Playhouse Merced will be back with its 2021-22 “The Story is Us” season of live, on stage productions starting this September!
Its previous live season was unfortunately interrupted by the pandemic.
Anthony Braxton, Playhouse Interim Managing Director, announced the new season’s five musicals and two plays during an online Season Preview Show, which debuted on May 1 at 7 p.m. and included a sampling of performances from each production.
Braxton described the theme behind “The Story is Us”, explaining, “You will see authentic examples of people who make this community their home, who look like us.”
He added that through the plays and musicals, the audience will also be able to connect with people they may not have had the opportunity to come across.
Audiences will be able to identify with things like the characters’ loss, love, individual struggles toward a personal goal, adolescent experiences, discovery of the world around them, and much more.
Braxton said, “The Season Preview is still available to enjoy online at playhousemerced.com.
“Those interested can purchase season ticket packages starting on May 3 at playhousemerced.com or they can visit the box office at 452 W. Main Street in Merced on Saturdays between noon and 2 p.m., or they can call the box office at 209-725-8587.
“Tickets to individual shows will go on sale on July 1.”
In September, the first show of the new season, which is the only production of the season will be staged outdoors at the Yosemite Church amphitheater instead of at the Playhouse itself, is “Godspell”. “Godspell” is a musical composed by Stephen Schwartz with book by John-Michael Tebelak, which held its off-Broadway opening on May 17, 1971.
Braxton explained that a small group of people will tell the story of kindness, tolerance and love through parables. The routines will include pop, vaudeville, and comedy.
The performers in the preview show sang an inspiring song from Godspell, “Beautiful City”.
The Brothers Paranormal
Playwright Prince Gomolvilas created an intriguing ghost story, which Playhouse Merced will produce for its traditional scary thriller around Halloween time this October.
Braxton explained, “Two Southeast Asian brothers try to rid a household of a ghost. It’s a story of redemption, displacement and family.
“We have a significant number of Southeast Asian people who have been part of the community for over 30 years, so the play fits with our intent to make the story about us.”
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the Musical
The musical, which is based on a 1954 film of the same name with book by David Ives and Paul Blake, has a musical score and lyrics written by Irving Berlin.
Braxton said, “It will be on stage from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It’s a big holiday musical very much in the tradition of what Playhouse Merced has done for a quarter of a century. The unique part is there is an adult version and a kids’ version as well, and there is an adult cast and a kid cast, and people will have the opportunity to see one or the other, or both of them.”
The play by American playwright Katori Hall is a fictional depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night before he was assassinated in 1968, and is set entirely in the Lorraine Motel, where he was staying.
Braxton explained, “It is a re-imagining of the eve of the assassination of Dr. King. In the conversation with the housekeeper who brings him a cup of coffee, Dr. King comes face to face with the overwhelming burden placed upon his shoulders.
“‘The Mountaintop’ represents one of the things we’re trying to do this season in The Story is Us, which is to be intentional about the playwrights we choose, that they write authentically about the community they come from. Katori Hall is an African-American female writing about Dr. King.”
Miss You Like Hell
The playwright is Quiara Alegria Hudes, a Latinx playwright writing about her culture who won a Pulitzer Prize, and she also wrote the book for the musical “In the Heights”; that musical has a score composed by the esteemed Lin Manuel Miranda.
Braxton explained, “This is a story of an undocumented Latinx mother who travels across country to meet her estranged teenaged daughter and bring her back to California to testify at her deportation hearing. This road trip across the country allows the teenage daughter and mother to re-examine and build their relationship.”
The Sponge Bob Musical
Braxton explained, “It is adapted from the iconic Nickelodeon series. Sponge Bob and all his friends face total annihilation until a most unexpected hero rises to take center stage. This bold original musical celebrates friendship, cooperation, and the power of unity and inclusion. It underscores that the power of optimism really can save the world. This is a musical that’s targeted at the entire family.”
One Hit Wonder
The final show of the season, written by Jeremy Desmon, is an opportunity for people to sing along to their favorite one-hit wonders of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
During the Season Preview’s vignette showcasing this show, a humorous commercial was presented that featured several of the songs that told the story.