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5 Musicals That Celebrate Summer

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |


Check out these sizzling shows before summer comes to a close

Summer is moving by fast, but while we still can revel in the warm weather and the world of cookouts, swimming and taking long vacations, we thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the musicals that celebrate the season. Here are five shows that will help you keep the spirit of summer alive. 

‘June is bustin’ out all over’ in Broadway’s current revival of ‘Carousel,’ as well as these other summery shows (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)

‘June is bustin’ out all over’ in Broadway’s current revival of ‘Carousel,’ as well as these other summery shows (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)

110 in the Shade

The first thing that comes to most of our minds when we think of summer is heat. Summer is about sun, and what better musical to capture that than 1963 Harvey Schmidt/Tom Jones musical 110 in the Shade? Adapted from the popular N. Richard Nash play The Rainmaker, the story focuses on the spinster Lizzie, who lives on a ranch in the southwest. A drought has dried out the land, but a traveling con man named Starbuck wanders into town and promises that he can conjure rain for a fee and, in the process, sweeps Lizzie off her feet . The musical opens with “Another Hot Day,” setting the scene for the scorching summer weather that is at the center of the show’s plot.

 

Wish You Were Here

For many years, this 1952 musical was best-known as the “swimming pool musical,” because it was at a summer camp for adults. At Camp Karefree in the Catskill Mountains, the story revolves around the guests looking for fun in the sun as they enjoy a respite from the everyday life. The production did, indeed, feature a swimming pool onstage, and characters could go for a swim when they weren’t taking a break to sing the glorious Harold Rome score (including the title song which enjoyed a certain popularity). Based on the Arthur Kober play Having a Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here, the show ran for 598 performances, and was a lighthearted escape into the world of summer vacations.

 

Porgy & Bess

Though this 1935 George and Ira Gershwin musical/operetta with a book by DuBose Heyward isn’t necessarily focused on summer, arguably the most iconic song about summer emerged as the show’s biggest hit. Porgy & Bess commences on a summer night in Catfish Row, South Carolina, where the young mother Clara sings a lullaby to her baby.  That song is, of course, “Summertime,” which went on to be an oft-recorded standard of the American Songbook, with over 33,000 covers. The lyrics are by Heyward – lifted from his novel Porgy, on which the musical is based – but Ira Gershwin shares credit.

 

Greenwillow

This is a musical readers may not be familiar with, but one that features a whimsical score by Frank Loesser (Guys & Dolls). This 1960 musical with a book by Loesser and Lesser Samuels and based on a novel by B.J. Chute is a pastoral tale of the citizens of the hamlet of Greenwillow, a magical town where the eldest man in each generation of the Briggs Family is stricken with a case of wanderlust. Gideon Briggs spends his days trying to fight his need to travel, instead focusing his energies on his girlfriend Dorrie. Greenwillow didn’t last for very long (97 performances, in fact), but one song did enjoy popularity: Gideon’s raison d’être, “Summertime Love,” a tribute to the excitement and passion of a summer romance.  

 

Carousel

No list of musicals that celebrate summer would be complete without a mention of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1945 masterpiece Carousel. What Broadway musical fan doesn’t meet the first of June with a rousing chorus of “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” the unofficial musical theater-style welcoming of summer? Most of Carousel is set in June, with summer offering romance, clambakes, marriages and the promise of new life. This 1945 musical, currently enjoying a revival on Broadway in which opera veteran and Tony Nominee Renee Fleming leads the signature song, brims with the possibilities that come with summer.

 

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

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