Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s Oldest Professional Resident Summer Theatre and Door County’s theatrical icon, announces artistic company members for its 83rd season, running June 12 through October 14, 2018. The “must-see” 2018 season includes a world première comedy-drama, a thrilling new mystery, a delightfully funny musical, a sparkling new comedy and an intriguing new drama. Peninsula Players is a professional, not-for-profit theater which employs professional actors and collaborates with members of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union of professional actors and stage managers; United Scenic Artists (USA), a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople; and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), a theatrical union of stage directors and choreographers.
Company members work in regional theaters from Los Angeles to New York and internationally, as well as in film, television and radio. Many of the directors, designers and cast members are recipients of or have been nominated for Chicago’s prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award and other regional theater awards.
The line-up of shows, designers and casts were selected by Artistic Director Greg Vinkler who celebrates his 30th season at Peninsula Players. His directing credits with the company include “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” “The Full Monty,” “Outside Mullingar,” “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” “Chicago” and “Lombardi.” His recent acting credits at the Players include “The Actuary,” “Alabama Story,” “Chapatti,” “A Real Lulu,” “Butler,” and “Heroes.” Vinkler will perform in the opening play of the season, “Now and Then,” the musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone” and will direct the autumn production of “Salvage.”
“The artists of the 2018 company are extremely talented and very versatile,” Vinkler said. “The wide variety of shows needs comedians, singers, dancers and performers who can take audiences from the world of Victorian London, to 1950s New York and to an Irish bar of today. For example, the musical features intricate song and dance numbers, and the comedy needs operatic voices. Eleven actors, two designers and one musician will make their Players debut this season. But many familiar and loved performers, designers and musicians are returning as well.
“‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ has a cast of 16, five of them will also perform in ‘Living on Love’ and six in ‘Miss Holmes.’ We have 14 returning Players in the acting company and 13 staff members. Our small army of artists also includes 17 designers, seven musicians, three scenic painters, three carpenters, three union stage managers, two properties managers, two new master electricians, one new cook, a new Box Office manager and a whole bunch of collaborative creativity. We really have a multi-talented group coming together – which is necessary for our diverse line-up of shows.”
Peninsula Players opens its 83rd season on June 12 with the world première of “Now and Then” by Sean Grennan, a new comedy-drama that is performing through July 1. This touching, funny and unbelievable story centers on Jamie, an aspiring pianist, his girlfriend Abby and a mysterious older gentleman who offers them $1,000 each to talk with him for an hour. Their ensuing conversation changes their lives.
Vinkler is cast as the older gentleman and the remaining cast includes company members Erica Elam, Sean Fortunato and Barbara Robertson. Elam performed in last season’s world première of “The Actuary,” “Almost, Maine” and in Grennan’s world première of “The Tin Woman.” Fortunato’s recent Players’ credits include “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Sunday in the Park with George” and Grennan’s “Making God Laugh.” Robertson returns to Peninsula Players and was last seen in “Noises Off” and “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.”
Tom Mula is slated as director for “Now and Then” and will perform in two productions this season. Mula directed “Chapatti,” “A Real Lulu,” as well as the world première of Grennan’s “Making God Laugh” and “The Tin Woman.” Mula has performed in 35 Peninsula Players productions including “Heroes,” “Chicago” and “Cabaret.”
“Miss Holmes,” a new play by Christopher M. Walsh based on characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, takes the stage July 4 through July 22 to thrill audiences. In this deadly mystery with a twist, Walsh’s Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are intelligent, independent women in 19th Century England, a time when society did not value those attributes. Cassandra Bissell (“Around the World in 80 Days,” “Opus”) and Maggie Kettering (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Outside Mullingar”) reprise their lead character roles, Miss Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Dorothy Watson, from the 2017 winter play reading series, The Play’s the Thing.
