Bristol Riverside Theatre veteran Sean Thompson is thrilled to once again perform in front of a live audience as part of the annual Summer Music Fest.
Last year, the concert series tradition was held virtually, with Thompson and his fellow singers recording clips from their places of quarantine, which were sprinkled across the country.
“Keith Baker [leader of the concert series and former BRT artistic director] always brings me back. He asked us to come back this summer and I didn’t even hesitate because it’s like a theater home to me,” said Thompson. “But it does feel really weird, honestly. It’s kind of like, if an athlete stopped running for 15 months and then was suddenly told to go run a marathon. It’s like a muscle that hasn’t been used. But it’s also like riding a bike.”
Thompson recently finished up “Broadway Memories,” a concert chock-full of hits from Hamilton, Frozen and more. He’s now in rehearsal for “Totally Awesome 80s,” running July 16-17, at 8 p.m., and July 18, at 3 p.m.
“The ‘80s to me, musically, is really interesting. It’s like no other decade. You can kind of define decades by, ‘Oh, that was this sound or that sound.’ The ‘90s, that was grunge. The ‘70s, that was classic rock. The ‘80s, it was a lot of everything, electronica plus new wave,” said Thompson. “I’m really interested in bringing some new wave into it, like David Bowie. Also that ‘80s pop that everyone loved back in the day. I’m hoping to sing some George Michael songs, some Eurythmics. You can expect it to run the gamut.”
Joining Thompson will be fellow BRT favorites Demetria Joyce Bailey, Derrick Cobey and Laura Giknis. All concerts are taking place at the all new outdoor amphitheater in Bristol Township, located at 2501 Bath Road.
“It’s a good spirit of camaraderie and just getting the band back together. After 15 months of being forced to not have fun, there’s nothing more fun than I can think of than music from the ‘80s. Come out, bring a lawn chair, chill out on the grass, enjoy some great music,” said Thompson. “There’s nothing like that energy that gets passed between us and the audience.”
For Thompson, returning to BRT is especially meaningful since he was in its final production before COVID-19 shutdowns. Thompson portrayed American writer Cliff in Cabaret, which celebrated a successful opening night on Thursday, March 12, only to be closed indefinitely the next day.
“It was really unfortunate because this is what I do, it’s my job. It’s not often when you’re a professional performer that you really get to say, ‘Wow, this show is really good. I really believe in how good this show is.’ It’s a special time when that does happen. And there was something about that role that really spoke to me. A writer from Pennsylvania? That happens to be exactly what I am,” said Thompson, a Mayfair native and Archbishop Ryan alum. “It was a magic sort of experience that just got shut down.”
Though there are talks of bringing Cabaret back, Thompson believes it won’t be until the majority of patrons feel safe to sit inside the theater.
In the meantime, the Summer Music Fest, sponsored this year by William Penn Bank, will offer “70s Flashback” on July 30-31, at 8 p.m.; “Broadway Ahead” on Aug. 13-14, at 8 p.m., and Aug. 15, at 3 p.m.; and “The Doo Wop Project” on Aug. 27-28, at 8 p.m.
“It’s the same great summer entertainment that people expect from BRT, only now it’s outdoors, under the stars, with good food,” said BRT producing director Ken Kaissar. “Rather than being cooped up in a theater, audiences can kick off their shoes and dance along while listening to great sounds of wonderful music. It’s everything summer should be.”
Tickets for each concert are $35. Seating is socially distanced and masks are required when not seated. Food trucks will be on-site. No alcohol permitted. Chairs and blankets are available for purchase at the venue and online. All seating is general admission. Visit brtstage.org or call the box office at 215-785-0100 for tickets and more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org