Bristol Riverside Theatre brings the 25th annual Summer Music Fest to a close with a huge celebration of the music of Broadway. While Broadway itself is still dark, BRT brings local favorites and Broadway voices into homes for the theater’s annual Broadway Summer Spectacular.
All summer long, the show has gone on from Bucks County to the world. The popular, annual summertime music series is a highlight for the theater. This summer, performances can be watched anywhere with a solid internet connection and a music lover singing behind the screen.
The series closes with the annual Broadway Summer Spectacular on Sept. 2, 4 and 6. The final show will feature local favorite Keith Spencer, Broadway and TV actor Telly Leung, Broadway actor Derrick Cobey, and BRT audience favorite Jessica Wagner, who recently toured with The Phantom of the Opera across North America. Tickets are on sale now. Each performance is pre-recorded. The band is led by BRT artistic director Keith Baker, who also serves as the host and music director for the show.
“We heard raves about the first concert. One patron called me in the middle of it to tell me that she was unexpectedly crying because she hadn’t realized how much she missed theater,” said BRT co-producing director Amy Kaissar. “What we’ve heard more than anything is how surprised folks were that it really felt like we were all together watching a concert and how much it reminded them of everything they love about BRT.”
“We wanted to find a way to keep a connection to our audiences,” added Baker. “I hope audiences continue to enjoy our Summer Music Fest – this time from the comforts of wherever they are. The show must go on and we can’t thank everyone enough for their ongoing support of our work.”
Broadway Summer Spectacular will feature Broadway’s best from composers like Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers and George Gershwin. After the first concert, the BRT team learned a lot about technology, and have shifted the concerts from Zoom to YouTube.
“It’s essentially a new frontier of concert making and the learning curve has been steep,” said BRT co-producing director Ken Kaissar. “We learn more per day doing this than we normally learn per year making theater. I think the most exciting thing to discover has not been technical, but rather that it really is possible to create shared live experiences this way.”
Shows will stream Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 6, at 3 p.m. Audiences can expect songs from Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof, Aladdin, Kiss Me Kate, Guys and Dolls, Company, The Secret Garden, My One and Only and others. In addition to BRT favorites, it’s welcoming Leung of Broadway’s Aladdin, Allegiance and Godspell, and the hit TV series Glee, for his BRT debut.
Baker and founding director Susan Atkinson created the Summer Music Fest 25 years ago to offer programming in the summer at the theater. The concerts were a way to excite the audience during a time when the theater was dark, and each year the audience has grown and turned the concerts into one of BRT’s most popular events.
“We’re so proud to bring this music tradition back and lift everyone’s spirits,” said Baker. “When our production of Cabaret was cut short at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and theater stages everywhere went dark, we lost a bit of joy, creativity and hope in the world. We want to bring back the sound of music to theater lovers everywhere and keep the 25-year-old tradition alive. I hope the Summer Music Fest continues as long as we have audiences to see them.”
Tickets from the series help keep the theater’s doors open and raise funds to help it reopen later this year. Tickets to the show cost $35. After each purchase, the buyer will be sent a YouTube link prior to the performance. Tickets are available at BRTstage.org and 215-785-0100. The Summer Music Fest is sponsored by William J. Salerno, Esq. and Juniper Communities, with special thanks to The Grundy Foundation.