STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
It’s a weekend celebration of a Bucks County celebrity with the third Oscar Hammerstein Festival.
Oscar Hammerstein II, who passed away in 1960, was a musical theater lyricist and playwright who won eight Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Iconic musicals he collaborated on include “Show Boat,” “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music.” His Oscars were for best original song for “The Last Time I Saw Paris” in the film “Lady Be Good,” and in 1945 for “It Might as Well Be Spring” from “State Fair.” He even mentored Stephen Sondheim at his farm in Doylestown and wrote lyrics to 850 songs in all, many of which are still performed by jazz musicians.
What’s there to do?
Mostly taking place at the Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main St., New Hope. The must-do event is the concert “Hammerstein in Hollywood” at 8 p.m. April 22. The Broadway all-star cast, that will explore the writer’s contributions to film and television, features Andrea McArdle (“Annie”), Ashley Brown (“Mary Poppins”), Max von Essen (“An American in Paris”), Malcolm Gets (“Amour,” “A New Brain”) and Carmen Cusack (“Bright Star”). That’s also when Shirley Jones gets formally inducted into Bucks County Playhouse Hall of Fame. Due to an injury, Jones will unable to attend. Her son, Patrick Cassidy, will perform in the concert and accept honors on her behalf. A VIP and festival passholder reception follows the performance in the playhouse courtyard. Tickets for the concert and reception are $150. Concert-only tickets are $45 and $75.
Programming for Weekend Festival Pass holders includes an April 22 workshop featuring excerpts from “The New World,” a new musical that will debut at the theater this fall. Composer Gary Adler (“Altar Boyz”) and lyricist Phoebe Kreutz (“Awesomer & Awesomer”) will take festival pass holders into the evolution of the show. Also offered on Saturday will be “Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway” with theater columnist Michael Riedel.
On April 23 a Festival Finale for Passholders involves mingling with the festival’s creative team at an informal brunch at the historic home of producing director Alexander Fraser.
For more information, and to purchase tickets to the concert or a Weekend Festival Pass, visit www.buckscountyplayhouse.org or call (215) 862-2121.
Wait, what happened to Shirley Jones? Is she OK?
In a press release, Bucks County Playhouse producing director Alexander Fraser said: “Shirley Jones sadly cannot be with us due to a fracture. She is recovering and will be back on her feet soon, but her doctor has advised her not to travel. We are thrilled that her son Patrick Cassidy can be with us to
celebrate Oscar Hammerstein and Bucks County Playhouse, where his parents spent a fantastic summer of 1955. We also look forward to welcoming Andrea McArdle back to New Hope, where she last appeared on the Playhouse stage in 2014. While we are disappointed that Shirley cannot be with us, Patrick and Andrea are two enormously talented performers who certainly add extra star wattage to the already extraordinary cast assembled for this concert.”
Tell me more about the Bucks County Playhouse.
The theater presents professional theatrical entertainment, as well as community events, partnerships and arts education programming for visitors and residents of New Hope, Doylestown, Lambertville, NJ and the Delaware Valley.
The playhouse opened in 1939 in a converted 1790 gristmill after a group of community activists rallied to save the building. Among those who have graced the stage there: George S. Kaufman, Grace Kelly, Robert Redford, Walter Matthau, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters,
Alan Alda, Tyne Daly, Liza Minnelli and Audra McDonald. Closing in December 2010, the playhouse re-opened in 2012 thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit Bridge Street Foundation.
What about the parking in New Hope?
The Bucks County Playhouse lot is a metered lot. There’s prepaid playhouse valet parking for $20 available up to an hour and a half prior to curtain. You have to call the box office at (215) 862-2121. Also, the Union Square Lot on Bridge Street is walking distance from the playhouse.