We’re midway through August and the summer vibes are still going strong. What songs get your feet tapping and your body swaying? Or do you have special go-to songs on your playlist that instantly make you feel summery? I hope the sun is still shining where you are but, if not, try bringing some sunshine into your life with our fun selection of shows that celebrate summer! We’ve got a little something for everyone…..
Porgy & Bess
While the plot of this George and Ira Gershwin opera may not make you instantly think of summer, the show’s most iconic song surely will. “Summertime” is heard several times throughout Porgy and Bess, both as a lullaby and a song of mourning. It has gone on to be one of the most popular jazz standards, recorded by artists such as Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke, and even Janis Joplin.
So, how well do you know your Porgy and Bess? Here are our top fun facts about the show!
- Loulie Jean Norman’s rendition of “Summertime” from the 1959 movie came in at #52 in AFI’s ‘100 Years…100 Songs’ survey of top tunes in American cinema.
- Porgy and Bess is based on DuBose Heyward’s 1925 novel, Porgy, and the subsequent play of the same name. The Gershwin brothers began to write the opera in conjunction with Heyward after George Gershwin first proposed the idea to the author in 1926.
- Before Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway, the original production ran for a mammoth four hours (including two intermissions)! However, George Gershwin made several cuts to tighten up the show before it premiered at the Alvin Theatre in 1935.
The chances are that you have sung along to the popular Grease medley at least once this summer! Beginning at the end of a long summer holiday in 1959, the popular musical follows the ups and downs of Danny and Sandy’s teen romance. It has been much toned down since the original 1971 Chicago production (which was markedly more raw and raunchy) and was, of course, made into the hugely popular film in 1978. Today, with its fun rock ‘n’ roll score, teen angst, and 1950s backdrop, the musical is the ideal soundtrack to those hot “Summer Nights”!
So, did you know…..?!
- The fictional Rydell High is based on William Howard Taft School in Chicago, Illionois.
- The London premier of Grease took place at the New London Theatre in 1973, with Richard Gere appearing as Danny. He had previously been the understudy on Broadway.
- The 2007 Broadway revival was nominated for a Tony Award but lost out to South Pacific. It featured Max Crumm as Danny Zuko, after he won the NBC talent show, “Grease: You’re the One That I Want!”
Next in our line up of top summer shows is Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s second show, Carousel. This Broadway classic was reportedly Rodgers’ favorite of all his musicals and its sweeping score screams summer! Although June may not be ‘bustin out all over’ anymore, we bet you had a little hum of that classic tune when May finally gave way to summertime. Telling the story of carnival worker, Billy Bigelow, and mill worker, Julie Jordan, Carousel offers a ton of romance, clambakes, heartbreak, and self-discovery.
If you’re not yet au fait with this 1945 showstopper, here are a few fun facts to get you going.
- Carousel’s well-known tearjerker of a number, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, is also the traditional song of Liverpool Football Club.
- The original production of Carousel ran for 890 performances on Broadway in 1945, followed by a two year national tour. It then duplicated its success in London’s West End in 1950, running for over a year and a half.
- The most recent 2018 Broadway revival starred Jessie Mueller, Joshua Henry, and Renee Fleming in the lead roles, with Lindsay Mendez winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Carrie Pipperidge.
In The Heights
Set in New York City over the course of three hot summer days, In The Heights depicts life in the Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights. With a heady mix of salsa, hip hop, merengue, soul, and R’n’B, this show cannot fail to draw you in to its summer beats. Discover what happens to the neighborhood’s residents when Usnavi de la Vega, the owner of a small bodega, realizes he has sold a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000. From the award-winning team of Lin Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes, In The Heights is funny, vibrant, and in your face!
Did you know…
- Lin Manuel Miranda wrote the first draft of In The Heights when he was a sophomore at Wesleyan University.
- In The Heights won four Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Choreography.
- Warner Bros. Pictures is due to release the film adaptation of In The Heights in June 2020. Although Lin Manuel Miranda will not be reprising his original role of Usnavi de la Vega, he will be appearing in the smaller role of Piragua Guy.
We’ve had 1950’s America, but our final summer show takes us back to Britain in 1963. The year that Beatlemania hit the UK, the US ripped the British team apart in the Ryder Cup, and also the year that Cliff Richard hopped on board a double decker bus and the hit film, Summer Holiday, was released. This feel good musical of the same name contains a string of Cliff Richard’s 1960’s hits and gives a taster of summery British nostalgia as Don and his friends tour around Europe. If you’re not yet familiar with this show, you’re in for a light-hearted treat!
Here are a few fun facts to get you going…
- Summer Holiday’s jam packed score includes early 1960’s hits such as “Bachelor Boy”, “Living Doll”, “The Young Ones” and, of course, “Summer Holiday”. All together now, ‘We’re all going on a….’
- The original cast of the 1996 musical included the actress, Isla Fisher. She had just left the Australian soap, Home and Away, and would shortly make her breakthrough in Hollywood.
- Lauri Peters played the role of Barbara in the 1963 film, four years after she created the role of Liesl Von Trapp in the original 1959 Broadway production of The Sound of Music.