Sunday, July 01, 2001

CCM celebrates 20 years of Hot Summer Nights

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hot Summer Nights' 20th anniversary at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is sort of like the millennium. When is it really?

        When Worth Gardner started the series with The Fantasticks, Side by Side by Sondheim, Working and Chicago in 1980, it turned out not to be a series and in fact disappeared for two years, returning in 1983.

        Not to put too fine a point on it, the 1997 summer theater series, which took place while the new campus village was under construction, was put together by independent producers (including Pam Myers, who will play a vital role this season). They were forbidden to use the title Hot Summer Nights.

[photo] Pamela Meyers plays Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!
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        Bygones are clearly bygones; 1997 is in the official books, and that adds up to 20 years of summer theater on the UC campus in 2001.

        Artistic director Richard Hess notes, “Not many things last for 20 years.”

Future stars

        What keeps Hot Summer Nights a summer “be there” are the kids who attend CCM. They populate the Hot Summer Nights company every year.

        In that first season, Vicki Lewis was a fledgling in The Fantasticks, her Tony nominations and a network sitcom role (NBC's Three Sisters) in the future. Stephen Flaherty was at the keyboard, before going on to win some attention as the composer of Ragtime, Once on This Island, Seussical andthe animated film Anastasia.

        Also on hand in 1980 were two current CCM faculty members. Then-student Patricia Linhart returns this season as henpecking wife and smother-mother Queen Aggravain in Once Upon a Mattress. Technical director Steve Waxler has worked on every show in the series. Hello, Dolly! will be his 61st Hot Summer Nights production.

Student opportunities

        It may look like a long way from Mr. Gardner's The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1984, still the stuff of local theater legend, and the recent string of crowd-pleasers (including last year's A Chorus Line and Oliver).

        Nope, Mr. Hess says. “The mission hasn't changed or morphed. It's still about giving students opportunities.

        “Dolly! is a show they wouldn't get to do during the year because of the age of the lead character (who will be played by Equity guest artist Ms. Myers). That it's a popular show is a happy accident.”


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