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Top talent, riotous fun on tap at Rivertown

The campy “Ditzyland” featured Varla Jean Merman, Sean Patterson and Ricky Graham.

Photos by John Barrois

How do you top the most ambitious season of musicals you ever mounted? As Gary Rucker and Kelly Fouchi see it, you raise the bar again.
“We wanted to present a season of spectacular offerings to appeal to our extremely loyal and appreciative audiences, who have supported and cheered us on over the past years,” Fouchi says.

Rucker and Fouchi are the artistic directors of Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts, which recently announced its 2016-17 season during a party showcasing musical performances from the upcoming shows.

“We remain committed to presenting a wide variety of shows that will entertain everyone from young audiences and newcomers to seasoned theatre goers,” Rucker says. “Our season lineup invites them to experience something new and original, or revisit a timeless classic.”

Rucker, who directs many of the shows, and Fouchi, who is the chief choreographer, say they have been thrilled with the audience response Rivertown Theaters have enjoyed from season to season.
 

“Every show last year played to sold-out houses,” Fouchi says. “Our goal is to continue to present audiences with productions that are full of high entertainment value, featuring some of the area’s most talented performers.”

Before the fall season kicks off, audiences will find plenty to like in Rivertown’s spring and fall performances. Highlighting the stage in March is “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

The popular musical comedy follows six spellers as they compete at the annual spelling event at Putnam Valley Middle School. Flashbacks interspersed with revelations uncover personal details about each of the spellers, as they come to the realization that winning isn’t everything. Chris Bentivangna directs, with musical direction by Alan Payne and choreography by Clayton Shelvin.

In May, Rucker directs “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” a musical comedy about a lowly window-washer who aspires to become a high-powered business executive. The satire of big business and all it holds sacred follows the rise of J. Pierrepont Finch, who uses a handbook to climb the corporate ladder.

Rivertown also has a magical offering coming up on its Lagniappe Stage, with “Into the Woods Jr.” This lyrically rich family pleaser brings Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and other favorites to the stage, in a Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine fairytale presentation directed by Marty Aikens.

All of these crowd-pleasers follow on the heels of the ever-popular Ricky Graham, Varla Jean Merman and Sean Patterson, who owned the stage and the whole theater with their February production of “Ditzyland,” a hilarious show that gave everybody a chance to be “goofy.”

Written by all three and directed by Graham, “Ditzyland” skewered the House that Mouse built with high camp and loads of laughs.

In its fifth season, Rivertown will continue to offer entertainment for all ages and encourage newcomers to discover the thrill of live stage performances.

The Big Easy Buddies, a foursome who wowed crowds last season with their presentation of “Under the Boardwalk,” will launch the fall season with their tight harmonies and slick choreography set to Motown and Doo-Wop favorites, as well as classics inspired by local artists.

The Buddies will again share the stage with the dazzling Big Easy Babes, in a nod to the girl groups and diva anthems of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Later in the season will come a musical history piece in the form of “1776,” followed by hit productions that include “Billy Elliot, the Musical,” “The 39 Steps,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “The Little Mermaid.”

See rivertowntheaters.com for schedules and other details of all upcoming productions.

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