It's been years now since Summerfare Musical Theatre Company presented its theatrical fare exclusively in the summer. These days, the season kicks off with a mid-summer show, and then runs from September through May. What hasn't changed, however, according to Randall Kramer, the company's artistic director, is Summerfare's dedication to "world premieres, local premieres, or established musicals done in a different way."
In residence at Daemen College, Summerfare is based in the Daemen Theatre, an intimate space whose size precludes the staging of big shows like "Oklahoma," "Fiddler on the Roof" or "Gypsy." What Kramer is looking for, he seems delighted to say, are smaller shows, some less well-known, and others, like last season's "Wings," bordering on musical drama.
The current production, which runs through Feb. 6, is a local premiere of "Tapestry: The Songs of Carole King," and features the music of the singer-songwriter. Six performers take turns singing the songs, some of which are choreographed and presented as vignettes rather than concert pieces. "Tapestry," directed by John Fredo, uses songs from the album of the same name but also includes pieces written by King for Motown and others.
"We're getting younger audiences," says Kramer, who thinks the show is providing a kind of "initiation experience" for some newcomers to theater.
In mid-February, Summerfare will stage "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," a musical comedy with appeal to a slightly older group. Baby boomers might recognize in Joe DiPietro's and Jimmy Roberts' comedy the ups and downs of dating, marrying and having children, a subject that has intrigued playwrights since the days of Classical Greek theater. "I Love You" will be followed by "That's Vaudeville!" a revue likely to evoke memories of shows in Buffalo's Erlanger Theatre, one of the stops on the vaudeville circuit in the early 20th Century.
"That's Vaudeville!" was written and put together by Kramer himself, who wanted to examine "how vaudeville's traditions have influenced today's comedy." The show will include classic comedy and burlesque bits, specialty acts, song and dance.
Previous shows this year have included "A . . . My Name Will Always Be Alice," a compilation of the two previous "Alice" shows, and Walton Jones's "The 1940's Radio Hour," a musical that brings back some of the fun associated with live radio.
Kramer, who founded Summerfare, remembers in the company's early days wearing three or four hats, producing, directing, managing and occasionally writing. Nowadays, he enjoys the process of working with directors he brings in, and of "being helpful without stepping on toes."
Besides, Kramer has other productive ways of spending his time -- he looks forward to breaking ground on a small expansion of the 103-seat Daemen Theatre. Judging by the steady increase in its audiences, Summerfare Musical Theatre could use the elbow room.