Hop aboard Lake Superior Theatre’s summer season

The boys of Grease. Grease is just one of many productions put on this year at LST. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Frazier)

By Peggy Frazier

Summers are much too short with all we have to cram into those two days, and knowing that the long winter lies ahead we savor every moment. Such is the great joy of life…not the special vacation, marriage ceremony, graduation or some other event but the special ordinary moments that come during the summer; walking the beach or simply gazing out on the water taking in the view. We often remark at how the boathouse—while always a special place—needs our casts and crews to bring the Lake Superior Yacht Yard alive with magic and with Grease this year it did not just come alive, it was a blast from the past for the cast, crew and the audience! Night after night the actors brought down the house with their performances and made us all remember those moments from our youth when “Grease” was the word. We relished every moment of the production and spent an enormous amount of time on the phone with disappointed patrons who waited too long to get tickets and thus missed this outstanding, unique summer smash megahit which sold out for every production during it’s three week run! Sandy, Danny, the Pink Ladies, and the other Rydell High regulars put on quite a show and everyone enjoyed the ambiance of a period car that was on display courtesy of Joe Lutz. Some of the groups who attended even got out their ’50s attire and we enjoyed immensely the cat-eyed glasses and other period accessories.

Transitioning the boathouse each year from a working boathouse to a theatre is a huge undertaking and we enjoyed knowing that the rave reviews and waitlists meant that our efforts were appreciated. Live theatre is an amazing experience and one of life’s great mysteries. With an astonishingly talented Director Dave Dagenais, amazing, gifted Choreographer Jill Grundstrom, creative costumes by Suzanne Shabazi, and the exploitation of our new sound and light systems and we expect to sit back in our comfy theatre chairs and see a great show but seeing it as live theatre is such a treat! We marvel at how the performers take us on a journey into ourselves and our memories and it happens in front of us and works only because of the sheer force of the talents of the actors. Over the years I have tried to figure out what makes a show so absolutely fabulous night after night but somehow an amazing magical event on those special nights when it all comes together. Is it because the crew was on top of every moment? Because the cast performed their special rituals to perfection which led to the best show ever? Is it the audience? The energy levels of the cast? Plays indeed are mysterious and precisely what gives live theatre its strength. Unlike films that result from multiple takes to get it right, live theatre actors have one chance to wow you. At the boathouse our limited stage means that the director has surprises in store…actors enter from the catwalks and the rear, and spotlights make it all more exciting and unpredictable. Yes, when you go to a live theatre event you never know just what is going to happen! Last but not least we especially love that our actors are stage door aficionados! When you go to a movie you will never see the star waiting for you outside but after a live show—at LST or especially on Broadway—you find actors out there greeting the audience. There is an opportunity to have your program autographed and you can share with them how much you loved the way they performed their role. So the next time you are thinking about what to do this summer consider a visit to LST. You get to visit a unique, working boathouse right on Lake Superior with a million dollar lobby view and you will see absolutely amazing talent!

As August arrive we all get that panicky feeling that summer is almost gone. Maybe that is because often it feels like on August 20, someone turns a switch and Lake Superior acts up a bit, as if showing off its October muscle while the evenings get chilly. With the school return delayed until after Labor Day, we often have one more chance to experience some of our incredible Yooper adventures on Lake Superior. With enough water in the lake to cover North and South America to the depth of 1 foot it does make sense that it is having trouble warming up with our chilly, rainy weather. Did you know that the water below 660 feet stays an almost constant 39 degrees? We took the cast and crew on a Superior Adventure and looking down at the stones at beaches brought back fond memories of the line in Beacon. Something about how all the stones are different…shaped differently, different colors, different sizes, but all beautiful and special; together they are magical. Don’t you just love where we live?

