Fish Creek, Wisconsin – Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, is thrilled to announce its 81st season performing June 14 through October 16, 2016. Nestled along Door County, Wisconsin’s scenic shore, the award-winning acting company of Peninsula Players has been enthralling generations of audiences in its 600-plus seat, all-weather pavilion since 1935, presenting hundreds of pre-Broadway tryouts, world premières, classic dramas, comedies and musicals.
“Less than two weeks ago Peninsula Players closed a successful 2015 season (our 80th), but, even before it was over, audiences leaving the fall’s final production of ‘Nunsense’ were eagerly telling me how much they were already looking forward to next season and asking me what it was going to be!” said Artistic Director Greg Vinkler. “I usually just smile and say ‘we’ll see!’, not having any idea what the heck it’ll be, but this year I did indeed have a good idea and am surprising a lot of people by announcing next year’s season now! It’s probably the biggest part of my job, coming up with that certain group of plays. I really try to fill the season with variety, so that if someone saw every single show they’d get a very different experience each time. That’s a challenge, but it’s important to me that audiences are excited by what we bring to them each and every time. And I’m very excited about the lineup for our 81st season.”
“Chapatti” (June 14-July 3) The Wisconsin première of Christian O’Reilly’s late-in-life romance opens the Peninsula Players 81st season. Unexpected sparks fly when Betty, the caregiver to an older woman and 19 cats, meets Dan and his dog Chapatti in a Dublin vet office. This funny, gentle and poignant story centers around two lonely animal lovers who rediscover, very unexpectedly, the need for caring and companionship.
Pets provide that for many, but there is no real substitute for a true human connection. Dan is a former laborer having trouble getting over the death of the woman he loved for 30 years, and Betty is a caregiver and divorcee. Neither have wandered far from home and both are getting on in years. What will happen when the troubled Dan, who named his dog Chapatti after Indian flatbread, meets good-natured Betty, who collects cats to save them? Perhaps they will save each other. Or is the gulf too wide?
“I fell in love with this play last when I read it and included it in the Players’ winter play reading series, The Play’s the Thing,” said Vinkler. “We read it March 2nd at Björklunden and when it was over people rose to their feet and gave it a standing ovation! I’d never seen that for a play reading before! The audience just loved and embraced it. It’s a new work that did the same for audiences at its world première at Northlight Theatre. It’s a special, special play.”
Agatha Christie – “The Hollow” (July 6 – July 24). The Players second play is a brilliant murder mystery set in a classic English country house after WW II. A weekend gathering at The Hollow, Sir Henry Angkatell’s place just outside of London, goes deathly awry. While guests unpack, dress for dinner and partake in pre-dinner cocktails, the good-looking Dr. John Cristow finds himself surrounded by an old flame, his wife and his current mistress, all of whom fan their smoldering desires toward him. The festive weekend comes to a screeching halt when a guest is suddenly murdered. Everyone has opportunities and motives. It is the charming Inspector Colquhoun and his down-to-earth assistant Sergeant Penny who must try to follow Christie’s well-crafted twists and turns to unmask the killer.
Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, with sales of her novels reaching more than two billion. In the 1930s she began adapting her stories to the stage and became a record-breaking playwright. Her production of “The Mousetrap” is the longest continuously running play in history – 63 years! “The Hollow” is based on her 1946 book of the same name and was first produced on stage in 1951. It ran for 11 months in London and Queen Mary, being a Christie fan, particularly requested to see it.
“One of the things I love about Agatha Christie is that you just don’t know what the heck is going to happen,” Vinkler said. “What’s also fun is that ’The Hollow’ is new to me – and to most people – and will be on the Players stage for the first time. The characters are terrifically interesting and colorful, and the play is invested with a surprising amount of humor. Everyone is decked out in beautiful clothes, everyone has secrets and everyone’s guilty – and we’ll have an ensemble of actors who’ll knock it out of the park.”
“The Full Monty” (July 27 – August 14) The big pop-rock musical that takes it all off is the Players third offering. Based on the Oscar-nominated film of the same name, this adult musical comedy has a very warm heart at the center of its raucous fun. The electrifying collaboration of writer Terrence McNally (the musical “Ragtime” and the play “Master Class”) and composer David Yazbek (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) earned the “The Full Monty” 10 Tony Award nominations.
