Theatreworks/USA's 12th Annual Summer Theatre Series is presenting a free, eight-part musical revue, “Reading Rainbow” Already underway, the series runs through 29 at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse in Manhattan. Actors Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick are honorary chairs for the summer series.
Based on the popular PBS Children’s Series "Reading Rainbow," which encourages the development of reading skills for children, the summer series comprises eight short stories adapted from popular children’s books that have already been proven success on the PBS show. Creative teams from musical theatre have fashioned mini-musicals of the stories.
The revue features "highlights of eight beloved children's books adapted by a variety of talented writers...as performed by a multi-racial cast." Each story represents "various issues, themes and ideas relevant to a broad and diverse audience of children."
The stories scheduled for the Theatreworks summer series are:
Martha Speaks: the tale of a family dog who literally becomes outspoken after dining on alphabet soup. Based on "Martha Speaks," by Susan Meddaugh and adapted by Art Perlman and Jeff Lunden. Math Curse addresses the phobia some kids have with math problems. Based on "Math Curse" by Jon Scieszka and adapted by Mindi Dickstein and Dan Messe.
Amazing Grace follows a young girl attempting to break stereotypes. Based on "Amazing Grace" by Mary Hoffman and adapted by Kirsten Childs, the triple threat behind Off-Broadway's The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin.
In Imogene's Antlers, a young Imogene wakes up with "cool" antlers but discovers that her parents and teachers do not share her enthusiasm. Based on "Imogene's Antlers" by David Small and adapted by Robert J. Lopez and Jeff Marx.
Owen is the story of a little mouse who can't bear to part with his beloved blanket. Based on "Owen" by Kevin Henkes and adapted by Meagan Cavalleri and Len Schiff.
In Bea and Mr. Jones, a father and daughter decide to exchange routines -- Bea goes to the office while Mr. Jones attends kindergarten. Based on "Bea and Mr. Jones" by Amy Schwartz and adapted by Stephen Cole and Steven Silverstein.
The Mexican classic, "Borreguita and the Coyote" is the tale of a little lamb who uses her wits to escape a coyote. Based on Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema and adapted by Robert J. Lopez and Jeff Marx.
In Appelemando's Dreams a young boy's dreams appear as colors in the sky and when it rains, the dreary village is repainted with a rainbow of colors. Based on "Appelemando's Dreams" by Patricia Polacco and adapted by Art Perlman and Jeff Lunden.
The programming is recommended for children ages 4 and older.
Theatreworks/USA is a nonprofit theatre group that is known for its programming for children. It has been credited with helping to boost the careers of Henry Winkler, Susan Egan, Jerry Zaks, Judy Kuhn, Charles Strouse, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty among others.
Underwritten by the National Endowment for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts, the Theatreworks summer series is also supported by funding from The Louis Calder Foundation, Citigroup, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., the Ilma F. Kern Foundation, the James T. Lee Foundation, the Sunny and Abe Rosenberg Foundation, The Scherman Foundation, Inc. and The Shubert Foundation, Inc.
Founded in 1961, Theatreworks/USA has a repertory of 96 plays and musicals which it performs at the Auditorium at Equitable Tower from Oct. - April. In addition to the Free Summer Theatre for New York area children, the company performs nationally for schoolchildren in theatres ranging from school auditoriums to the Kennedy Center.
The performance schedule for Theatreworks/USA’s Free Summer Theatre presentation of “Reading Rainbow” is July 13 - 15 at 11 AM; July 18 to 29, weekdays at 11 AM and 1 PM and on Saturdays at 11 AM. There will be a special 2 PM performance on Mon., July 17 and an additional performance at 1 PM on Sat., July 22. For additional information on Theatreworks/USA’s Free Summer Theatre call (212) 642-6754.
Tickets for the summer series are free on a first come, first served basis beginning at 10 AM on the day of performance at the Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse, located on East 68th Street between Park & Lexington Avenues. All performances are one hour. For additional information call (212) 642-6754.
-- By Murdoch McBride