By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Theaters in the Valley are still dark for the holiday break, but the second half of the season is coming into focus.
Top Hat Productions will start the new year with “Driving Miss Daisy,” the comic drama about the relationship between an elderly Jewish widow and her African-American chauffeur.
“Driving Miss Daisy” takes place in the South between 1948 and 1973, a time of sharp social change. Daisy (played by Connie Cassidy) and Hoke Colburn (DC Colvin) have a rocky relationship at first, but it gradually transcends prejudices and social conventions.
The play, which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning 1989 film, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at Fairview Arts and Outreach Center, 4220 Youngstown Poland Road, Youngstown. For tickets, go to brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.
Here’s a quick look at what the coming months will bring to some other community and college theaters in the area:
EASY STREET PRODUCTIONS
After the unexpected death of musical director Jeff Sanders in November, Easy Street considered canceling its planned revival of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.”
But Todd Hancock, co-director of the company, said they decided to go forward.
“Pump Boys” is the show that put Easy Street on the map a quarter-century ago, and the company mounts its trademark show every so often.
Sanders was always the guitar-wielding cast member in the light-hearted musical, which is set in a diner-gas station.
Randy Bass – the husband of Robyn Bass, who will play waitress Rhetta Cupp – will join the cast in a similar role.
“First and foremost, Randy is an accomplished musician in Nashville and can handle the lead guitar, bass and banjo parts that Jeff provided,” said Hancock. “The fact that he is Robyn’s husband and that we’ve all known him for decades will certainly help him fit right in. Out of respect, he won’t be recreating Sanders’ role as ‘Eddie’ for the run. He will simply be referred to as ‘Randy,’ so that the cast can pay tribute to Jeff and ‘Eddie’ during the show.”
Easy Street will present “Pump Boys” on Mother’s Day weekend, but will add performances if the demand is there. Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. May 11; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. May 12; and 2:30 p.m. May 13, at Ford Family Recital Hall, 260 W. Federal St.
Tickets will go on sale March 1 at youngstownsymphony.com or 330-744-0264.
The Hopewell Theatre changed its name for the 2017-18 season; it was previously the Victorian Players, which at one time reflected its genre. The theater had long since moved on to more contemporary fare, and the name-change made it official.
The theater also gave itself an interior makeover, replacing the pews (its building is a former church) with comfortable and movable chairs, and brightened up its walls with a sleek and uniform look.
It seems to have worked.
“We have had the good fortune of a smashingly successful season, so far,” said Marlene Strollo, director of the theater. “Don’t know if it has anything to do with the new name, but ‘Fences’ and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life, the Musical’ played to sold out houses.”
The Hopewell is now in the process of giving its exterior a facelift.
Upcoming shows include the comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods” Jan. 19-28; “An Evening of One Acts” March 2-11, featuring “My Swedish Mama” by Anita Gorman and “Dad’s Tale” by Terry Shears, who are both area natives; “An Evening of O. Henry,” adapted by Tom Copeland, a pillar of the Hopewell, April 13-22; and Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” May 25-June 3.
SELAH DESSERT THEATER
Due to scheduling conflicts, Selah has delayed the opening of “Misery” by a week. The Stephen King thriller will now open Jan. 25, with additional performances Jan. 26 and 27, and Feb. 2 and 3.
“I try to program a wide range of pieces,” said Mary Ruth Lynn, managing director of the small theater on the second floor of Selah Restaurant in Struthers, “We have an eclectic, savvy audience that enjoys many genres. The challenge is finding high-quality plays that can be staged in that small space.”
“Misery” will be followed by “Motherhood Out Loud,” April 5-14, which Lynn will direct.
The Strand Project will enter its third year at Selah, with performances June 1-9. Kris Harrington helms this event, which is a series of original monologues.
Lisbon’s Stage Left Players has put together a cast of 22 youngsters, age 7-12, from the Lisbon, Canfield, United, East Palestine, Salem, West Branch and Beaver Local school districts for a youth theater production of “Aladdin Jr.”, Jan. 12-21. For tickets, call 330-831-7249 or to go stageleftplayers.org.
The youth players will return for the original one-act musical “Snap the Whip!,” which is inspired by the famed Winslow Homer painting (the signature piece at the Butler Institute of American Art) and was written by Stage Left chief Kandace Cleland, with music by Jodine Pilmer.
SALEM COMMUNITY THEATRE
Salem will go ’70s in 2018.
The theater will start the year with “Four Weddings and an Elvis,” Jan. 19-28. The title alone reveals the premise — and also that it’s a zany comedy. “Four Weddings” is set in a Las Vegas wedding chapel, where an aging Elvis drops by. It runs Jan. 19-28.
Next is the cabaret show “8-Track the Musical,” which boogies to a soundtrack with the likes of the Carpenters, the Emotions, Marvin Gaye, the Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band and Helen Reddy.
The season will end in August with “Happy Days, the Musical,” which is set in the ’50s, but is based on the TV sitcom that aired in the ’70s and early ’80s.
If you are looking for Shakespeare, Kent Trumbull Theater in Warren will present “Much Ado About Nothing” (March 16-25), and Crown Theater will stage “Romeo and Juliet” (April 6-15), in what is almost certainly the Columbiana company’s first crack at the Bard.