This summer, Mason Street Warehouse at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SCA) will stage two musicals famous from Broadway: Kinky Boots and Jersey Boys.
Jersey Boys tells the story of The Four Seasons, the 1960s rock and roll group fronted by Frankie Valli. Their biggest songs have endured for over half a century: “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night),” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Walk Like A Man,” and more. For people of a certain age, just reading the titles can set musical earworms into motion.
The musical dramatizes the band’s rise and fall through the conceit of four “seasons”: sections narrated by individual members. Through them, the band will go from being lower-class New Jersey kids to wildly famous chart toppers. Premiering on Broadway in 2005, it played there for twelve years, drawing huge crowds and earning, among other awards, the Tony for Best Musical, the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
Kinky Boots is just as big a crowd-pleaser, as its pedigree attests; pop star Cyndi Lauper wrote the music and lyrics, and actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein did the book. Based on a 2005 British film, it’s about a young man who, having inherited a shoe factory from his father, finds financial success and real fulfillment by joining forces with a drag queen and turning out a line of sparkly red boots. The result is a show determined to make you happier walking out than you were in
Despite facing stiff competition in Matilda and Pippin, Kinky Boots received thirteen Tony nominations (the highest of any show that season) and won six (also a season high), including Best Musical and Best Score. Lauper was the first woman ever to win a solo award for Best Score. It played on Broadway for six years, from 2003 to 2013.
To produce these shows at the level they deserve requires time, money, energy, and talent. Kurt Stamm, artistic director of SCA, points out that the talent that will be onstage is considerable. Thirty-eight actors will be involved, many hailing from New York City, allowing for a high level of artistic success.
He’s confident audiences will turn out. “These are contemporary shows, shows that our audience wants to see. We are competing heavily with any kind of a screen these days. Over the pandemic, we trained ourselves to stay at home. We need to give people a reason to come out.” He shared that, during the pandemic, he tried to watch the recording of Hamilton but turned it off after fifteen minutes. “I don’t want to be told where to look. That’s what movies are for.”
Megan Scheerhorn, director of marketing, said, “Our vision as a company is that we connect to people and build community and transform lives through the arts. Musical theater is just another form of art that we bring to west Michigan that allows us to do that.
“Hopefully, the audience members are able to learn a lesson along the way, or even just have a moment to relax and enjoy some entertainment. That can be a transformative experience in itself.”
Mason Street Warehouse
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St., Saugatuck
Kinky Boots, June 23-July 16
Jersey Boys, August 11-September 3