10 summer theater shows you should have on your radar

Summer is typically considered the slowest period for theater, but that’s not necessarily the case for the Miami Valley and neighboring regions. In fact, a handful of promising shows from the conclusion of the 2015-16 season and the beginning of the 2016-17 season are within your grasp. From Broadway’s third longest-running and most beloved musicals to one of the country’s most respected playwrighting festivals, you’re bound to find something appealing and impactful to keep you entertained. Here are 10 shows you won’t want to miss.

DISNEY’S THE LION KING

There are many reasons why Disney’s “The Lion King” continues to reign on Broadway and on tour. Winner of six 1998 Tony Awards including Best Musical, this stunning powerhouse of dramatic flair and puppetry strikes an emotional chord while showcasing some of the most marvelously inventive stagecraft ever conceived courtesy of visionary director/designer Julie Taymor. If you love the film, you’ll be blown away by the razzle dazzle of this eye-catching spectacle, which serves as the season finale of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.

Where: Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: June 7-July 3

Reasons to go: Brilliant stagecraft, sets, costumes, masks and puppetry

Tickets/more info: (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson changed the theatrical landscape with his signature 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th century. Columbus’ Short North Stage, a professional troupe that has given many Dayton actors a chance to shine in such shows as “A Little Night Music,” “Cabaret” and “Sunset Boulevard,” continues its celebratory August Wilson Festival with this rarely attempted 1982 masterwork about music, racism and racial exploitation in 1920s Chicago. The production is notably directed by Mark Clayton Southers, who helmed the Human Race Theatre Company’s thrilling 2012 production of Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”

Where: Garden Theater, 1187 North High Street, Columbus

When: June 2-19

Reasons to go: It’s one of August Wilson’s rarely staged gems within his acclaimed “Pittsburgh Cycle”

Tickets/more info: (614) 725-4042 or visit shortnorthstage.org

MASTER CLASS

Opera diva Maria Callas is the focal point of this 1996 Tony Award-winning play by Terrence McNally presented by the Human Race Theatre Company. The larger-than-life Callas (Human Race alumna Mierka Girten) takes three Julliard School students under her wing for a strict yet enlightening journey through gorgeous pieces by Puccini and Verdi. Along the way, she reveals her triumphs and heartbreaks including her affair with Aristotle Onassis. The production features recent Wright State University graduate Cassi Mikat,m who was spectacular in the regional premiere of “Sondheim on Sondheim” last season. Mikat will portray Sharon Graham, the role that won Audra McDonald her second of six Tonys.

Where: Loft Theatre, 126 North Main Street, Dayton

When: June 9-26

Reasons to go: Fascinating character study of a legendary artist accented with beautiful music

Tickets/more info: (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com

FELLOW TRAVELERS

Cincinnati Opera’s 96th season contains the buzzworthy world premiere of composer Gregory Spears and librettist/playwright Greg Pierce’s “Fellow Travelers,” based on the 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon. Set in 1950s Washington, D.C., this bold, heartrending work concerns recent college graduate Timothy Laughlin, a devout Catholic vowing to fight Communism. Situations swell when Tim falls in love with State Department official Hawkins Fuller as the McCarthyism of the era turns its focus to “sexual subversives.”

Where: Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut Street, Cincinnati

When: June 17-July 10

Why You Should Want To Go: This world premiere opera dares to explore sexuality, religion and politics during the height of McCarthy era intimidation

Tickets/more info: (513) 241-2742 or visit cincinnatiopera.org

BIG FISH

This folksy, heartwarming and family-friendly 2013 adaptation of the Daniel Wallace novel and Tim Burton film of the same name will be the 26th summer musical presentation from the Epiphany Players Drama Ministry of Epiphany Lutheran Church. Per tradition, Epiphany casts everyone who auditions, so expect another large, upbeat, multi-generational ensemble to fill the stage with spirited zest as the musical addresses the importance of living life to the fullest. The charming score is by Tony nominee Andrew Lippa (“The Addams Family,” “The Wild Party”).

