Festival Theatre in St. Croix Falls, Wis., announces its 25th consecutive season of professional theater. Since 1990 the theatre company has been producing live theatre in the St. Croix Valley.
Festival’s upcoming season will be one that celebrates the classics, featuring themes and stories from ancient Greece and Rome, 17th century farce-frenzied France, 19th century Holland and some beloved theater motifs, styles and artists of the modern era.
The Spring Youth & Family Theatre Series production, running March 6-16, is Festival’s own adaptation of “Aesop’s Fables.” Auditions are set for Jan. 20-21, with an audition workshop on Jan. 18. Call the box office at 715-483-3387 to get on the Arts Education mailing list for audition notices.
Opening the regular season in June is “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, based on the plays of Plautus, with music by Stephen Sondheim. This show runs June 19 through Aug. 17 in rotating repertory with the other summer productions.
Pseudolus, a slave in ancient Greece, is dead set on gaining his freedom through whatever means necessary. When his master leaves on a trip, his master’s son, Hero, presents Pseudolus with a deal: help him win the hand of Philia, a beautiful courtesan currently betrothed to a war hero, and he will give Pseudolus his freedom. What ensues is a raucous mix of mistaken identity, invented maladies, and mischief that won the original production Tony awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.
“Almost, Maine” by John Cariani is next, running July 5 through Aug. 16 in rotating repertory. Welcome to Almost, Maine, a town that’s so far north, it’s almost not in the United States — it’s almost in Canada. And it almost doesn’t exist, because its residents never got around to getting organized. So it’s just … Almost. One cold, clear Friday night in the middle of winter, while the northern lights hover in the sky above, Almost’s residents find themselves falling in and out of love in the strangest ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. Love is lost, found and confounded. And life for the people of Almost, Maine, will never be the same.
Next is “The 39 Steps,” adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan, running Aug. 9 through Sept. 7 in rotating repertory. Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python, and you have “The 39 Steps,” a fast-paced whodunit.
This highly acclaimed play (awarded two Tony Awards and the Drama Desk Award) is packed with nonstop laughs, continual surprises, amazing comic expression, some good old-fashioned romance and more than 150 zany characters played by a cast of four.
The play centers on Richard Hanney, a man with a boring life who is about to embark on an extraordinary adventure after meeting a woman with a thick accent who says she’s a spy. After she is murdered, a mysterious organization called The 39 Steps is hot on the man’s trail in a nationwide manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale.
“The Miser” by Molière is the fall production, on stage Oct. 2-26. The elderly Harpagon obsesses over the feeling that he never has enough money, and unfortunately his obsession wreaks havoc on all around him. This includes his two children, Elise and Cleante, who are passionately in love with a valet and the girl next door, respectively. While Harpagon had arranged for them to be married to absurdly mismatched types, the two smart children plot against their frugal father until all erupts in a climatic dinner and truths are revealed.
Festival’s holiday show brings back “Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates,” written by Mary Mapes Dodge and adapted by James L. Walker, on stage Nov. 29 through Dec. 28. Set in Holland in the early 19th century, a poor-but-industrious and honorable young man named Hans Brinker yearns to participate in December’s great ice-skating race on the Canal. He and his younger sister, Gretel, have little chance of winning on their handmade wooden skates, but with a little hope and hard work, Hans aims to purchase a set of steel skates that will aid him is chasing down the illustrious prize. But Hans’ and Gretel’s father has fallen very ill, and Hans must first find a way to have his father seen and helped by the famous surgeon, Dr. Boekman.
“Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates” is a story of love, ambition, community and chasing one’s dreams while fighting to do what is honorable and noble.
Finally, the Festival Theatre Conservatory for Young Performers summer production features local high school aged youth together with members of the professional summer company. Next summer’s production of Aristophanes’ “The Frogs,” dovetailing on the classics theme, has historical homage, hilarity and mythological adventure in one production. This show will run July 19-31 in rotating repertory.
For more information about shows and ticket prices and options go to festivaltheatre.org or call 715-483-3387.