The Heights Players’ 46th season is filled with comedies,
dramas, musicals and family entertainment.
The lineup was determined through input from audiences and members, tempered with the availability and suitability of directors, says member-at-large John Bourne. And the resulting selections promise to keep audiences laughing, crying, guessing and tapping their toes.
The season opens with Victor Gialanella’s stage adaptation of "Frankenstein," Mary Shelley’s renowned gothic tale of one scientist’s ill-fated attempt at playing God.
"What appealed to me," says director Bill Wood, "is that this version sticks to the novel. The movie uses Hollywood license." Unlike the 1931 movie starring Boris Karloff, which takes a sensational approach to Shelley’s work, Gialanella’s play "deals with an age-old question, the war between our sense of morality and unrestrained scientific inquiry," says Wood.
Wood was also attracted by all the special effects called for in the play - strobe lighting, a Jacob’s ladder (a bluish electrical wave that runs up a tube between two conductors) and lots of thunder and lightening - as well as the musical underscore by Richard Peaslee.
"The play appeals to kids and adults," says Wood. "It’s about fright, morality and sensitivity."
As the country debates the benefits and pitfalls of stem cell research, "Frankenstein" couldn’t come at a more fortuitous moment. "Frankenstein" runs Sept. 7-23.
"Gypsy," with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, became a classic almost the moment Ethel Merman stepped onstage at the Broadway Theatre in 1959 and belted out "See the Lights."
The sad, funny, sentimental and inspiring story of Gypsy Rose Lee’s rise to fame as America’s most celebrated stripper, helped and hindered by Mama Rose, the classic stage mother, has given us one of our best-loved scores and forever changed the meaning of the phrase, "Let me entertain you." It will be interesting to see if the Heights Players’ production, directed by Ed Healy Oct. 5-21, will be able to top the cast of Narrows Community Theater’s June production.
Gripping drama takes over the stage Nov. 2-18 with Warren Leight’s Tony award-winning play, "Side Man," about a young man coming to terms with his father, one of the last sidemen of the great jazz era of the ’50s. "Side Man" is directed by Ted Thompson.
Right on time for the holiday season, the Heights Players mounts "The Wizard of Oz." Based on the 1939 MGM musical starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, this stage version once again follows Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow down the yellow brick road as they search for the Wizard and all those wonderful things "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Directed by Ellen Weinstein Pittari, "The Wizard of Oz" runs Nov. 30-Dec. 16.
The Heights Players start off 2002 by taking a new look at Neil Simon with "Jake’s Women." Simon’s hilarious look at a middle-aged author whose fantasies about the women in his life clash with their reality is directed by Steven Velardi. "Jake’s Women" runs Jan. 4-20.
"Our audiences like Neil Simon. But like ’Side Man,’ ’Jake’s Women’ is definitely for an adult audience. Neil Simon is not for children," says Bourne.
However, for this season’s presentation of Shakespeare, the Heights Players chose "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," one of the Bard’s most child-friendly comedies. A romantic romp that enlists the aid of fairies and mischievous imps, "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" brings two sets of lovers together. Directed by Robert J. Weinstein, the "Dream" will recur Feb. 1-17.
"’Toward Zero’ is one of Agatha Christie’s best," says Bourne, who will be directing this play, which runs March 1-17. Although the play, adapted by Christie and Gerald Werner, is not among her best known, it has all the twists and turns, suspense and surprises that have contributed to Christie’s renown.
"A Shot in the Dark" was first produced in 1960 as the French play, "L’idiote," by Marcel Achard. A year later, Harry Kurnitz presented his adaptation, "A Shot in the Dark," on Broadway.
In 1964, the play was adapted for the film version starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. The plot revolves around the investigation of a murder that appears to have been committed by a parlor maid who was found unconscious, gun in hand, and nude beside her dead lover. Although in the film version the lead character is the inspector, in the stage version the main character is a nutty judge. On March 29, "Shot," directed by James McNulty, will begin its run on Willow Place.
The season ends, May 3-19, on a light note with Lerner and Loewe’s 1947 Broadway hit, "Brigadoon." The musical is about a man who falls in love with a woman who lives in a Scottish town that comes to life once every 100 years. Its legendary score includes "Almost Like Being in Love."
And so the Heights Players come full circle, from horror to enchantment, in a theatrical journey over the rainbow, into a land of fairies, and to mythical Scottish towns, stopping now and then to plumb the depths of the human psyche.
The Heights Players’ season begins with "Frankenstein," Sept. 7-23. Tickets are $10, $8 seniors and students. The Heights Players Theater is located at 26 Willow Place. For more information on the upcoming season, call (718) 237-2752.