-Taylor. The story follows 21-year-old Leo, who travels cross-country by bicycle, suffering a personal loss along the way. He seeks comfort from his 91-year-old grandmother, Vera, and the two become unlikely roommates. A lot of frustration, comedy, and heartstring-pulling ensues in this warm and critically-acclaimed play about family.

Boland-Taylor, a PhD student at the University of Illinois, served three years as Associate Director and Dramaturg for the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, where she directed a movement-based performance of her adaptation of Shakespeare’s poem “Venus and Adonis.”

As usual, ticket reservations for these shows can be addressed by calling the Station at (217) 384-4000 or by visiting the Station’s (nicely remodeled) website. All shows start at 8 p.m., and tickets continue to be $10 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays.

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