SSTI’s Summer Theatre Series Sizzles
Author: Erin Laytham Lentz
For most people, summertime conjures up images of lazy days on the beach, warm nights spent with sunsets and cold concoctions in hand. Island life makes this easy; however, culturally-rich experiences often require a trip to a big city. But what if the city could come to us? This summer, arts lovers will have the chance to bask in more than just sunshine, thanks to the Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute’s delivery of a big splash of Broadway on Hilton Head Island.
SSTI is fueled by the desire and passion of its highly-celebrated visionary and founder, Ben Wolfe. Wolfe will produce three professional shows through a unique collaboration of Broadway directors, a cast of New York performers and elite young actors. The unforgettable series kicks off with Catch Me If You Can, A New Musical, June 24-July 3 at the Seahawk Cultural Center. It’s followed by Almost Heaven, John Denver’s America, July 20-Aug 7 at Main Street Theatre and concludes with Pippin, July 29-Aug 7 at the Seahawk Cultural Center. A summer season ticket to all three shows is just $75.
The program, now in its ninth season, hardly resembles its first summer. The idea was born when Wolfe, a young college student pursuing a theatre degree, was approached by a parent to produce a summer camp. The first production, held in an old church, set in motion the institute that exists today, which is a full-on destination boarding summer program. Each year, actors audition around the world to secure one of the coveted 25 spots in each of the productions. “The program has grown beyond my wildest dreams,” Wolfe said. “If you had asked me at 20, if my full-time job would be with SSTI, I never would have imagined it.”
This year, Wolfe is thrilled to be moving the entire program exclusively to his home, Hilton Head Island. Actors and families from 26 states and four countries will arrive on the island this summer, many for the first time. The opportunity to bring quality, professional, musical theatre to the island while creating a calculated 400k economic impact is an impressive feat. How does one dynamic individual put such a task into motion?
Wolfe credits the SSTI staff as the driving force behind the program’s continued success. This year, audiences will see a production team with credentials unlike anything this island has seen, including directors who are creative alumnus of Tony-winning Broadway productions.
“We have these weekly staff conference calls and they’re literally leaving a production meeting for an upcoming Broadway musical to hop on the line and talk about their direction at SSTI! I can’t believe it,” Wolfe said.
And this talent and level of accomplishment is prevalent across the board. The set designer for Catch Me If You Can just finished working on the set of The Elephant Man on Broadway, starring Bradley Cooper. The cast and the audiences will reap the benefits of these seasoned talents and the work they will bring to local theatre this summer.
Summer series synopsis
Catch Me If You Can
Based on a true story (and the hit 2002 film starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo Dicaprio), this high flying musical tells the story of teenage con-man Frank Abagnale Jr. and his first-class exploits that land him on the FBI’s most wanted list. From the creators of the musical Hairspray, this electric musical takes audiences around the world with Frank Jr. as he outsmarts the FBI and maintains his A-list life, posing as one of society’s elites. With a big band score and infectious energy, this show is a great way to kick start your summer and SSTI’s smashing season.
Almost Heaven, John Denver’s America
Following the success of last summer’s hit Always, Patsy Cline, SSTI looks to transport audiences back in time once again with another artist that defined a generation: John Denver. With a cast of five talented New York actor/singer/musicians, this unforgettable night of 29 John Denver songs comes to life in the Main Street Theatre beginning July 20.
This Tony Award-winning musical features magic, merriment and murder, all as told by a traveling troupe of actors led by a cunning and charming leading player. Pippin is the story of a young prince, heir to the throne, who is searching for his own “corner of the sky.” With infectious tunes by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and Bob Fosse-inspired choreography, Pippin is a humorous allegory about growing up and the every man’s quest to be extraordinary.
For tickets or more information, visit HHISummerMusicals.com or call (866) 749-2228.