By David Markhan
Theatre in the Park’s 2023 outdoor season continues in July with a story of teenagers fitting in and standing out, and a stage adaptation of a beloved Christmas-themed movie.
“13” The Musical, which is Rated PG-13, will be on the park’s stage June 30 through July 2 and July 5-8, while Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” Rated PG; will be presented on July 14 through 16, and July 19 through 22. Also during July, the next film in the 2023 Movies in the Park program, “Toy Story 4,” will be presented on TIP’s outdoor stage.
In “13,” Evan Goldman is plucked from his fast-paced, preteen New York City life and plopped into a sleepy Indiana town following his parents’ divorce and right before his much-anticipated bar mitzvah. Surrounded by an array of simpleminded middle school students, he needs to establish his place in the popularity pecking order. Can he situate himself on a comfortable link of the food chain... or will he dangle at the end with the outcasts? No character in 13 is older than the show's title. While the cast is comprised entirely of teenagers, the stories that come to life are ageless, the emotions they explore are timeless, the laughter and the memories they provide are priceless.
“It’s a very sweet show, and requires a cast of early teenage performers,” said TIP Producing Artistic Director Tim Bair. “It’s not often that we can do a show that is specific for that age group. It is a great opportunity for a LOT of young performers. And, we welcome a new director, Amy Sander, to TIP with this production.”
For “13 The Musical,” TIP is partnering with Jewish Family Services for a toothpaste and deodorant drive during the show’s run. Audience members who bring a donation will receive a free box of popcorn! JFS will be on site each performance night to collect regular-sized deodorant and toothpaste to be used at the two JFS Food Pantry locations which serve more than 700 families each month. Now celebrating 120 years, JFS provides human services for people of all faiths, ages, cultures, and identities.
This show runs approximately 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Next up is the stage adaptation of “White Christmas,” the Paramount Pictures movie musical and top moneymaker of 1954. The original film starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney and featured 17 songs by Irving Berlin.
In the story, veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis have a successful song-and-dance act after World War II. With romance in mind, the two follow a duo of beautiful singing sisters en route to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil's former army commander. With a dazzling score featuring well-known standards including “Blue Skies,” “I Love A Piano,” “How Deep Is the Ocean” and the perennial title song, White Christmas is an uplifting musical worthy of year-round productions.
When asked why he selected a holiday-themed musical for presentation in July, Bair revealed a personal connection to this show.
“White Christmas” (the musical) was being created at the time that I was living in California, and I got to see preview performances in San Francisco,” he said. “One of the leads in the show was a fellow that I toured with during my performing career. I loved the old-fashioned quality of the show. That just infuses the whole production with delightfulness! I’ve wanted to do the show for a long time and have contemplated doing it as our holiday show in The Black Box Theatre at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center. In the end, I decided that the show just needs a bigger stage and cast than we can manage inside. So… it’s Christmas in July!”
White Christmas also runs approximately 2.5 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
The final show in TIP’s 2023 outdoor season will be “Footloose,” Rated PG, July 28 through Aug. 5.
Much more information about the theatre and this year’s productions is available at the Theatre in the Park’s website, theatreinthepark.org.
For outdoor productions, the box office opens at 7 p.m., gates to the theatre bowl open at 7:30 p.m., and shows begin at 8:30 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, $6 for youth ages four to ten, plus tax, and free for children three and under, but tickets are still required. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online. “Anytime tickets” available via either ticket-buying method, are not specific to a certain night or performance, and can be printed out at home and scanned at the gate. A limited number of reserved tickets for outdoor chairs are also available for every performance for $20 each.
Continuing in 2023 are Thrifty Thursdays when a 20% discount is offered on Thursday night performances. This makes adult tickets $8 and children’s tickets $4.80, plus tax. The discounted tickets must be purchased at the box office on the evening of the specific show.
Performances at Theatre in the Park are one of several JCPRD programs eligible for free tickets or admission through the Sunflower Summer promotion offered through Aug. 13 by the Kansas Department of Education. Now in its third year, this app-based program partners with more than 115 venues across the state to provide a summer of enrichment for pre-K to 12th grade students in the state of Kansas, as well as their parents and legal guardians. The program is designed to provide a wide variety of ways for families to get out, explore something new, and enjoy time together. Get started by going to sunflowersummer.org to download the app and create an account. Other participating JCPRD program areas include the Johnson County Museum, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, and the Ernie Miller Nature Center, 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe.
The Movies in the Park program lets participants see popular recent films on a big screen on the TIP stage for only $1 per person at the gate. With the exception of two Friday screenings during August, films are shown on selected Tuesday nights when musical productions are not scheduled. The other two films will be presented on Friday nights in August after the TIP outdoor season concludes.
July’s entry is “Toy Story 4,” which is Rated G and will be shown on July 18. Upcoming movies this year are: “Trolls World Tour,” Rated G, on Aug. 1; “The Goonies,” Rated PG on Aug. 11; and “Top Gun Maverick,” Rated PG-13 on Aug. 18. Some movies contain themes that may not be appropriate for younger children. Please consult the rating listed. Viewer discretion is advised.
Visitors to TIP this summer will also be able to view a temporary public art installation called “Cloud Cover” by Kansas City Visual Artist Chris Dahlquist. This photographic sculpture is a play on perspective, giving a colorful greeting to visitors to Theatre in the Park. Using photographs of clouds printed on bright acrylic suspended overhead, Cloud Cover celebrates the intersection of the colored stage lights and the open skies intrinsic to the park. It provides a fun and engaging respite from the sun while inviting viewers to lay back, look up, and slow down. This installation is located near the south entrance to the theater bowl. Find out more about Dahlquist’s work.
The Theatre in the Park’s outdoor location is north of the main entrance to Shawnee Mission Park at 7710 Renner Road in Shawnee.
This year’s outdoor season is sponsored by AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. Sponsorships for specific shows are still available, and you can learn more by calling Development Manager Kelly Blandford at 913-826-3448 or at [email protected].