Director Elizabeth Margolius (“The Bridges of Madison County”) returns to helm the tension, thrills and drama of “Miss Holmes.” Peninsula Players veterans under Margolius’ direction includeElam (“The Actuary”); Fortunato (“And Then There Were None,”) as Mycroft Holmes; Karl Hamilton (“The Bridges of Madison County”), Tim Monsionas Inspector Lestrade (“Dial M for Murder), Mula (“The Hollow”); and Robertson (“Broadway Bound”) as Eudora, the mother of a suspected murder victim.
The Tony Award-winning “The Drowsy Chaperone,” will delight audiences with show-stopping song and dance numbers starting July 25 and going through August 12. This funny, yet smart, musical features music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. “The Drowsy Chaperone” is the winner of five Tony Awards (including Best Book and Best Original Score) and seven Drama Desk Awards. As the narrator of the musical, played by Vinkler, plays a recording, his apartment transforms into a glittering Broadway set overflowing with songs, romance, comedy and lively dance numbers. “The Drowsy Chaperone” features a young couple on the eve of their wedding, a harried best man, a Broadway impresario, an absent-minded dowager, two gangsters posing as pastry chefs, a very misguided Don Juan and a tipsy chaperone. “All of the ingredients for an evening of absolute fun,” Vinkler said. “It’s delightful and sparkling, and audiences will be over the moon about it!”
Matt Crowle (“Peter and the Starcatcher”) will choreograph and direct the cast of 16 alongside Musical Director Valerie Maze (“Nunsense.”) Crowle spent the winter performing as Rooster in Skylight Music Theatre’s production of “Annie” while Maze served her first year as Music Director and Conductor for Elon’s Music Theatre program in North Carolina.
Making their Players debut in the bubbly musical are Joe Capstick, Dena DiGiacinto, Drew Humphrey, Meghan Murphy, Mary Nickson, Erin Parker, Jason Richards and Erica Stephan. Joining them from the cast of “Miss Holmes” are Fortunato, Hamilton, Monsion, Mula and Robertson as well as Players alumni Elizabeth Haley (“The Bridges of Madison County,”) Dan Klarer (“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”) and Vinkler.
“Matt is an incredible dancer, choreographer and comedic performer, and I am very excited to see him work his magic on this funny, entertaining musical,” Vinkler said. “He has a very talented cast of singers and dancers to collaborate with, all of whom have extensive experience and a lot of exuberant energy to bring to Door County audiences.”
Humphrey made his Broadway debut in the 2008 Broadway première of “White Christmas,” and Capstick has been a featured tap-dancer in Chicago productions of “42nd Street,” “Crazy for You,” “The Producers” and “Spamalot.” Stephan has performed in Paramount Theatre’s productions of “Tommy” and “Les Misérables.”
Linda Fortunato (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Fox on the Fairway”) returns to direct “Living on Love” which takes the stage August 15 through September 2. This sparkling new comedy by two-time Tony Award-winner Joe DiPietro, based on the play “Peccadillo” by Garson Kanin, is set in a glorious Manhattan penthouse in 1957, which is home to a high-strung and long-married couple.
“Raquel DeAngelis, La Diva, is a prominent opera soprano who is no longer as much in demand as she used to be, and Vito is a vibrant, tempestuous conductor who boasts of romantic conquests,” Vinkler said. “Vito is writing his memoir with ghostwriter Robert, a young man with literary ambition. Raquel, in a competitive moment, lures the young man away to write her own memoir, and Vito moves on to use buttoned-up Iris, whom he hopes to seduce. The music-infused plot line is romantic and fun, and the set and costumes will be gorgeous. And the end is all about, well, love!”
Hamilton (“The Bridges of Madison County”) who recently reprised his role as The Amazing Karnak in “Ride the Cyclone” in Seattle and has extensive regional musical theater credits, is cast as Vito. Making her Players debut as Raquel is Mary Ernster, who was in the Broadway cast of “War Paint” with Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole; her credits with Marriott Theatre include Mrs. Anna in “The King and I,” Margaret in “The Light in the Piazza,” and Abigail Adams in “1776.” The “Living on Love” cast also includes Crowle as Robert, Klarer and Roberts as their butlers and Stephan as Iris.
