We all love summer theater. It’s a great way to see some of your favorite plays while you are traveling on vacation in a wonderful place. And nothing beats Cape Cod. We all have John F. Kennedy to thank for protecting the National Seashore and its magnificent, award-winning beaches.
Who doesn’t remember JFK and his beloved Hyannisport? And Hyannis? Well, I’m here to tell you about a brand new, exciting concert and musical theater series that is destined for huge success – and will bring Broadway-quality theater and performances to Hyannis, Cape Cod. This way, you can spend your time at the glorious seashore during the day – and get a little bit of Broadway at night. What could be better on your summer vacation?
It’s called Cape Live, and it’s located at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center. A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended opening night of the preview season – and it couldn’t have been more fantastic. The new show — for one night only – was called Broadway Spotlight; it was an all-new celebration of Broadway’s brightest stars as they recreated their most memorable musical moments live on stage. These five performers took the audience on an incredible musical journey as they sang from gorgeous musicals; revealed career highlights; shared behind-the-scenes anecdotes; and even participated in a question-and-answer format with the audience.
The entire evening brought Broadway to the Cape, with these singers re-creating some of their most famous roles. For example, Lana Gordon sang “All That Jazz” from Chicago, complete with all of the acclaimed Bob Fosse moves. When she sang “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl, you could have heard a pin drop – she sang this tune even better than Barbara Streisand did in the movie.
Jon Peterson opened the show with a dazzling performance as the emcee in Cabaret, and it was mesmerizing. His performance made me want to rush out, immediately, to find a performance of the entire play somewhere in the world, to see it as fast as possible. It reminded me of how much I adore the show – and the movie in which Liza Minnelli won an Oscar.
The beautiful, blonde-and-lithe Judy McLane knocked our socks off with songs from Show Boat, Funny Lady and Mamma Mia.
And among other things, chanteuse Rona Figueroa broke our hearts with “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, “I’d Give My Life For You” from Miss Saigon and “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Mis.
We were also bowled over by Wade Preston, who played piano, sang, and performed from Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out, and it was fantastic. If you closed your eyes, you would have sworn it was Billy himself making live music in front of you.
Grab Your Seat And Enjoy So why did it take so long for this type of theater to come to Cape Cod?
The answer lies with Bill Hanney, the wunderkind entrepreneur who is a legend in theater circles. Mr. Hanney operates the wildly successful 1500-seat North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Mass., (which attracts five-star performers from around the globe), and the 500-seat Theatre by the Sea in Matunuck, R.I. He lives in Brewster (down the Cape) and he has tried for years to create theater for Cape Cod vacationers, who come in droves to the area, from all around the world. “I live on the Cape,” he told me, “And I’ve been trying to bring a show here for about 12 years. I couldn’t make a deal before.”
Well, now he’s done it, and “the response has been fantastic,” he says. “This is exactly what the Cape needs. Everyone tells me that the Cape needs more of this, so I must be doing something right.”
The preview show that I saw attracted a huge crowd, and the prices couldn’t have been better. They ranged from $29-$59, “so that everyone has a chance to see the show. The Cape attracts more than a million people on any given day in July and August – and I’m going to give ‘em what they want.”
Next summer Mr. Hanney will add to the roster with his production of Mamma Mia! – which was a phenomenal success when he launched it at both North Shore Music Theatre and Theatre by the Sea – and also Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story.
Mr. Hanney is the President of the Theater Owners of New England, owns seven movie theaters (three on the Cape) and is also one of the producers/investors in the recent Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Pippin, as well as its first national tour.
All we can say is “Encore!” And of course, thank you.
And here now are a couple of insider tips. After you visit Hyannis, I suggest that you drive about a half-hour to visit the Lower Cape, to the areas of Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro. I have spent the last 20 summers here, and there are so many distinctive things to enjoy. The National Seashore, as I mentioned above, features award-winning beaches such as Coast Guard Beach (although we spend most of our time at Nauset Light). After the beach, we visit a kettle pond such as Gull Pond, where families love to come and take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. At night, we might go to the Wellfleet Drive-In to see a movie – one of the few drive-in-theatres left in the country. And there's nothing like the Cape Cod Bike Trail to work up an appetite.
Some of the performers for the doo-wop smorgasbord had strutted their stuff on “American Bandstand” way back when a “huge” TV screen meant 12 inches.
HYANNIS – It’s the height of cliché to say the 1950s and early ’60s were a simpler time, but it’s true. You’d walk into the school gym on a Friday night and your biggest concern was whether the gallon of spray on your hair would keep it from frizzing. And the popular songs were simple odes to teen love with an occasional “rama-rama-ding-dong” thrown in for good measure, not rage-filled expressions of existential angst.
