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Theater season will bring surprises

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The upcoming theater season will bring with it several Mahoning Valley premieres of major musicals.

The Youngstown Playhouse was surprised and elated when it was able to snag the rights to “Mamma Mia.”

The frothy and frilly musical that turns every ABBA hit into a dance number will be on the main stage of the South Side theater for seven performances beginning Nov. 30.

The Broadway show spawned the 2008 movie of the same name, which starred Meryl Streep. The sequel to that film, “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” came out a few weeks ago and is still in first-run theaters. So with interest cresting again, it’s a great get for the Playhouse.

Meanwhile, the folks at Top Hat Productions are excited about landing the rights for “Amazing Grace,” which they will present March 2-April 6 at their theater on Youngstown-Poland Road.

“Amazing Grace” will begin its first national tour this fall after wrapping its Broadway run a few years ago. Top Hat will be the first nonprofessional company to get the rights to the show, which tells the story behind one of the most beloved songs in the world.

Oakland Center for the Arts and its Kids First Initiative will present the Valley premiere of “A Christmas Story, the Musical” from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9 at Trinity Fellowship Church in Boardman.

The holiday-season musical is based on the movie that is ubiquitous on television every December. Oakland specializes in children’s shows, but “A Christmas Story” will have both adults and kids in the cast.

Crown Theater Productions will present what might be another Valley premiere when it stages “Disney’s Newsies, the Musical” at Main Street Theater in Columbiana in February.

The Hopewell Theatre in Youngstown took a hard turn into contemporary fare last year after more than two decades of specializing in plays of the Victorian era. It even changed its name from Victorian Players.

Hopewell’s 2018-19 season will be its most contemporary one yet, with titles such as “Snoopy, the Musical,” “Raisin in the Sun,” “Godspell,” “Deathtrap” and “On Golden Pond.”

THIS AND THAT

Total Package at Trax: Youngstown’s Total Package Band’s gig at the outdoor Paradise Patio at Trax Lounge in Austintown this Saturday will mark the return of vocalist Liz Majors.

A member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Majors has been away on duty. But she’ll be back in town this weekend, and will lead the band in a show that will feature songs by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

The YTP Band will play from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Opera at WaterFire: Westminster College vocalists Samantha Connell, of Clayton, N.J., and Lauren Faber of Greenville, Pa., will perform at the WaterFire festival in Sharon, Pa., on Saturday.

As the fires are lit on the Shenango River at dusk, the two seniors will perform opera duets on a boat as it glides up and down the river.

Polka show: Squeezebox, the popular polka act featuring Ted Lange and Mollie B, will headline a dinner show Aug. 23 at the Embassy Banquet Centre on Youngstown-Poland Road. Tickets are $45 and include a full buffet dinner; call Peppermint Records at 330-783-2222.

Mollie B and Squeezebox were recently in Atlanta filming scenes for Clint Eastwood’s upcoming movie “The Mule.” Mollie was personally selected by Eastwood to provide the music for a scene, and he spontaneously changed the script to take Mollie from the stage and onto the floor to dance with him.