Millbrook Playhouse presents 56th season with wide variety of fun-filled performances

MILL HALL — Summer theatre in Central PA is at its best each year at Millbrook Playhouse, 258 Country Club Lane. With eight premieres this summer and a wide variety of shows, this season promises to be lots of fun, with something for everyone.

David Leidholdt, Millbrook’s producing artistic director, is very excited about Millbrook’s 56th season.

“It truly is a remarkable accomplishment to sustain a professional theatre for 56 years in small town America,” he said. “I am very proud to represent the crew of extraordinary people that come to work each year at the Playhouse.”

“All over the country, theatres similar to Millbrook bring great things to local communities and Main Street economies,” Leidholdt said. “It’s also the places where up-and-coming actors and designers get their start in the professional world. Many of our artists go on to do great things.”

One of Millbrook’s performers from last summer, Taylor Harris, is making her New York stage debut in “Much Ado About Nothing” at Shakespeare in the Park, starring “Orange is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks, just one year after being at Millbrook.

The Ryan Main Stage Theatre begins this summer with “A Year with Frog and Toad,” running from June 7-15. Arnold Lobel’s treasured characters hop from page to stage in this whimsical tale that follows two great friends – the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad – through four fun-filled seasons.

“‘A Year with Frog and Toad’ will thrill children and parents alike,” Leidholdt said. “I feel it is an underrated show; it was a Tony-nominated Best Musical and includes some of my favorite scores of the season. Its message of friendship and camaraderie is something that everyone needs to hear in this day and age.”

“Mamma Mia!” follows from June 21-July 6, with music and lyrics by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA, whose hits tell the hilarious story of a young woman’s quest on the eve of her wedding to discover the identity of her father, bringing three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago.

“‘Mamma Mia’ is gonna bring down the Barn,” Leidholdt said. “A great summer escape and perfect for everyone. It celebrates life, love and the power of women. Bring your dancing shoes.”

Based on the 1992 Disney film and inspired by the real-life Newsboy’s Strike of 1899 in New York City, “Newsies,” running July 12-21, is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” When the titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right.

“‘Newsies’ is a powerful and surprising call to arms in this time of division,” Leidholdt said. “The message of ‘Newsies’ rings loud and clear: good always wins. It will strike a chord across all generations.”

Last on the Ryan Main Stage will be “Million Dollar Quartet,” running from July 26-August 10. On December 4, 1956, an extraordinary twist of fate brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley together at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. That legendary night comes to life with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations.

“‘Million Dollar Quartet’ is a love letter to rock ‘n’ roll,” Leidholdt said. “It’s an engaging look behind the music of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. We have a fantastic director who spent several years on the road with the national tour. Our audiences will love it.”

“Sexy Laundry” kicks things off in the Poorman Cabaret, from June 14-23. After 25 years of marriage, the emergence of love handles and receding hairlines, Alice and Henry have hit a physical plateau. With a copy of “Sex for Dummies” in hand, Alice convinces Henry into a weekend of alone time in the hopes of seducing him and unearthing her inner vixen.

“Variety is the key in the cabaret,” Leidholdt said. “‘Sexy Laundry’ is as flat-out funny as it is moving and human. It’s a perfect balance to Ken Ludwig’s ‘A Fox on the Fairway,’ which has all the elements that make a great farce: star-crossed lovers, high stakes wagers, ugly golf sweaters and a surprise ending.”

A tribute from Ken Ludwig (“Lend Me A Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo”) to the great English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “A Fox On the Fairway,” running from June 28-July 14, takes audiences on a hilarious romp, which pulls the rug out from underneath the stuffy denizens of the private Quail Valley Country Club.

In “Gaslight (Angel Street),” which will run July 19-28, Bella suffers from what she believes are the early stages of insanity. Her husband Jack, though trying to help her, spends his evenings out on the town. Or so she believes.

“‘Gaslight’ keeps you on the edge of your seat,” Leidholdt said. “It’s a great psychological thriller and incorporates elements of mystery, drama, and paranoia. What could be a better way to spend the evening?!”

Closing out the season in the Cabaret is “Every Brilliant Thing,” running from Aug. 2-11. You’re 6 years old. Mom’s in the hospital. Dad says she’s “done something stupid.” She finds it hard to be happy, so you start a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything worth living for: 1. Ice Cream. 2. Kung Fu movies. 3. Burning things. 4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose. 5. Me. You leave it on her pillow. You know she’s read it because she’s corrected your spelling. Soon, the list takes on a life of its own, highlighting the irrepressible resilience of the human spirit in finding delight in the everyday.

“‘Every Brilliant Thing’ is a unique theatre experience,” Leidholdt said. “It uses the audience as part of the storytelling and is a playful, unapologetically sentimental play.”