Bigfork Summer Playhouse celebrates 60th season
The Bigfork Summer Playhouse – known affectionately as the “theatre by the bay” – offers its 60th season of live professional theater.
Each year, the playhouse – under the direction of producers Don Thomson, associate producer Jude Thomson, and associate producer, company manager and music director Brach Thomson – recruits a talented cast of Broadway-caliber actors and actresses from across the country.
According to Don, the theatre embarks on its sixth decade “in building mode,” with several recruits in their early 20s, anxious to build resumes. The theatre employs up to 55 actors, directors, set and costume designers and choreographers, although once the season is in full swing, the number drops to around 35.
This year’s season offers shows to suit every taste, beginning with “The Totally Radical ’80s Musical Revue.” Four repertory productions follow: the perennial favorite “Oklahoma!” is the first collaboration of famed partners Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II; “Seussical – the Musical” brings the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss to life; “Catch Me If You Can” takes the audience on a lively romp with a veteran con artist; and “The Wedding Singer,” opening July 9, pokes fun at all things ’80s.
The season wraps up in late August with another musical extravaganza, “Hits From the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.”
Thomson – who describes his role these days as “gofer” – is a steadfast fan of “Oklahoma!” because it’s a classic. “We could do it every year and still fill the seats,” he says.
He predicts the season’s sleeper will be “Catch Me If You Can,” with “fun, jazzy music,” and a plot based on the true story of conman Frank Abagnale Jr., who worked as a doctor, lawyer and airline co-pilot, all before his 18th birthday.
Grown-ups will find plenty to enjoy in the imaginative “Seussical.” “It’s not just for kids,” he says.
Jude and Don Thomson’s own kids, Brach and Gavin, grew up in the theatre. “We told ‘em both to stay out of the arts, and they went right in,” says Don.
Brach now manages BSP, and oversees Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre during the school year. Gavin spent two decades in Las Vegas, working back stage on major productions.
BSP, founded in 1960, is a past recipient of the Montana Governor’s Arts Award. Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons is among BSP’s alumni; he spent seven years with the playhouse, acting and directing. Broadway actor and opera singer Curt Olds and Joseph Jefferson Award-winning performer Michael Buchanan are also veterans of the BSP stage.
Meet this year’s company at the popular Benefit Revue on July 28. Proceeds go toward the BSP scholarship fund.
Show times are 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays, July 14 and 21 and Aug. 11 and 18. For tickets and reservations, call 837-4886 or visit www.bigforksummerplayhouse.com.
– Kristi Niemeyer
(Photo): “Seussical – the Musical”: “It’s not just for kids,” says Bigfork Summer Playhouse producer Don Thomson.