Peninsula Players Theatre, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and Door County’s theatrical icon, is thrilled to announce the cast and creative team for “The Rainmaker” by N. Richard Nash. A road trip Nash took through the American west and a real-life rainmaker inspired him to write the story.
“The Rainmaker” is generously sponsored by Tony and Judy Licata and opens Peninsula Players Theatre’s 87th season starting June 14 and runs through July 3.
During the hard years of a drought, the Curry family finds their cattle ranch on the verge of failure. Hardworking and plain, Lizzie is the only woman in a family of men who are trying to find her husband. New horizons open up for Lizzie open up when a charismatic traveler, Starbuck, promises to save the drought-stricken farm by summoning rain from the skies. The smooth-talking Starbuck turns his magic onto the clouds, Lizzie and the entire Curry family.
Peninsula Players Theatre veteran Sean Fortunato returns to the theater as the passionate and self-confident dreamer, Starbuck, while newcomer Ayanna Bria Bakari portrays the strong, yet insecure, Lizzie. Also making their Peninsula Players Theatre debuts are Sean Blake as H.C., Lizzie’s wise and loving father; Kai A. Ealy and Xavier Edward King, who portray her two very contrasting brothers, Noah and Jim. Ryan Hallahan, another newcomer, is File, the local deputy who is secretly smitten with Lizzie. The theater’s veteran performer, Greg Vinkler, rounds out the cast as the introspective sheriff. The cast is under the direction of Artistic Director Linda Fortunato.
Nash first wrote “The Rainmaker” as a one-act play for television, then adapted it into a two-act play that made its Broadway debut in 1954 with Geraldine Page and Darren McGavin. In 1956, the play was adapted into a film featuring Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. Nine years after its Broadway debut, Nash collaborated with Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, creators of “The Fantasticks,” to create “110 in the Shade,” a musical version of Lizzie and Starbuck’s star-crossed romance.
Though Nash wrote “The Rainmaker” in the 1950s, this story of a struggling, yet very loving family still resonates today. One brother wants to marry, the other to have a thriving cattle ranch. They support, bicker, and squabble, as all families do. But Lizzie’s dreams have run as dry as the barren landscape around her. After all her prospects have seemingly blown away, Starbuck arrives, filled with promises. We cheer for her and her family to find the hope, happiness and love they all crave. But, will Lizzie allow herself these things?
Linda Fortunato’s credits with Peninsula Players Theatre span 17 seasonsof acting in dramas such as “Wait Until Dark,” to directing comedies such as “Lend Me a Tenor” and “The Fox on the Fairway,” and choreographing musicals such as “A Little Night Music” and “Chicago.” She was previously the artistic director of Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana, where she directed “Cabaret,” “Big River,” “The Tin Woman” and “Steel Magnolias.” She also choreographed “42nd Street,” which earned her a Joseph Jefferson Award, and was Jeff-nominated for her choreography of “White Christmas” and “Crazy for You.” This is her first season as artistic director of Peninsula Players Theatre.
Bakari’s (Lizzie) recent Chicago stage credits include “Relentless” at TimeLine Theatre Company and Goodman Theatre. She is the recipient of the Black Theater Alliance Award for her work in “The Niceties” with Writers Theatre and she is a governing ensemble member of The Story Theatre. Her television credits include “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” (Hulu), “The Chi” (Showtime), “Empire” (FOX), “61st Street” (AMC) “Holiday Heist” (BET) and NBC’s “Chicago PD” and “Chicago Fire.”
Sean Fortunato’s (Starbuck) performances at Peninsula Players Theatre include Matt Friedman in “Talley’s Folly,” Black Stache in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” George in “Sunday in the Park with George,” Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” Father Flynn in “Doubt” and the Emcee in “Cabaret.” His stage credits include Off-Broadway, regional theater and many of Chicago’s stages, including Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Writers Theatre, Goodman Theatre and Northlight Theatre. He has received an After Dark Award and eight Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for his stage portrayals. His television credits include Antoon Dumini in “Fargo” (FX), “Chicago Med” (NBC), “Chicago PD” (NBC), “Chicago Fire”(NBC). Fortunato will also appear in “Write Me a Murder.”
The entire cast has extensive Chicago stage credits at such theaters as Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre Company, to regional theaters such as Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Paper Mill Playhouse and various national tours including Hal Prince’s “Show Boat” and “Bounce.” Learn more about the cast by visiting the theater’s website, www.peninsulaplayers.com.
The creative team of “The Rainmaker” includes Evelyn Danner, costume design; Joe Court, sound design; Jessie Howe, scenic design; and Guy Rhodes, lighting design. The theater’s season also includes the suspenseful thriller “Write Me a Murder” by Frederick Knott; “Ripcord,” a spirited comedy by David Lindsay-Abaire; the heartfelt “I and You” by Lauren Gunderson; and the madcap musical mystery, “Murder for Two,” by Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian.
The side panels, doors and vents of the audience pavilion will remain open throughout the performances this season. Patrons should dress for the weather and be prepared for shifting temperatures or breezes off the bay. For the most current safety protocols employed at the theater, visit www.peninsulaplayers.com before attending a performance.
Season, individual, student and group tickets are available. Tickets may be purchased online up to curtain time or by phoning or visiting the Box Office during business hours. Peninsula Players Theatre is a smoke-free campus. Smoking is prohibited on the grounds at all times.
“The Rainmaker” performs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m.; except for Sunday, July 3 at 2:00 p.m. To make reservations for groups of 15 or more, please phone the Box Office on weekdays at (920) 868-3287. The theater and its offices will be closed on Mondays once performances begin. For more information, visit www.peninsulaplayers.com