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Star-filled schedule for Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre

Star-filled schedule for Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre
Kanysha Williams rehearses as Deloris Van Cartier in "Sister Act" at Annapolis Summer Garden Theater. (HANDOUT)

Fresh off its 50th anniversary year, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre is forging a path for its new season that troupe president Carolyn Kirby describes as "embracing brave, bold choices" that reflect "new, diverse points of view."

The trio of musicals for the season — "Sister Act," "The Full Monty" and "In The Heights" — share a common theme reminding us that when times are tough, neighbors, friends and family can help us achieve our dreams.

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Since its opening season in 1988 on Compromise Street in downtown Annapolis, the group's charming outdoor venue has proved a continuing, yet engaging, challenge. Boat whistles often provide distinctive counterpoint to live music under the stars.

From May to September, volunteers stretch their collective creativity in designing sets to withstand sun, heat, wind and rain. Those sets must be struck with new ones created in mere days between shows while the sound system must be able to compete with surrounding city noises. The result is often brilliant and always well done.

Billed by the troupe as a "soulful" opener, "Sister Act" launches the season May 25 and runs through June 17. Based on a 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, "Sister Act" traces the path of showgirl Deloris Van Cartier — played here by Kanysha Williams — who after witnessing a murder is put into protective custody in a convent, where she brings disco moves and a soulful gospel style to the choir.

Director Clare Shaffer describes the show as "over-the-top – bursting with energy, strong characters, and sharp dialogue" as a witness needing protection exchanges her nightclub home for cloister environment.

Performances of "Sister Act" will be Thursdays through Sundays, with a special Wednesday show June 14. All performances star at 8:30 pm.

Running June 29 to July 22, "The Full Monty" with book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by David Yazbek, is being directed here by Mason Catharini, with musical direction by Emily Sergo and choreography by Andrew Gordon.

Based on the 1997 film of the same name, "The Full Monty" is an upbeat comedy about six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers who become male strippers to earn cash — and discover that when they drop their clothes they gain confidence.

The 2017 season will close with the Tony Award-winning musical "In the Heights," with music and lyrics from the creator of "Hamilton," Lin-Manuel Miranda. This musical is set in New York City's largely Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights, where a vibrant community is filled with hard-working multi-generation families searching for the American Dream.

Celebrating urban life, the story is described by Director Darnell Patrick Morris as "transcending race, age and economic status to focus on the human condition."

The show's themes make it relevant and enjoyable, with a tuneful score enlivened by salsa rhythms, Latin pop and rap with exciting choreography. "In the Heights" will run Aug. 3 to Sept. 3, and carries a PG rating, with parental discretion advised.

Having reviewed all three of these shows when presented by Toby's Dinner Theatre, it's easy to see that an extraordinarily ambitious season awaits at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. In particular, when Summer Garden audiences are whisked into the sizzling Latino community of Washington Heights, they will likely find themselves "In the Heights" of theatrical enchantment.

Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has promised a season of "brave, bold choices," and a this season under the stars may empower audiences to reach them.

New this year, patrons can select seats of their choice, ordered online at summergarden.com. Through this process an email confirmation is sent and tickets are held at the ticket office for pickup. Phone reservations are no longer accepted.

Also, available only until May 15, season tickets priced at $60 can be ordered. Single tickets priced at $25 can be purchased online or by mail. Group tickets priced at $23 are available for parties of 10 or more if purchased as one transaction.

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