Summer arrives early in the state capital with the opening of the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's 46th season of presenting "theater under the stars," which begins May 24 with Cole Porter's classic "Anything Goes."
The musical, the updated, 2011 Tony Award-winner, will run Thursdays through Sundays through June 24. Following it are two shows that have never been performed at Summer Garden. Taking ASGT's outdoor stage July 5 to July 29 is "Avenue Q," the 2003 surprise Broadway hit that captured three Tony Awards, including best musical. This R-rated "Sesame Street"-type show — definitely not for kids — focuses on young adults discovering they are not as special as their parents and favorite childhood TV shows told them they were.
"Xanadu," also a surprise Broadway hit, is based on what was ranked among the 10 worst movies ever. It runs from Aug. 9 to Sept. 2 to close ASGT's 2012 season. The stage musical spoofs the movie plot.
With this "Anything Goes" production, director Jerry Vess is marking his seventh Summer Garden directing assignment. At an "Anything Goes" rehearsal last week, Vess displayed his characteristic enthusiasm for his shows and for the cast.
"Everybody loves Cole Porter and all the songs in this show — including songs they didn't know they knew," Vess said. "I'm lucky to have a great cast, including Katie Gardner as Hope, Nicole Anderson as Reno, Nathan Bowen as Moon and dancer Hannah Thornhill, who is our talented choreographer."
Ruth Capobianco serves as music director of this show.
The show debuted in 1934, and among its songs are "You're the Top," "I Get a Kick Out of You" and the title song.
It's a story of mismatched lovers Hope Harcourt and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh setting sail on the SS America, along with Wall Street assistant Billy Crocker. He loves Hope and is unaware that nightclub singer and part-time evangelist Reno Sweeney has romantic feelings for him. The show gains comic appeal when gangster Moonface Martin and his floozy sidekick adopt a series of disguises to avoid being apprehended by the ship's captain.
With music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Mars, "Avenue Q" tells the story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment on Avenue Q. He meets colorful characters who help him discover his purpose in life. Darnell Morris directs this ASGT show, and Josh Konick serves as music director.
"As children we were assured by our parents and TV shows like 'Sesame Street' that we were special and could do anything, but as adults we discovered to our dismay that we're no more special than anyone else," Morris said in a recent interview. " 'Avenue Q' offers 20- and 30-somethings an opportunity to take a break from adulthood and laugh."
The final show of the season, "Xanadu", is a disco roller-skating musical spoofing the 1980 film starring Gene Kelly, in his final role, as businessman Danny Maguire. The cult movie had the star power of Olivia Newton-John and a score that included "I'm Alive" and "Magic." It traces the journey of Greek muse Clio, who descends from Mount Olympus to 1980s Venice Beach, Calif. There, she inspires struggling artist Sonny Malone to achieve his dream of creating the first roller disco. But then Clio falls in forbidden love with the mortal Sonny.
ASGT's version of "Xanadu," with updated dialogue, will be directed by Melissa Huston, who directed ASGT's hit production of "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" a few seasons back. Ken Kimble is music director, and Felicity Stiverson is choreographer.
All Summer Garden performances are at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays at 143 Compromise St., across from City Dock. Single-show tickets are available at $20, and $18 for groups of 10 or more. A subscription to the three-show season is available at $50. To order, call the box office at 410-268-9212 or order online at summergarden.com.