And love we will the next amazing production at LST! Schoolhouse Rock Live Jr is a collaboration with SAYT which is also going to be bringing back some great memories. One of musical theatre’s brightest and most innovative shows it is based on the Emmy Award-winning 1970s educational animated TV series. Schoolhouse uses the familiar songs from the cartoons to teach grammar, math, science, history, social studies and political science. From the opening notes of “A Noun Is a Person, Place or Thing,” through the rousing closer, “Interjections!” Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr. delivers hit after hit to the delight of audiences and performers of all ages. Tom, a nerve-wracked school teacher nervous about his first day of teaching, tries to relax by watching TV when various characters representing facets of his personality emerge from the set and show him how to win his students over with imagination and music, through such beloved Schoolhouse Rock Live, Jr songs as “Just A Bill,” “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly” and “Conjunction Junction.” While this is a show for kids it is also a show their nostalgic parents will love; in fact this is a show where the kiddos will be wondering why Mom and Dad are having so much fun! If you are simply looking for a joyful, intoxicating blast from the past to share with your kids, this is absolutely the best way to both introduce young people to theatre, reinforce some of the lessons learned in school and just have a ton of fun—something we all need in today’s pressure filed world. Every family should run to this happy celebration of education that may in fact give the kiddos a leg up on the classes that will be starting much to soon! This is going to be an LST family favorite!

And then will begin on August 15 to 18 and 22 to 25 another example of theatre at its best. Denise Clark has brilliantly cast this show with a group of actors that has those of us who have listened in on a few rehearsals in awe. This is another show that will raise the bar for future productions at the boathouse. Steel Magnolias is truly a fantastic favorite. The whole show takes place in the town beauty parlor—but you learn so much about the town, from the local obsession with football to the way the magnolias bloom, that after two hours you feel like you’ve soaked up a lot of the local culture. You’ll feel as if you know these six indomitable ladies, and you’ll wish you could spend more time with them. There may be no play that better epitomizes the bond of female friendship than Steel Magnolias. Set in the world of Truvy’s beauty salon, it starts out by introducing us to the everyday life of women in a small town. Truvy is brash, colorful and unlikely to let a bit of gossip pass her by. You will love the hilarious repartee and verbal collisions such as “I’m not crazy: I’ve just been in a bad mood for forty years”. The six characters are all endearing, determined and admirable, and they come off as both true to life and larger than life. As the women must realize their mortality they draw on their love to survive which gives the play a special quality that is truly touching. With care, and with heart, Director Denise Clark has brought together a talented cast that portrays the silliness, the love, the sadness, and the unquenchable strength of these women. This is a play of “laughter through tears,” which LST will bring to life in a production you won’t want to miss. Please get your tickets before you miss another cherished season production or end up on the dreaded wait/wait list.

Complete your summer at LST with the fan favorite, Magic to do Cabaret. On August 29 through September 1 Jeff Bruning compiles an incredible array of talent for an evening of song and dance (did I mention we have that new stage floor?) There will be some of the best musicals which celebrate Bob Fosse choreography as well as the favorites of our talented and seasoned performers. This will be a magical LST grand finale and I invite you to use it as the grand finale to your summer as we present another feel good evening we all need to lift our spirits. I promise you will have a great time, love the music, laugh a bit, and leave the theatre relaxed, happy and humming.

I love Maya Angelou’s reminder that “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. And this summer of “Lovin’ It” performances will remind you why live theater is so much fun! Additionally there is something about being on the water that seems to draw us. If you look at a map of lights at night you will see evidence of the fact that about 40 percent of the world population lives within 50 miles of a coastline! I love the fact that seawater has 50 times as much magnesium—something we increasingly are deficient in with our large production farming. And just being on the beach, which has larger concentrations of negative ions, helps us to be less stressed, sleep better, and elevates our mood. Looking for ways to oxygenate your body and up your serotonin levels? Sit on a bench at LST and enjoy! Here’s to a summer full of sunshine and superb adventures. As Stephen Sondheim told us, “All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper. That’s what makes theatre live. That’s why it persists.” That’s why it makes for magic when the lights and sound burst into the boathouse and the curtain rises. We hope your summer includes LST and while there, put a note on the survey sheet about what shows are on your theatre bucket list. What shows do you want to see again? What show have you been hearing about but missed? Let us know which of your favorite historical original musicals you want us to bring back for our upcoming 20th anniversary celebration next year. Send us your thoughts also at lstplayhouse at gmail.com. Enjoy your summer—savor every minute of it—walk to the boathouse enjoying the beautiful blue water watching the wind blowing life into the Ensign sailboats. Go Explore. Go Dream. Go Discover….it is not always easy to pull off but it is always worth it in the end. And thank you for coming to the boathouse and filling our seats for this great season. Thank you for supporting us with a donation or by buying a seat so we can continue to upgrade your comfort and viewing. Your rich in LST family and friends passionate supporter – see you at the Boathouse!


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