Bristol Riverside Theatre patrons were devastated last year when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped its mainstage season in its tracks. A mere day after opening night of Cabaret, the world – especially the live events industry – came to a screeching, indefinite halt.
But the curtain is ready to rise once again this month for BRT’s 35th season.
“We are thrilled to return to the stage with in-person shows after 17 months,” said BRT co-producing director Amy Kaissar. “It means so much for our entire company and BRT family to get back to doing what we love and do best. Audiences should expect what they always expect from BRT – top-notch acting, gorgeous sets and shows that enable them to feel more deeply, to laugh more joyfully, and to reflect on ourselves and the world in which we live.”
The slate of shows commences with the two-person musical Murder for Two, Sept. 21-Oct. 10. It’s a whodunit for two actors, one playing the detective, the other playing all 13 suspects, and both of them taking turns accompanying each other at the piano.
“Murder for Two is hilariously good fun,” said BRT co-producing director Ken Kaissar. “It’s just hilarious to watch these two guys try to hold it together playing some 14 parts, plus the piano, throughout a whodunnit murder mystery. It’s full of surprises and laughs. We picked it way before the pandemic and we’re even more excited now that it’s kicking off the season because what could be better for our first show back than a riotous evening?”
Next up is Skeleton Crew, Nov. 2-21. Four Detroit auto workers panic as rumors that their factory is closing circulate through the tight-knit work community. With their futures unknown, each of the workers must make difficult choices about loyalty to each other, the company and themselves.
“Skeleton Crew is one of the best plays written in the last decade,” said Amy. “It’s a brilliant script that encompasses so much of what was, and is, happening as our country and economy changes. It’s a story about pressures between what’s right for each of us as individuals versus what’s right for us as a community and what happens when the circumstances that underlie the promises we were given change. While it’s set in Detroit, it has tremendous relevance for our community in Bristol.”
In winter, BRT will present a mystery between two high school students in I and You, Jan. 25-Feb. 13. Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn’t been to school in months. Anthony, a high school athlete, arrives unexpectedly at her door with an urgent group assignment from their English teacher. As the two begin to let down their guards and share their secrets, they uncover the profound mystery that has brought them together.
“I and You is a really fun ride,” said Ken. “I read it first and immediately handed it to Amy saying, ‘I’m not going to tell you anything about this but you need to read it.’ The second Amy finished it, she passed it to the next person with the same words, and it went through the company that way. While we originally just loved the mind-blowing ride it takes you on, it turned out that after 2020, a story about a teenager, isolated at home and stuck with remote learning, is far more relevant than we expected it to be. Who can’t relate to this now?”
Next is A Comedy of Tenors, March 8-27. The “Concert of the Century” is just hours away and there’s a stadium filled with screaming fans, but the three tenors have other concerns. What ensues is a whirlwind of misunderstandings, mistaken identity and hilarity.
“We’re both big fans of well-constructed comedies and A Comedy of Tenors is just that,” said Amy. “It’s a really fun farce and those are harder to come by than you might suspect. It’s mistaken identities, accents galore, physical impediments and a whole bunch of doors.”
The season closes with A Few Good Men, May 3-22. It includes one woman fighting for her place in a world of men, two teenage Marines accused or murder, and a world in which lives and nations hang on the precision of orders followed.
“There’s a reason that this play launched Aaron Sorkin’s career,” said Ken. “Everyone just remembers Jack Nicholson screaming at Tom Cruise. But this show is so much more. It’s about power structures in America, it’s about our national ethics, it’s about race and gender, it’s about one woman facing off against a sea of men. It’s insanely articulate in its full-throated defense of those who protect our freedoms as well as those who make sure that laws are followed.”
For a holiday treat in between mainstage shows, the season includes BRT’s popular An American Christmas Songbook, Dec. 9-19. BRT favorites take the stage to perform carols and heartwarming Christmas songs.
Also, BRT announced the new Boat to Bristol Champagne Cruise, running during Murder for Two on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. Why drive to BRT when you can take a champagne cruise down the Delaware? Pick-up is at the Trenton Marina, then cruise over to BRT in time to have lunch before the curtain goes up. Tickets are $100 per person. Cost includes the champagne boat ride and show ticket. To purchase, call Jackie DiFerdinando, development manager, at 215-785-6664. The Boat to Bristol is a fundraising event. Seating capacity is limited and first-come, first-served until tickets are sold out.
Season subscriptions and individual show tickets are available. Student and military discounts are available, as are $10 discounted tickets for Bristol Township residents courtesy of Flager & Associates, PC, and $5 tickets for preview performances for Bristol Borough residents. Subscriptions start at $150. Single tickets are also on sale starting at $43. For purchases and additional show information, visit brtstage.org or call 215-785-0100. BRT is located at 120 Radcliffe St.
BRT will follow all local and state guidelines for health and safety. For the start of the season, masks will be required for all patrons regardless of vaccination status, except in designated areas for eating and drinking.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org