WILLIAMSTOWN -- Its being hailed as one of Williamstown Theatre Festival's "most ambitious seasons to date" -- and Artistic Director Jenny Gersten says she's excited by the "breadth and variety" included in this summer's schedule.
"I love all the different choices we have, from the gothic summer theater production of ‘Dracula' to the silly, with ‘Animal Crackers,' to the very human and very emotional musical adaptation of ‘The Bridges of Madison County,' " Gersten said in a telephone interview Monday. "There's a whole range of ideas and tones in this season."
The Tony Award-winning summer theatre's 59th season, which includes the return of perennial favorite Kate Burton in Tom Stoppard's "Hapgood," and festival alum Robert Sean Leonard of TV's "House" in a Nicholas-Martin-directed "Pygmalion," was announced Monday morning at the Williams Inn by Director of Development Eric Kerns. Gersten, who had planned on announcing the season herself, is recovering from a bout with the flu.
The season, running June 26 to Aug. 18, will also host the previously announced world premiere musical adaptation of "The Bridges of Madison County," helmed by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher, along with the world premiere of festival alum Bess Wohl's "American Hero," a revival of the musical "Animal Crackers," and the Red Sox musical "Johnny Baseball."
"Undertaking three musicals is very ambitious, but it seems achievable," Gersten said. "I've been talking with the people behind ‘The Bridges of Madison County,' since well before last season. Not knowing if it would happen this season, I knew I really wanted to do an old-time musical. ‘Animal Crackers' is a good scale musical -- not too big on costumes; not too big a production; not too big of a cost."
She added, "I really wanted to have a silly, family-oriented musical on the Main Stage, which hasn't been done in a long time. As for ‘Johnny Baseball,' we haven't seen a really good baseball musical in 40 years."
The season will begin with the world premiere of Wohl's "American Hero" on the Nikos Stage, running June 26 to July 7.
"Bess has had great success with us," Kerns said, praising the festival alum. "She began as a non-Equity company member, moved up to the Equity company and then developed a powerful voice. We produced her play ‘Touch(ed)' two years ago This play is hilarious and really timely."
Gersten described Wohl's work as "unexpected."
"The great thing about Beth's voice is the you can't guess where she's going with things. She takes you to places you don't expect to go," she said. "I like that she's a risk-taker."
The musical "Animal Crackers" will open the Main Stage's season, running from June 26 to July 14. "Pygmalion," which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, will follow, running from July 17 to 27.
"I wanted to do a show with Nicholas Martin," Gersten said. "[George Bernard] Shaw usually makes me yawn, but this play doesn't. It doesn't get too heavy. When its two characters come together, its' so exciting."
Earlier this month, she traveled to San Diego to visit with Martin, who was directing "Pygmalion," with Leonard as Henry Higgins, at the Old Globe Theatre. It was decided then that they would bring the production to the festival.
"The Bridges of Madison County," which was adapted from the best-selling novel, will close out the Main Stage season, running Aug. 1 to 18.
Burton, who returns to the Nikos Stage after a five-year hiatus from the festival, will star in the spy-thriller "Hapgood," running July 10 to 21. "Johnny Baseball" will follow, appearing from July 24 to Aug. 4. A fourth Nikos production, with a run from Aug. 7 to 18, will be announced at a future date.
"We're still in negotiations with a director and two actors," Kerns said. "We hope to announce it in the next few weeks."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email
Williamstown Theatre Festival's 59th season:
* ‘Animal Crackers,' June 26
* ‘Pygmalion,' directed by Nicholas Martin and starring Robert Sean Leonard,
* ‘The Bridges of Madison County,' directed by Bartlett Sher,
* ‘American Hero,' by Bess Wohl, June 26-July 7
* ‘Hapgood,' starring Kate Burton; July 10-21
* ‘Johnny Baseball,' July 24-Aug. 4
* TBA, Aug. 7-18
* ‘Dracula' by Bram Stoker, adapted for the stage by Steve Lawson, Poker Flats Field,
Special discount bundles available through March 15 at www.wtfestival.org.
Single tickets available the third week of April at www.wtfestival.org and through the season brochure mail offer.
Box office opens June 4. Tickets can then be purchased by phone at 413-597-3400, online or in person at the Williams College ‘62 Center
for Theatre and Dance,
1000 Main St. (Route 2), Williamstown.