From Sondheim to Shakespeare and Amish to Elvis, 3 theater companies present the 2022 stage seasons | Entertainment

The approaching spring brings with it glimpses of warmer weather, as well as the easing of COVID-19 restrictions at many indoor venues.

It’s time for more local theaters to prepare to open their 2022 seasons over the next three months.

This is the third in a series of stories about the 2022 seasons of local musicals and plays.

(You can read the first two, covering six local theaters, at and

This week we feature Bird-in-Hand Stage at Bird-in-Hand, The People’s Shakespeare Project at Lancaster and Gretna Theater at Mount Gretna.

Bird stage in hand

The Bird-in-Hand Stage main stage musicals are written by a creative team at Shipshewana, Indiana-headquartered Blue Gate Musicals, says Bird-in-Hand Marketing Specialist Kenn Bennett. .

They are produced locally at Bird-in-Hand, as they have been since 2011, as well as theaters in Indiana, Ohio and Florida.

Musicals often have storylines or themes where the Amish and “English” worlds collide, making them a great choice for audiences in places like Lancaster County, says Kenn Bennett, marketer for Bird -in-Hand.

“What we find in our shows is that there is something for everyone,” says Wally Nason, composer and director of Blue Gate Musicals. “They’re family-friendly in that they’re very interesting stories…with a variety of types and styles of music” – from country to Broadway and pop to bluegrass, to reflect a wide variety of characters. Nason spoke by phone from Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville where he lives and works as a songwriter.

The Bird-in-Hand Stage season includes:

— “A Simple Sanctuary”, from April 8 to August 10. “It’s a great story, based on a book by David and Beverly Lewis,” says Nason. (Beverly Lewis, who has written dozens of novels, often on Amish themes, was born and raised in Lancaster County). “It’s kind of a mystery, and it’s really intriguing.

‘The manager, Melissa, sees someone in a cafe who scares her, then she leaves a note for her husband,’ saying she’s leaving but he shouldn’t be looking for her, for his own safety, Nason says . “And the rest of the show is him trying to find her and figure out what happened to her.” Melissa, he says, is hiding in a guesthouse in Amish country.

– “Ryan & Friends: Hilarity Happens” is a variety show that runs alongside a few Blue Gate musicals and features comedy, music, and ventriloquism. It runs from April 9 to October 22.

– “Josiah for President” runs from August 18 to October 21. “It’s a show about a gentleman who is a congressman running for president…and there’s a scandal that an opponent has started that’s wrong, but nonetheless ruins his chances of becoming president,” Nason said. As the congressman drove home from Washington, his car fell into a ditch in Amish country and an Amish man, Josiah, rescued him.

“While he’s stuck there, he’s getting to know Josiah and thinking, wow, that’s the kind of person we need as president,” Nason says. “It’s about what would happen if an Amish man – with his simple opinions and simple views on life – ran the show.”

— “The Christmas Tree Ship”, from October 28 to December 31. “It’s based on a true story of Chicago-area Herman Schuenemann,” Nason says. “In the early 1900s…they were bringing Christmas trees from Michigan on boats to Chicago and selling them on the pier there. …. But his boat sank and he died, along with his crew.

“The story really ends up being about his wife, Barbara, and their daughter, Elsie – two strong women at once where a woman wouldn’t run a business or captain a ship with 3,000 Christmas trees. – continue on the family legacy” he says.

Bird-in-Hand Stage is located on the banquet level of the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord, 2760 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird-in-Hand.

Show tickets can be combined with meals – breakfast, lunch or dinner. Tickets can be ordered online at For more information, visit the website or call 717-768-1568.

The People’s Shakespeare Project

Two years ago, as the Lancaster-based troupe prepared to go into rehearsals for a 1950s-style production of William Shakespeare’s comedy ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, a said executive art director Laura Korach Howell.

The theater company has not produced a complete Shakespearean play since, although it did present an original play, “Witch…Love, Loss and The Mystery”, featuring well-known female Shakespearean characters, in October.

But the troupe plans to perform at least two of the Bard’s plays this year, as well as its annual Camp Will, for students in grades six through 12 from June through August.

Scheduled shows for the season include:

– “Much Ado About Nothing,” June 12-19 at the LancasterHistory campus, 230 N. President Ave. It will be directed by Millersville University theater professor Jonathan Strayer. The comedy set in Italy features the romantic relationships of two couples – young lovers Claudio and Hero, and witty and feuding Beatrice and Benedick – who are tricked by other people into betrayals and confessions of love.

“‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was one of the first plays I ever saw on television,” says Howell. “It was PBS, starring Sam Waterston (as Benedick). … I absolutely loved it. The New York Shakespeare Festival production was filmed in 1973.

