Editor's note: Dates and times of all productions are at the end of the story.
Shannon Thompson loves being a librarian, except for one thing. She's not allowed to sing.
Fortunately for Thompson, her other passion, the theater, gives her plenty of opportunity to do just that.
"I do mostly musical theater because I love singing," said Thompson, a Cambridge native and currently a librarian in the Niskayuna school district. "For me, that's the best thing about being on stage. I get to sing."
This Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Thompson's acting and singing talents will be on full display in the Home Made Theater production of "Peter and the Starcatcher" at the Little Spa Theater in Saratoga State Park. There will be eight performances over the next three weekends.
"It's a really fun show and I think people of all ages would enjoy the humor in it," said Thompson. "I expect to see a lot of young faces out in the audience, but I also expect to see older people. What 'Wicked' is to "The Wizard of Oz,' 'Peter and the Starcatcher' is to 'Peter Pan.'"
"Peter and the Starcatcher" is based on the 2004 book, "Peter and the Starcatchers," by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Rick Elice ("Jersey Boys" and "The Addams Family") and Wayne Barker developed the book into a musical and put it on the Broadway stage in 2012 where it earned nine Tony nominations and won five of them.
The play is the backstory for the key characters from J.M. Barrie's early 20th century work, "Peter and Wendy." Thompson plays Molly, the daughter of Lord Leonard Astor, while also a part of the Home Made cast are Conrad T. Browne Lorcher as Black Stache, Nick Casey as Alf, Cameron Fredericksen as The Boy, Hollie Miller as Mrs. Bumbrake, Ian Politis as Captain Bill Slank and John Sutliff as Lord Astor. Bob Berenis is directing the show.
"I actually have not seen a production of this show, and I really didn't know that much about it when I went to audition," said Thompson. "I knew the premise, of course, and then I went on line and read the summary and then the play itself. The more I read the more I liked it, and it's been a great experience working on the show so far."
Thompson, 29, graduated from Cambrige High and went to Skidmore College where she majored in music and art history. From there she went on to get her masters in library science at the University at Albany. She has spent most of this decade living and teaching near Manchester, Vermont, performing at the Dorset Theatre Festival and the Marvel Valley Players in Rutland, Vermont. She moved back to the Saratoga area last year when she got a job with the Niskayuna school district, and her first play since returning to the Capital Region was "Lucky Stiff" by the Not-So-Common Players of Clifton Park in March.
"When I was a little girl I used to sing a lot, but never in front of anyone," said Thompson, laughing. "I was really shy. My aunt would come to visit and I would sing for her, but I made her sit in the other room so I didn't have to look at her. I kind of got past my shyness in high school when I did 'Damn Yankees.' Then I went to Skidmore and got involved even more. Some of my friends even had parts in Home Made productions so I went there a few times. I love the place. It's such a great theater and a beautiful space to perform."
Joanne Westervelt (from left), Michael Glantzis and Sara Durocher rehearse a scene from the Schenectady Civic Players production of Lanford Wilson’s “Fifth of July,” opening Friday and running through Oct. 22. (JENN MOAK)
'Fifth of July' opens
In Schenectady, the Schenectady Civic Players open their 90th season with a performance of Lanford Wilson's "Fifth of July," opening Friday night and running through Oct. 13.
Michael Glantzis stars as Ken, a legless Vietnam War veteran who hosts a group of formerly idealistic friends at his sprawling Missouri farmhouse. Included in that group is his lover, Jed, a horticulturist played by Andrew Vroman. The show is being directed by Joe Fava and also stars Cristine M. Loffredo as Gwen, Robin MacDuffie as John, Joanne Westervelt as Sally, Sara Paupini as June, Sarah Durocher as Shirley and David Quinones as Weston.
The play had its Broadway premiere in 1980 and starred Christopher Reeve as Ken and Jeff Daniels as Jed.
Also opening this weekend will be a Classic Theater Guild production of "Witness for the Prosecution," a work by British playwright Agatha Christie from 1953. The CTG will be using the Congregation Beth Israel on Eastern Parkway in Schenectady for this production, which will run for two weekends.
The story centers around the murder of a wealthy woman named Emily French in her London home. The play was made into a successful Hollywood movie starring Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich.
Glenn Read is directing this production, which stars Susan Dantz, John Reheuser, Ken Ryer and Sean Owen.
New series continues
The Illuminate Theater Series, created in August by Albany native and Russell Sage graduate Morgan Heyward, will hold its third monthly event next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Robb Alley inside Proctors. Admission is free.
The series is designed to "celebrate talented actors of color in the Capital District as they share their unique backgrounds through theater," according to the group's web site.
Heyward and nine other actors will perform a series of short solo monologues having to do with the theme of social change.
"We focus on actors of color in the Capital Region who feel like they don't have an opportunity to perform elsewhere," said Heyward. "They feel like their story isn't being told on stage, so they either create their own piece or do something that has already been published."
Heyward hopes to continue putting together the event each month, with the next program set for the Troy Kitchen on Nov. 28th.
One fine 'Cline'
"Always Patsy Cline," which opened last week at the Cohoes Music Hall, will resume tonight at 8 p.m. with Molly McGrath in the title role.
Gazette critic Matt Moross called the production "a spectacular achievement, paying a right and welcome homage to Cline’s artistry as well as showcasing one of this area’s outstanding vocalists/actresses, Molly McGrath."
Morris also called Benita Zahn, who plays Cline's friend, Houston housewife Louise Seger, "engaging and wildly entertaining." The run concludes Sunday at 2 p.m.
'Peter and the Starcatcher'
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: Opens 7:30 p.m. Saturday and runs through Oct. 29; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $29-$26
MORE INFO: (518) 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org
'Fifth of July'
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Players, 12 South Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Oct. 22; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: www.civicplayers.org, (518) 382-2081
'Witness for the Prosecution'
WHERE: Classic Theater Guild, at Congregation Beth Israel, 2195 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 22; performances are at 7:30 Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21, and 2 p.m. Oct. 22
HOW MUCH: $20-$18
MORE INFO: www.classictheaterguild.com, or at CTGWitness.brownpapertickets.com
'Always Patsy Cline'
WHERE: Park Playhouse Productions at the Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes
WHEN: Continues through Sunday; 8 p.m. tonight and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25-$15
MORE INFO: (518) 465-4663, www.parkplayhouse.com
'Illuminate Theater Series'
WHERE: Robb Alley at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: Visit Illimunate Theater on Facebook