Closing the Peninsula Players’ 83rd season is a new play, “Salvage” by Joseph Zettelmaier, running September 5 to October 14. “‘Salvage’ is a 90-minute, two actor romantic-comedy-mystery-drama,” Vinkler said. “When I told Joe I didn’t know how to characterize ‘Salvage’ and was calling it a romantic-comedy-mystery-drama, he laughed and said that’s exactly how he has described it himself to others. I like that it’s hard to define – unique pieces are like that.”
Matt Holzfeind (“Almost, Maine,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” “The Tin Woman”) and Melanie Keller (“The Fox on the Fairway”) reprise their roles from the 2017 winter play reading of “Salvage.” Audience members encouraged Vinkler to produce a full production after the reading. “I’m really delighted they were as enthralled with the play as I am,” Vinkler said.
“Salvage” is set in a contemporary collectibles shop in a large city. “Jason, who runs it, is a geek for movie monster models and old lunch boxes, but his beloved shop is facing foreclosure,” Vinkler said. “Enter Sarah, a young, reserved, professional-looking woman who has brought in some sports memorabilia to have appraised. What happens after that is romantic, funny and dangerous. As one reviewer said: ‘It twists like a corkscrew.’ It is truly engrossing.”
Regional and award-winning designers crafting the worlds of the 2018 season include scenic designers J Branson, Jeff Kmiec, Jack Magaw and Sarah E. Ross; lighting designers Charlie Cooper, Jason Fassl and Stephen R. White; costume designers Rachel Lambert, Kärin Simonson Kopischke and Kyle Pingel; sound designers Christopher Kriz, Megan Henninger and Mike Tutaj; and properties designers Amanda Hermann, Wendy Huber, Meredith Miller and Pauline Oleksy.
“When selecting each season of shows, I always try to give returning patrons a different world to experience,” Vinkler said. “This season we visit with a young working couple in the 1980s, then go to 1880s Victorian London, then tap-dance our way onto the Great White Way of the 1920s, flash forward a bit to a posh 1957 Manhattan penthouse and then land in at a contemporary storefront called Hidden Treasures. Along the way we experience laughs, thrills, heartache, suspense, playful humor, unexpected blessings and lush music. This season is full of variety and great fun.”
Peninsula Players has been entertaining and exciting audiences since 1935, when the theater first opened behind the Bonnie Brook Motel in Fish Creek on July 25, with Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever.” The company was founded by a brother and sister team, Caroline and Richard Fisher, who dreamt of an artistic utopia in the north woods where actors, designers and technicians could focus on their craft while surrounded by nature in a contemplative setting. Peninsula Players moved to the theater’s present location along the waters of Green Bay in 1937. The Fishers’ dream lives on. Professional actors, directors and designers work side-by-side with college interns fostering the craft of live theater to the next generation while living on the Peninsula Players 16-acre campus.
Each season the artistic company brings audiences a variety of works including dramas, mysteries, comedies and musicals. Prior to performances, patrons may picnic and relax on the grounds while watching the setting sun over the waters of Green Bay from the cedar-lined shore and enjoy the ambiance of the Beer Garden and other gardens. The grounds and Luna Bar open to the patrons 90-minutes before curtain time.
The Peninsula Players perform Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. in the summer. The closing performances of the summer shows will have a 4 p.m. matinee, July 1, July 22, August 12 and September 2. With the opening of “Salvage,” on Sept. 5, curtain times switch to Tuesday through Sunday at 7 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. on Sept. 9, 23 and Oct. 14.
Discount tickets are available for season ticket holders and groups. Individual ticket prices range from $39 to $48. There are no performances on Mondays. For more information or to reserve tickets phone the Peninsula Players Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.