On Saturday night the anything-but-young audience for the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame concert, the second in this summer’s series being offered by Bill Hanney’s Cape Live Shows, took a (sea) cruise back to those days of Brylcreem and poodle skirts.
Some of the performers for the doo-wop smorgasbord had strutted their stuff on “American Bandstand” way back when a “huge” TV screen meant 12 inches and a clothes-hanger antenna was high tech. There was Marlboro resident Tony Funches of Herb Reed’s Platters; Shirley Reeves, original lead singer of The Shirelles; and the Marcels (of “Blue Moon” fame). And Bobby Brooks Wilson channeled his famous dad, Jackie, through oldies like “Twisting the Night Away” and “Lonely Teardrops”.
While most of the performers – like the songs they performed – were definitely oldies, they really were “goodies.” Their voices were still strong as they reached for the notes in songs like “Only You” and “Twilight Time,” and they moved across the stage with surprising dexterity. OK, there were a few moments when muscles and memories failed slightly, but audience members hardly noticed. They were lost in their own reveries filled with Archie-and-Veronica moments of days gone by. In fact, it was touching to watch white-haired couples snuggle a bit closer as favorite songs were performed. And a few brave souls got up and twisted the night away.
The biggest takeaway from an evening of doo-wop music was that it won’t be long before no one remembers walking into the high school gym as “Blue Moon” played. And that will be a sad day.
HYANNIS — Naming a show “Broadway Spotlight” is a double-edged sword. It immediately conjures up the glitter, glitz and neon of the home of the world’s greatest live entertainment. (That’s good!) But if the Great White Way is the measure, producers and performers have a pretty high wall to scale. (That could be a bit dicey.) The trick, it would seem, is to stock the production with performers who really call Broadway home and spotlight numbers that have “show-biz hits” written all over them.
That’s the route New York casting director Stephen DeAngelis, the show’s producer, takes with this first entry on Saturday night in the five-part Cape Live summer concert series. The vocalists and musicians really have performed in long lists of Broadway shows, and — for the most part — the numbers are so familiar they inspire instant audience singalongs. (In fact, one of the vocalists, Judy McLane, has played the principal role in “Mama Mia” more than 4,000 times.) And the spotlight is entirely on the performers, with only a bare stage and creative lighting to support them.
Along with a medley of “MamMa Mia” tunes, McLane performed “How Lucky Can You Get?” from “Funny Lady” and “Can’t Help Loving Dat Man” from “Showboat.” Fellow performer Lana Gordon opened the show with “All That Jazz” from “Chicago,” reprising her role as Velma Kelly in the long-running show, and she brought the house down with her steamy performance of “Summertime.” The third female vocalist, Rona Figueroa, struck an especially sweet note with performances of “I’d Give My Life For You” from “Miss Saigon” and “Something Wonderful” from “The King and I.”
Balancing out the show were male performers John Peterson, Wade Preston and Eugene Gwozdz, the show’s musical director. Peterson performed a couple of song-and-dance numbers including the ever-popular “Singin’ in the Rain,” while reprising his role as the Emcee in “Cabaret” with “Willkomen.” Preston channeled Billy Joel convincingly for “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (Bottle of Red, Bottle of White) and, of course, “Piano Man.” And Gwozdz did the honors throughout as accompanist and purveyor of one-liners.
Cape Live owner and producer Bill Hanney writes in a program note that the company is just getting its feet wet with this year’s season. “Broadway Spotlight” will be followed by four other concerts. Hanney promises to bring popular musicals to the Cape next year. Let’s hope that’s a promise he keeps.
Bill Hanney's Cape Live is giving away a mega ticket-plus-celebrity-meet-and-greet package to one lucky Ocean 104.7 listener. For those who don't know, Cape Live is producing five celebrity concerts on the Cape at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center in Hyannis. With Broadway, Doo-Wopp, Rat Pack Show, Dancing with the Stars Celebrity Pros, and TV's Housewives—there's something for everyone!
For your chance to win, click this linkand fill out the form for your chance to win! And be sure to listen every day to Ocean 104.7 to find out more about our 2019 Concert Series, and other fun music giveaway promotions!
Bill Hanney aims to offer something different to Cape theatregoers, including dance shows and audience Q&A sessions with reality TV stars and Broadway performers. [Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times]
After decades of running movie theaters on the Cape and Islands, Bill Hanney finally is pursuing his true passion — live theater — closer to home.