Where: Epiphany Lutheran Church, 6430 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton

When: July 14-24

Reasons to go: The Epiphany summer musicals offer a longstanding tradition of large scale shows executed with exuberant precision

Tickets/more info: (937) 433-1449 ext. 105 or visit epiphanydayton.org

DAYTON PLAYHOUSE FUTUREFEST

The 26th annual nationally recognized festival of new plays, an all-volunteer event, will be one of the most refreshingly diverse in recent memory, especially from the African-American perspective. Dramas concerning race, addiction and tradition are among the six, previously unproduced works from playwrights across the country that will be staged and professionally adjudicated over three days. In several firsts, all six finalists are from different states and three in particular are female (two are African-American). Adrienne Earle Pender of Willow Spring, N.C., a 2002 FutureFest finalist for “The Rocker,” notably returns with “N,” an eye-opening look at the creation of Eugene O’Neill’s drama “The Emperor Jones.” But don’t miss “Shepherd’s Bush,” a compelling period drama about the love life of British novelist E.M. Forster written by Scott C. Sickles of Forest Hills, N.Y.

Where: Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Avenue, Dayton

When: July 22-24

Reasons to go: Over the course of three days, six, in-development scripts have the potential to take the country by storm. Case in point: “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon’s 2005 FutureFest-winning masterpiece “Farragut North” became the 2011 Academy Award-nominated film “The Ides of March.”

Tickets/more info: (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com

WE COULD BE HEROES: A MUSE MACHINE CONCERT IN THREE SHORT ACTS

The Muse Machine’s 20th anniversary summer concert embraces music, dance and spoken word within the framework of heroes both musical and personal. In addition to saluting Tin Pan Alley legends Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George & Ira Gershwin, expect a tribute to David Bowie. “Bowie was obviously one of the most original and inspiring musical heroes of the last 50 years,” said producer Douglas Merk. “He was simply not of this world and we can’t wait to interpret a few of his hits.” The organization is also asking the community to reflect on heroes in their lives, big or small. Feel free to leave your thoughts at musemachine.com. You might actually hear your story in one of the musical numbers.

Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton

When: Aug. 4

Why You Should Want To Go: Over 100 Muse students and alumni will participate in this one-night-only celebration of music from Berlin to Bowie reinterpreted to fit the distinctive Muse pedigree.

Tickets/more info: (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com

FIRST LADY SUITE

The long overdue local premiere of Michael John LaChuisa’s 1993 Off-Broadway chamber musical launches the newest season from Magnolia Theatre Company, a troupe championing fresh, funky and feminine works. Perfectly timed after the political conventions of the current presidential election season, “First Lady Suite” examines the lives of Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman and those surrounding them with fantasy, humor and potency.

Where: Mathile Theater of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: Aug. 12-14

Reasons to go: The local premiere of a rarely staged musical from one of the most compelling, witty and prolific composers working today.

Tickets/more info: (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com

THE LAST LIFEBOAT

The Dayton Theatre Guild relishes opportunities to produce eclectic local premieres. Fittingly, the Guild opens its 72nd season with Luke Yankee’s intriguing account of English businessman Joseph Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line and builder of the RMS Titanic who stepped into the last lifeboat on that fateful day.

Where: Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton

When: Aug. 19-Sept. 4

Reasons to go: Explore a different take on the Titanic tragedy with this local premiere about the man whose life was changed by a fateful decision.

Tickets/more info: (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org

THIS IS OUR YOUTH

Playground Theatre’s millennial-focused mission has taken the local community theater scene to another level with such gripping productions as “Really Really” and the recently outstanding “Reasons To Be Pretty.” Mark your calendars for the return of this troupe over Labor Day weekend with Kenneth Lonergan’s fantastic portrait of privileged Manhattan teenagers behaving badly in the early 1980s.

Where: Mathile Theater of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: Sept. 1-4

Reasons to go: Millennial-driven Playground Theatre is becoming a raw, progressive and experimental force within local community theater.

Tickets/more info: (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com