“I love, of course, the battle of wits with Beatrice and Benedick,” Howell says. “They’re so much fun, and for actors, they’re just dream roles to play. If you have the chemistry between the two, you’re set.

— ‘Juli(a) Caesar’, to be performed at the Ware Center, 42 N Prince St., Lancaster, on dates yet to be determined around the first week of August. Howell will direct this version of the play, in which a woman will play the role of Roman general Julius Caesar in the tragedy. The play explores the conspiracy of the senate to assassinate Caesar.

“I have this view of the play as dystopian,” Howell says. “I mean, I listen to the news every day, and it’s awful. …And ‘Julius Caesar’ is an upheaval, and I feel like setting it in a dystopian era is almost like a non-time, or a timelessness.

“That’s what we as human beings do all the time with upheaval, political power, greed. That’s what we deal with,” she says.

“And because of that, and because of the gender issues that we’re exploring in our world, more and more these days, I want to explore that on stage” via a female Caesar, Howell says.

For more information on shows and purchasing tickets, visit

Gretna Theater Season 2022

The Gretna Theater is preparing its 2022 summer season.

Gretna Theater

Until recently, Gretna Theater executive producer Michael Philip O’Brien ran the 11th Hour Theater Co., a troupe he co-founded in Philadelphia, for 17 years.

O’Brien and his family had moved to Lititz in June 2020 when his wife got a medical job in the area.

Then, at the end of the 2021 season, former Gretna producer (and Manheim Township High School alumnus) Brian Kurtas left to become associate artistic director of Philly’s Walnut Street Theatre.

And O’Brien took the reins of Gretna.

The main stage shows for the season are:

– “Honky Tonk Angels”, from June 9 to 12. “The basic premise of the show is that three women all feel trapped and isolated in their own lives and decide to go to Nashville and try their luck at becoming country singers,” O’Brien said. “And these three women met on the bus on the way to Nashville, and in the process, they kind of struck up a friendship. They decide to form a band. The jukebox musical features classic country hits like Dolly Parton , Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.

– “Sondheim on Sondheim,” June 23-26, a musical revue that combines video footage of acclaimed Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who died in November, with a cast of eight singers and a live band performing some of his best and lesser good. known work.

“I wanted to introduce the audience (to Sondheim) in a new way,” said O’Brien, who will be directing the show. “He is obviously one of the most iconic musical theater writers of all time, and in a way the father of contemporary musical theatre.

“It’s more of a documentary-slash-music hybrid,” he says. “And so all of the dialogue on the show is actually Stephen Sondheim himself…and he’s talking about his life, and in the process of talking about his life, he sets up the songs. … It was like a perfect introduction to his work, in his own words.

The show includes songs from shows such as “Sweeney Todd”, “Company”, “Sunday in the Park with George”, and “Into the Woods”.

– “Matilda, the Musical,” July 14-23, based on a novel by Roald Dahl, tells the story of a smart young bookworm with telekinesis who seeks to thrive in school despite his family and other people in her life who try to hold her back. “It’s a great show. It’s really funny,” says O’Brien. “It’s a show written for the whole family. I think the writing is amazing and it’s just an exciting, energetic and really fun show.

— “Around the World in 80 Days”, from August 4 to 7, based on Jules Verne’s adventure novel in which Phileas Fogg from London tries to circumnavigate the world thanks to a bet from members of his club. “It’s a five-person comedy…five actors playing 35 characters (with) quick changes and really physical comedy,” says O’Brien. The show will be directed by Lancaster actor-director Randall Frizado, who played Inspector Fix in a musical version of the story at the Fulton Theater in 2007.

– “Elvis, My Way”, with Brandon Bennett, from August 25 to 28. O’Brien notes that in Chicago, Bennett portrayed Elvis Presley in “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical featuring the songs of Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, “and, from there, decided to create his own Elvis. To display.

The show includes seven other cast members as backup vocalists and band members.

“It’s just kind of an amazing tribute to Elvis and his music,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien adds that on Friday, September 2, Gretna is bringing back “The Summer Club” as a special one-night event. It’s an evening of Rat Pack-style swing standards, performed by multiple singers and a 17-piece orchestra, that has been performed at the theater on Labor Day weekend for the past two years.

A schedule of Kids Series shows for families will be announced soon, some of which are based on well-known children’s books.

Daytime shows take place on Saturdays June 11 and 25, July 30 and August 6.

Mount Gretna Playhouse is located at 200 Pennsylvania Ave., Mount Gretna. For more information and tickets, visit or call the box office at 717-964-3627.

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