Hanney, a part-time Brewster resident, will this summer bring performers from Broadway, television and film, including Lesley Ann Warren and “housewives” of reality TV, to Hyannis for a series of five one-night music and dance events. He has created a new production company, Bill Hanney’s CapeLive Concert Series, and the shows are the first step of a plan to move his live-theater interests to this side of the Cape Cod Canal. Hanney wants to stage large-scale Broadway musicals here, too, like those he produces to often sellout crowds at two theaters he owns off-Cape. He’s already planned a two-week run of “Mamma Mia!” for summer 2020 in Hyannis and may stage a second show. “I’ve always wanted to bring shows to the Cape — that’s where I live,” he said in a phone interview, and laughed. “I’m going to bring shows to where I live, and I’m going to watch them.”
Celebrities due to appear in July and August at Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center include Warren (Oscar-nominated for “Victor/Victoria,” with her many TV appearances including 1965′s “Cinderella”); members of “Real Housewives” reality-TV casts, including Teresa Guidice and Margaret Josephs; actors with numerous Broadway credits, including the longest-running star of “Mamma Mia!”; singer Sandy Hackett (son of Buddy Hackett) in a Rat Pack variety show; top doo-wop performers, including Shirley Reeves, original lead singer of the Shirelles; and dancers from TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars.” (see lineup below)
Hanney owns seven movie complexes in four states, including Entertainment Cinemas in Dennis, Falmouth and Edgartown. Long an enthusiastic audience member and producer of live theater, though, he also has, over the past 12 years, reopened and rehabilitated the seasonal 1,500-seat North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly and the 500-seat Theatre by the Sea (with restaurant) in Matunuck, Rhode Island.
Audiences for his shows, he reported, have grown to an average season attendance last year of 98 percent of the house in Rhode Island and 83 percent at the much larger North Shore venue.
He’s using that success to launch the Cape concert series, with an estimated 100,000 people he can reach by email through his other theaters, by setting up phone lines at those venues for Cape ticket sales and by adding the Cape shows to his Boston advertising to reach tourists.
Hanney has long wanted a live-theater presence on the Cape to create a multi-theater circuit to move his musicals from place to place. He pursued taking over management and rehabilitation of the Cape Playhouse in Dennis as it struggled in recent years with financial troubles and multiple changes of leadership, but the board of directors, he said, wasn’t interested.
So, for now, that third home for Hanney is the 1,400-seat theater at Barnstable High. “It’s a nice theater, a perfect theater to put a show in,” he said. “All the infrastructure is there” for a large production, including a pit for his live orchestras, though he plans to bring in hundreds of extra pieces of lighting and sound equipment.
With this concert series, Hanney is adding new competition for tourist and resident entertainment dollars in the already busy Cape summer theater scene as well as with the Cape Cod Melody Tent, just a three-minute (he timed it) drive away. When he brings in large-scale musicals with professional casts next year, the closest venue offering that same type and caliber of entertainment will be Cape Playhouse, 11 miles from BHS. Hanney shrugs off comparisons, though. “We’re offering something kind of different than anyone else is offering,” he said of this year’s lineup, including dance shows that are rare on the Cape and audience Q&A sessions with reality TV stars and Broadway performers.
He said any Broadway musicals he brings in the future will stand out in other ways. “There’s a lot of terrific local theater here, with local talent, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But they’re all small. It’s the same in Rhode Island; there are little theaters, then there’s Theatre by the Sea and PPAC (Providence Performing Arts Center).” Hanney said his company spent $300,000 to put “Mamma Mia!” on the Rhode Island stage — “Wait until you see the sets!” — and that no other Cape theater spends that kind of money on a show. It’s that successful production from last year that he plans to remount in 2020 in Hyannis, after it sold out five weeks at Theatre by the Sea and also sold well at North Shore.
“We know it’s a hit,” Hanney said. “The production is terrific.”
The shows he’s bringing to Hyannis this year already have proven to be big draws, too, he said. “Harvey Robbins’ Doo-Wopp Hall of Fame of America” has played to enthusiastic crowds at both of his other theaters, he said, while a show similar to “Broadway Spotlight” sold out in advance last year at Theatre by the Sea, and “Dance To the Movies” last year “sold terrifically” at North Shore.
And Hackett’s show of songs by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others was scheduled last year for early in the season at Theatre by the Sea, so Hanney had only modest expectations. “This thing went insane,” though, he said. “You couldn’t get a ticket in that theater. I brought it back at the end of the season for an encore, and the shows sold out.”
His idea for creating the Hyannis series started with just two shows, but built to five. “I guess it’s ‘go big or go home,’” he said with a laugh.
Hanney has been in show business for decades, owning various movie theaters, booking rock shows and other types of entertainment, then producing national tours of Broadway shows in the 1990s before owning his own theaters. For his movie theaters, since 2009, he’s been president of the two-dozen-member Theater Owners of New England. He’s also a member of the League of Broadway Producers.
Now adding to his professional presence on Cape Cod as well as his personal one, Hanney has joined the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and is looking for ways to get more involved in the community as he feels out the local business climate.
— Follow Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.