MILL HALL - The old barn playhouse is celebrating a half century anniversary.
The professional summer stock theater kicks off a historic 50th season of musicals, comedies and mysteries drawing theatergoers from Clinton, Lycoming and Centre counties.
Surviving financial strains and flood waters over the years, Millbrook Playhouse has lined up "classic" productions for the 2013 season, which opens tonight.
Theresa K. Pond, returning for her second year as Producing Artistic Director, announces that this summer's lineup will consist of four shows on the Ryan Main Stage and four attractions and on the downstairs Poorman Cabaret.
On the Main Stage: The first two shows were among the most popular season openers from yesteryears: The classic '50s musical "Grease" (June 13 to 16 and 19 to 23) and the classic musical "The Sound of Music" (June 28 to 30, July 3 and 5 to 7).
And a bit of risk for summer stock is the classic comedy selected as the third attraction, "A Midsummer Night's Dream." But if there was any qualms about plugging Shakespeare into Millbrook's lineup, they were quickly dispelled by Millbrook's board of directors.
"They were amazingly enthusiastic in having the Bard in our 50th season," said Pond, who will direct one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies on July 12 to 14 and 17 to 21.
The Main Stage finale will be the classic country musical "Always, Patsy Cline," the two-woman show based upon the life and music of the country and western music superstar (July 26 to 28 and July 31 to Aug. 4.)
In the Cabaret: "Come Blow Your Horn" is a classic Millbrook comedy, as Neil Simon's early hit was the first show ever produced at the Millbrook Playhouse. (June 21 to 23 and 26 to 30).
Although the classic Ghost Story "Woman in Black" has not been mounted at Millbrook previously, this real theatrical spine-chiller will be presented July 5 to 7 and 10 through 14.
A recent release, "Boeing, Boeing," is a modern classic farce with performances July 19 to 21 and 24 to 28.
Returning is the classic musical comedy "Nunsense A-Men!" The all-male cast as nuns should leave Cabaret audiences laughing as the Cabaret finale on Aug 2 to 4 and 7 to 11.
Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. The second "weekend" starts with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays booked for both stages.
COURTYARD CABARET AND CHILDREN'S SHOWS AND CAMPS
For adults: On each Saturday night following performances, actors and backstage crew perform on the inner courtyard stage.
For $5 admission, patrons will be treated to an hour of vocals, dances, comedy routines and instrumental music.
For children: Two plays will be performed at 10 a.m. Saturday mornings. "The Velveteen Rabbit" (June 22, 29 and July 6) and "Androcles and the Lion" (July 20, 27 and Aug. 3). Admission is $5 and no reservations are required.
"Millbrook is pleased to expand our theater camps this summer," Pond said during a recent interview. This year, there will be two one-week camp sessions instead of one.
The first camp being held Aug. 5 to 10, will conclude with a full production of the musical "Little Mermaid, Jr."
"And then for those who don't want to sing, our second camp on Aug. 12 to 17 will end with a production of the non-musical version of 'Alice In Wonderland,' " Pond said.
Pond has spread the word to past performers and designers of the 50th season, with several returning to Millbrook this summer.
"There is probably nearly one hundred performers who will be part of our 'company' this summer," Pond said.
She is most enthusiastic about the 17 volunteers, mainly college students who will support the work of the company and assist stage managing the children's shows.
From my perspective, production values have noticeably increased in the last several years, beginning with Stephen Sunderlin's stint as artistic director and continuing with Mary Kate Burke and Pond.
So, technically, Millbrook should be pleased with the return of some of last summer's designers in light, set, sound and properties.
Last season, there were few community actors incorporated into shows, but his summer, according to Pond, there is a nice balance of professional actors and community-based performers.
The dozens of returning alumni include Michael Schloegl, the very talented choreographer and director who should make "Grease" a visually exciting show.
And playing Sandy in tonight's opener, "Grease," is Erin Long, a local performer returning to Millbrook after just graduating from Shenandoah University.
Joanne Pinzler returns to direct "Always, Patsy Cline," having starred in this musical for Millbrook seven years ago.
Kali Haines, who just won a Community Theatre Ray of Light Award for her performance in Central Mountain High School's "Young Frankenstein," will be featured as Leisel in "The Sound of Music."
(Although all casting of the children was held at local auditions, young girls from New Jersey and Virginia have also been cast as Van Trapp's daughters.)
Adam Knight, who directed last year's most successful laughfest, "Lend Me A Tenor," is back in the director's chair this summer.
While Bill Brown has been named as this season's music director, area resident and veteran director of high schools and CTL productions, Martena Rodgers returns to Millbrook to musically direct "Nunsense A-Men."
Lawrence Lesher is a double threat who is back, having both directed "The 39 Steps" and acted in "Lend Me a Tenor" last year, and appeared in a holiday fundraiser. This will be the seventh season for Richard Guido, who first came to Millbrook in 2003 with Steve Sunderlin. He will be on the Main Stage the whole summer, playing Miss Lynch in "Grease," Uncle Max in "The Sound of Music" (the role he played 10 years ago) and will be featured in "A Midsummer's Night Dream" and, yes, one of the nuns in "Nunsense, A.Men!"
Millbrook's success is based upon many factors as detailed by Pond and Board President Erla Mae Frederick. Each laud the dedicated volunteers, the sponsors for their generous donations and the 21 board members for their year-round work.
"More than anything, this season is the time to honor our history. Both stages have shows from each of our five decades," Pond said. "Always overseeing this playhouse have been wonderful dreamers and planners."
No theater can get too static over the years. Millbrook Playhouse has survived by adapting. So, 50 years is indeed a milestone to celebrate, especially for those who relish "life on the wicked stage."
For ticket information, call 748-8083 or visit www.millbrookplayhouse.org.