This week Jonathan Larson’s legacy — “Rent” — returns to the composer’s hometown, presented by Harrison Summer Theater at White Plains Performing Arts Center. It’s among many theatrical offerings, from Brewster to West Nyack, from Eastchester to Thornwood. (A sampling follows this story.)
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It seems to be the summer of “Rent”: Croton Teen Theater presented it last week; this week, it’s Harrison Summer Theater’s turn; and a production opens at the professional Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford opening in a matter of weeks. (There’s also a star-studded production at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend, directed by Neil Patrick Harris.)
For Stephen Ferri, the mastermind behind Harrison Summer Theater, the show made sense based on his available talent (like Ferri, most are alumni of Harrison High) and his budget (not high).
And there was the Jonathan Larson connection.
“I don’t think anyone has done it in White Plains before,” he says.
It’s just the second year of Harrison Summer Theater, which started last year with the Elvis-based jukebox musical, “All Shook Up.”
“Rent” is certainly not “All Shook Up.”
It’s Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning adaptation of “La Boheme,” set in New York’s Alphabet City in the frightening height of the AIDS epidemic.
Most of last year’s cast is back this summer, with many additions. There are 44 in director Jeremy Quinn’s cast, nearly double what musical director Ferri had last year and about triple the Broadway cast of “Rent.”
Most of the cast was born after the events depicted in “Rent,” which chronicles a year in the life of friends who are dealing with the impact of life, love and AIDS on their lives.
Ferri will conduct the six-piece band from behind a keyboard.
Playing filmmaker Mark is recent Harrison graduate Mack Rosenberg.
He knew some members of the cast when he was a Harrison freshman and they were seniors. Now, he’s about to be a freshman in college and they’re seniors in college.
“It’s kind of like where we left off, almost” says Rosenberg, who is headed to Fordham this fall to study communications.
He says “La Vie Boheme” — a raucous life-out-loud song sung by the company at the end of the first act — stands out for him as a highlight.
And “Rent” has been a highlight.
“I have a life during the summer now,” he says.
Thompson B. Crozier plays Mark’s roommate, Roger. The former Muhlenberg College student has been busy shooting independent films.
He says he was struck by Roger’s dilemma: balancing his love for the newfound Mimi with the complications of an AIDS diagnosis and an AZT regimen.
“The first half of the play, he’s completely torn between a desire to love and nurture her and the knowledge that he can’t love her as fully as he might otherwise,” says Crozier, who graduated from Harrison in ‘07.
Crozier says rekindling those high-school-theater connections has been a blast. He gushes about sharing the stage again with Natalia Fogarty, who plays Mimi and who played Aida to his Rameses at Harrison High back in the day.
“Ferri has been monumentally, legendarily patient,” he says. “And Jeremy has been amazing. He understands the consciousness of this piece. It’s a big empathy exercise, very therapeutic for the actors and the audiences.”
Where: White Plains Performing Arts Center, 11 City Place, White Plains
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 6 and 7 and 2 p.m. Aug. 8
Call: 914-438-1076 or e-mail SVF0391@aol.com
Also this weekend
There are plenty of other theater options on Lower Hudson Valley stages. Here’s a sampling:
Mount Pleasant Community Theatre, now in its 40th year, presents “Annie,” with performances at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6 and 1:30 and 7:30 on Aug. 7. $20 adults, $17 seniors and children. At Westlake High School, 825 Westlake Drive, Thornwood. 914-949-8382 or 914-969-0958.
Eastchester Youth Council presents “The Music Man” in a 26th-anniversary production that brings together four generations of local actors. The River City School Board barbershop quartet includes two fathers of cast members and the indefatigable Eastchester High School director John Gwardyak. Presented in dinner-theater fashion at Lake Isle Country Club. Dinner at 6 followed by the show on Aug. 6 and 7. Matinee at 1 p.m. Aug. 8. $50 tickets include dinner and the show. Lake Isle Country Club is at 660 White Plains Post Road, Eastchester. 914-235-3056.
Brewster Theater Company presents Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” at 8 p.m. Aug. 5 and 6 and at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Aug. 7 at Brewster High School Performing Arts Center at 50 Foggintown Road. $18, $15 for students and seniors. Buy tickets before Aug. 5 and take $2 off regular price. At the Aug. 7 matinee, children 12 and under pay $8. Buy tickets at the Brewster High School lobby on Aug. 2 and 3 from 7-9 p.m. 845-598-1621 or check out the Brewster Theater Company website.
Clarkstown Summer Theater Festival presents “Celebrate CSTF: A Musical Revue” — a “best-of” musical show from the 38-year Rockland County summer tradition, directed by Joseph Egan. At 8 p.m. Aug. 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14, at 2 p.m. Aug. 8. $15, $10 for students, seniors and those 12 and younger, $8 for groups of 20 for the same performance, purchased in advance. At Clarkstown High School South, 31 Demarest Mill Road, West Nyack. 845-356-0844, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Clarkstown Summer Theatre Festival website. (That’s Berlande Millius at right singing “I Hate Men” from “Kiss Me, Kate” in a photo from CSTF’s Jack Rosen.)
Play Group Theatre presents “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s retelling of the story of Joseph, dream reader. At 7 p.m. Aug. 5, 9 ans 12. $12. At 1 N. Broadway, White Plains. 914-946-4433 or the Play Group Theatre website.
Helen Hayes Youth Theatre’s Summer Camp presents “Once Upon a Mattress,” the medieval retelling of “The Princess and the Pea” story. Ages 8 to 11 perform Aug. 6 and 7. Ages 12 to 17 peform Aug. 13 and 14. Agest 8 to 17 perform Aug. 20 and 21. $15. All performances at 7 p.m. at Riverspace Arts, 119 Main St., Nyack. 845-826-2049 or the Helen Hayes Youth Theatre’s website.
Elmwood Playhouse ends its run of “Boy Gets Girl,” Rebecca Gilman’s drama about a date that goes horribly wrong. At 8 p.m., Aug. 5, 6, 7. $21, $18 seniors and students. Elmwood Playhouse, 10 Park St., Nyack. 845-353-1313 or the Elmwood Playhouse website.
“Peter Pan” is in its final two weeks at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford — with a new Captain Hook. John Fogarty has come on for Jeff Schlotman and will have two Hooks to contend with. At some performances, it will be Christine DiTota, who has been playing the role for the past month. At others, it will be Briarcliff teen-ager Rebecca Simpson Wallack. Thursday matinees: lunch at 11:30 a.m., show at 1 p.m.; Thursday and Friday evenings: dinner at 6, show at 8; Saturday and Sunday matinees: lunch at noon, show at 1:30 p.m.; Sunday evening: dinner at 5, show at 7. Wednesday matinees on Aug. 11: lunch at 11:30 a.m., show at 1 p.m. Meal and show: $45 for age 16 and under; $55 for seniors; $60 for adults. 914-592-2222. www.broadwaytheatre.com.
The Port Chester Council for the Arts’ Lawn Chair Theatre presents Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at 7 p.m. Aug. 12, 13 and 14 at the Girl Scout House in Lyon Park, Parkway Drive, Port Chester. $15 suggested donation. 914-939-3183 or e-mail portchesterCFA@gmail.com
The Hope Players, a group committed to raising awareness and money to fight breast cancer, presents “Seussical” at Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers on Aug. 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 15 at 2 p.m. Advance-purchase tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors and $10 for children 5 and younger. At the door, tickets are $20 for adults, seniors and students and $15 for children 5 and younger. All of the proceeds go to breast-cancer research. Call 914-206-9617 or email email@example.com. www.hopeforchange.org.