Here is the questions: how far would you go to provide for those you love? Six unemployed, misfit and discouraged Buffalo steelworkers are low on cash and prospects. After seeing how much their wives enthusiastically enjoyed a touring company of the Chippendales, these average Joes decide to earn some quick (and needed) cash by trying hard to put together a similar act and show the world what they’re made of. It’s a struggle, but they plow ahead and deal with their fears, prejudices and family problems. In the end they surprise themselves and their families, and find strength and belief in themselves and each other.
“’The Full Monty’ has a lot of heart,” Vinkler said. “It is about real people in a real situation who are forced to take charge of their lives and decide what is best for them; including an unemployed father searching for a way to provide for his son any way he can. It’s the world we live in, so it has adult themes and language. There’s also some nudity. But what a fun ride! Great songs, dancing, characters and some really touching moments. And it possibly has the most highly-anticipated closing number of any show!”
“Alabama Story” (August 17 – September 4). For the fourth production the Players are proud to present the Midwest première of Kenneth Jones’ new play “Alabama Story.” Inspired by true events, it centers on Emily Wheelock Reed, a fearless librarian who fights a campaign to purge, what becomes during the course of the play, a controversial book from the state library. The book is “The Rabbit’s Wedding,” a picture book aimed towards children aged 3 to 7, illustrated by Garth Williams (best known for his illustrations of “Little House on the Prairie” and “Charlotte’s Web.”) The book tells the sweet story of two little rabbits who lived ‘happily ever after’ in the friendly forest. However, one rabbit is white and the other black and we are in 1959 Montgomery, Alabama. “Alabama Story” was a 2014 finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference.
The play pits Senator E.W. Higgins, a bullying segregationist, against the redoubtable Emily Wheelock Reed – incredible opposites and incredible forces – and puts both of their worlds at risk, though they are both tied by a love of books. While they spar, a parallel story of childhood friends, Joshua and Lily, a black man and a white woman reunited in adulthood, reflects the personal and political tensions swirling in Montgomery.
“It is funny. It is touching. It is a play about tests of character, almost a political thriller, and very theatrical,” Vinkler said. “The book and film ’To Kill a Mockingbird’ came to my mind as I was reading it. And it is a love letter to reading. ‘Alabama Story’ received rave reviews when it had its world première earlier this year at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, and we are elated to bring this moving and engrossing new work to audiences. It is a really lovely play.”
“The 39 Steps” (September 7 – October 16). The Players close the season with the wildly comic thriller “The 39 Steps” by Patrick Barlow in which the entirety of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 adventure film “The 39 Steps” (with over 150 characters) is performed on stage by a cast of only 4! It’s filled with dangerous femme fatales, dastardly villains, deadly assassins and lightning-fast costume changes. Audiences will be delighted as Hitchcock’s film adaptation of John Buchan’s original story is magically recreated on stage – from the Flying Scotsman train ride to a plane crash – right before your very eyes.
Richard Hannay, British everyman, has a chance encounter with a mysterious female spy in foggy London town. This launches him on a cross-country mission to exonerate himself of a murder charge, save his King and country – all while Scotland Yard’s finest are on his heels in unrelenting pursuit. “The 39 Steps” is an engaging mystery mixed with fast-paced, boisterous comedy featuring 150 characters from Hitchcock’s classic film performed by a ridiculously talented cast of three men and one woman.
“The 39 Steps” is the winner of two Tony Awards, a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and France’s Molière Award for Best Comedy. “The 39 Steps” has been performed in more than 20 countries with 771 performances on Broadway and has received more than a billion laughs.
“’The 39 Steps’ is just nuts!” Vinkler said. “It’s imaginative, funny, romantic and smart – there are lots of allusions to other Alfred Hitchcock films. It’s a roller coaster ride of theatrical magic, quick changes and chutzpah. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the 81st season.”
More information on casting, etc. for the 2016 season will be forthcoming in the new year Vinkler said.
Season ticket sales for the 2016 season begin in January. Individual on-line ticket sales will be available in March. Advance reservations for group sales, season and individual tickets may now be made by phone. Gift certificates for the 2016 season can be ordered by visiting www.peninsulaplayers.com or by calling the Box Office at (920) 868-3287.