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THEATER: Summer's servings on the stage

A look at regional theater productions

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For some institutions, summer may be the slow season. But Rochester's theater scene is coming off extremely lively fall, winter, and spring seasons, continuing the momentum right through the summer months. If you're a fan of musicals, mysteries, comedies, and the occasional serious drama, summer offers plenty of theatrical diversions, in town and nearby.

If your theatrical summers past have included as many amateur productions of "Guys and Dolls," "Oklahoma!," and "Annie" as you ever care to see, you can rest easy this year, as most groups are focusing on musicals of more recent vintage. From July 20 to July 28, the terrific high-school and college student talents of the JCC CenterStage (1200 Edgewood Ave., jccrochester.org) summer program present "Legally Blonde, The Musical." June 22-20, Everyone's Theatre Company (School of the Arts, 45 Prince St., everyonestheater.com) gives a local showing to Dolly Parton's recent Broadway musical version of the movie "9 to 5." Blackfriars Theatre (795 E. Main St., bftix.com) will give an "in-the-round treatment" to the ever-popular "Rent" July 19-28.

RAPA (727 E. Main St., rapatheatre.org) hopefully has rounded up a leather-lunged cast for Elton John and Tim Rice's rocked-out and very popular version of "Aida," to be performed July 12-20. And the Greece Performing Arts Summer Theater Program (Greece Athena High School, 800 Long Pond Road, greeceperformingarts.org) offers up a quartet of expert close-harmony singers and comedians for the popular cabaret item "Forever Plaid" (July 19-27). Pittsford Musicals' (RIT Panara Theatre, pittsfordmusicals.org) summer entry, the 1975 classic "A Chorus Line," scheduled through June 22, seems downright venerable in this company (and still remains a head or two above most musicals).

A long list of musicals, including "Legally Blonde," makes up the season for Auburn's Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival (17 William St., Auburn, fingerlakesmtf.com) beginning with "Singin' in the Rain" (which ran through June 19) and ending in September and October with Hank Williams' "Lost Highway" (and including a well-known but rarely seen title "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" from July 24 through August 14). In between, from June 13 to August 17, you can enjoy a 10-week series of brand-new musicals in development, presented under the umbrella title of "The Pitch." Another popular regional theater spot is the Bristol Valley Theater (151 S. Main St., Naples, bvtnaples.org), whose productions run through early September. Along with the musical revues and murder mysteries, BVT is offering an adaptation of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." Best bring your gavel.

Rochester stalwarts Geva Theatre Center (75 Woodbury Blvd, gevatheatre.org) and Downstairs Cabaret Theatre (downstairscabaret.org) will be offering mostly musical fare this summer. Geva's crowd-pleasing line-up includes the currently running "Big Pants & Botox" (through June 29), a salute to what they used to call Women of a Certain Age, and follows it with "MoM: The Rock Concert Musical," a salute to... well, kind of the same thing (July 22-August 3). Several popular shows continue at Downstairs Cabaret — "The Accidental Hero," "My Gal Patsy," and "Respect" — joined by some new ones: "Dream Lover: The Music of Bobby Darin," "Good Rockin' Live! Sun Records and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll," and "Song Man, Dance Man," the latter with Broadway's Jon Peterson.

If you prefer Verdi's "Aida" to Elton's — well, that was at Cooperstown's Glimmerglass Festival last year. But this summer at Glimmerglass (7300 State Highway 80, Cooperstown, glimmerglass.org) you can celebrate the bicentenaries of opera birthday boys Verdi and Wagner with productions of Verdi's "King for a Day" (one of only two comic operas by the master; July 21-August 24) and Wagner's "Flying Dutchman" (July 6-August 24). Glimmerglass has taken to offering classic musicals with bona fide opera stars; it started two years ago with Deborah Voigt in "Annie Get Your Gun," and this year it's Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot," with barihunk Nathan Gunn (July 13-23). The season is rounded out with an interesting pairing of David Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Little Match Girl Passion" and a baroque choral work, Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" (July 20-August 22).

The Shakespeare Players' (Highland Park Bowl, 1200 South Ave., rochestercommunityplayers.org) annual summer production of one of the Bard's plays in Highland Bowl, with a picnic, a bottle of wine, and some fireflies in the bushes after sunset, has for some time been one of the nicest ways to spend a summer evening in Rochester. Last year it was "Richard III"; this year it's a comedy, "Twelfth Night, or What You Will," opening July 5 and running until July 20.

You don't often get to see a controversial 17th century tragedy one week and a couple of classics of absurdist theater the next, but that is par for the course at the Multi-Use Community Cultural Center, popularly known as MuCCC (142 Atlantic Ave., muccc.org). June 13-16 saw John Ford's 17th century incest fest "'Tis Pity She's A Whore," and June 20-29 the venue will present Eugène Ionesco's "The Lesson" and "The Bald Soprano," none of which are exactly common fare on local stages. Those two shows kick off a typically eclectic summer of theater, radio plays, and jazz at MuCCC.

For more examples of classical theater, you'll be well rewarded by a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake's Shaw Festival (shawfest.com) or the Stratford Festival (stratfordfestival.ca). The first of these Canadian festivals features Shaw and much more; the second features Shakespeare and then some. Details on these two estimable festivals — and a whole slew of other area performances — are found on this piece's accompanying sidebar.

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