Summer theater events in the D.C. area: Disney, Shakespeare, Sondheim, et al

June 6, 2014

“The Lion King” plays at the Kennedy Center in June. (Joan Marcus)

June 6

How can you not love Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” in which a beautiful nerd passes up the town jock for the outcast loner? Everyone’s favorite film about singing silverware gets the Broadway treatment in this Tony Award-winning musical. The original movie won Golden Globes, Oscars and Grammys for its score, so skip the tired “I’m only going to see this for my kid” excuse and let yourself crack a smile at “Be Our Guest.”
Wolf Trap, Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna; June 6-8, $22-$80; 703-255-1868.

June 17

“The Lion King” didn’t get to be the highest-grossing Broadway show in history by simply rehashing the fabulous 1994 Disney movie. Director Julie Taymor (before she tarnished her reputation with “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”) added elaborate puppetry, riveting choreography and new music to her production, which opened on Broadway in 1997 and won six Tony Awards despite her failure to cast any actual lions.
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; June 17-Aug.17, $40-$195; 202-467-4600. (Foggy Bottom)

June 22

Lean & Hungry’s rendition of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” is a live radio show — actors play multiple roles, speak into mics and perform their own sound effects, and the whole thing is simulcast on WAMU. And it’s only an hour! This version takes place in the Wild West, where people were inexplicably naming their kids Antipholus and Dromio.
American University Amphitheater, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW; June 22, 6 p.m., $15, kids ages 12 and under free; leanandhungrytheater.com.

July 9

Halloween will be a ways off when “Carrie” comes to Studio Theatre, but it’s never the wrong season for some campy horror. Stephen King’s tale of telekinetic Carrie, who dispatches her high school tormentors in a prom night blaze, comes to the stage in this rock musical. You definitely want to see Carrie burst into song when she’s doused in pig’s blood.
Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW; July 9-Aug. 3, $20-$40; 202-332-3300. (Dupont Circle)

July 10

The Capital Fringe Festival feels a little bittersweet this year, as the theater organization bids farewell to its New York Avenue performance space, Fort Fringe. What better way to say goodbye than with an 18-day celebration of the city’s most vibrant experimental theater? Getting in on the fun takes two steps: Buy a Fringe button as your pass for the whole shebang, then tickets to the specific performances that tickle your fancy. Fringe is good for nothing if not variety: Last year included a rock opera about the War of 1812 and “& Afterwards,” a play about Dupont Circle’s Kramerbooks.
Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW; July 10-27, various times, buttons $5-$7, $17 per performance; 202-737-7230, capitalfringe.org. (Mt Vernon Sq)

July 17

If you don’t count “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Tempest” is Shakespeare’s trippiest tale. It starts with a storm, conjured up by a marooned duke who figured out sorcery in his spare time. In typical Shakespearean fashion, the characters are separated and spend a lot of time looking for each other, some particularly nasty cads hatch murder plots and there are impassioned declarations of love at first sight. Everything ends up happily ever after, even if it takes a little spell-casting to get there. Olney Theatre Center’s under-the-stars staging gives the Bard’s final play an extra-magical sheen.
Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, Md.; July 17-Aug. 4, free; 301-924-3400.

July 28

If you’ve been bitter all year that you missed out on Woolly’s Helen Hayes Award-winning production of “Stupid F—ing Bird” that ran last summer, you’re in luck. The theater is reuniting the cast and crew for round two. It’s a modern spin on Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” and like that 19th-century play, it tells the story of a moderately successful writer struggling with the meaning of art. As the title implies, it takes more than a few liberties with the language.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW; July 28-Aug. 17, $40-$68; 202-393-3939. (Gallery Place)

Aug. 5

You’ve got to hand it to Stephen Sondheim: He got his inspiration from pretty weird places. His 1984 musical “Sunday in the Park With George,” which comes to Arlington’s Signature Theatre on Aug. 5, dramatizes Georges Seurat’s creation of famed painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” It’s not just counting brushstrokes: The narrative covers an illicit affair, a 1980s technological art marvel and a time jump of a century. Who says art history has to be dull?
Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington; Aug. 5-Sept. 21, $70-$90; 703-820-9771.

Aug. 26

If there’s one reason to complain about 1987’s “Dirty Dancing,” it’s that there should have been more dancing. There’s the famous lift at the very end, but who didn’t want to see more of Patrick Swayze’s character, Johnny, shaking it? We’ll get our wish when the musical version stops at the National Theatre. Let’s review the major plot points: Baby, played by Jennifer Grey in the original, is on vacation with her parents at a resort in the Catskills. She falls for dance instructor Johnny. A few lessons and embarrassing talent show performances later, it’s happily ever after. Recommended for anyone who’s ever been wrongfully put in a corner.
National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; Aug. 26-Sept. 14; 202-628-6161. (Metro Center)

Click to read the whole summer guide!

Lori McCue is the entertainment editor at Express.
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Vicky Hallett · June 6, 2014