Door County summers pulse with music, theater

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Four Guyz in Dinner Jackets

From Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams to “Muskie Love,” from classical violinist Ilya Kaler to out folk duo Indigo Girls, a surprising range of entertainment is set to appear in Door County this summer. There’s a good chance you’ll find something on a starry peninsula night to tickle your funny bone or strum your heartstrings.

The following are some of the highlights of Door County’s busy summer entertainment season.

CLASSICAL SWOON

Classical music fans have several great opportunities to indulge their passions in Door County this summer. 

The Midsummer’s Music Festival offers the best in chamber and ensemble music in interesting and varied venues. Founded by Jim and Jean Berkenstock, principal oboist and flutist, respectively, for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the festival offers nine separate classical programs through July 17 – and again over Labor Day. Performers include musicians from the UW-Madison-based Pro Arte Quartet, the Marlboro Music Festival and Midwestern universities. Details are at www.midsummersmusic.com.

Young classical players perform throughout the summer at the Birch Creek Music Festival in Egg Harbor. The young musicians present eclectic programs that range from Beethoven to Count Basie to Wagner to world beats. Details are at www.birchcreek.org.

Now in its 61st season, the Peninsula Music Festival is Door County’s premier venue for classical music, filling the month of August with nine separate symphonic programs at Fish Creek’s Door Community Auditorium. Individual concerts are devoted exclusively to the music of Mahler, Mozart, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky, while mixed programs include Bizet’s “Carmen Suites” and Marvin Hamlisch’s “A Chorus Line.” PMF and its guest performers hold better musical pedigrees than many big city orchestras. Details at www.musicfestival.com.

The Washington Island Music Festival offers a variety of classical concerts in various venues on the island just off Door County’s northern tip Aug. 5 –16. Details are at www.washingtonislandmusicfestival.com.

CASUAL TUNES

Door County also offers ample opportunities for more casual music, including a surprising number of nationally known artists who work the peninsula into their touring schedule.

Door Community Auditorium in Fish Creek is a bit far from Johannesburg, but South African vocal sensations Ladysmith Black Mombazo made the trip to help open the season on June 21. Still to come is folk legend Taj Mahal (July 13), singers/songwriters Steve Earle and John Hiatt (Aug. 2), Grammy-winning country artist Kathy Mattea (Aug. 11) and LGBT favorites Indigo Girls (Sept. 10). Details are at www.dcauditorium.org.

The Peg Egan Performing Arts Center in Egg Harbor also offers programs with  folk-roots sensitivity, but with less familiar and more local acts, all of which are free. The schedule includes performances of “The Wonderbread Years” by creator Pat Hazell (July 14), and concerts by Milwaukee favorite Willy Porter (July 28) and Portland, Ore., roots rocker Lloyd Jones (Aug. 18). Details are at www.facebook.com/PegEganPAC.

In addition to classical works, the Trueblood Performing Arts Center on Washington Island specializes in quirky contemporary music. Upcoming acts  include singer/songwriter Julian Hagen (July 20), Madison-based Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble (July 27) and Milwaukee’s Four Guyz in Dinner Jackets (Aug. 2). Details are at www.truebloodpac.com.

In addition, each community in Door County offers its own schedule of free weekly outdoor concerts featuring local and regional contemporary artists. Check out www.doorcounty.com/music/livemusic for complete schedules.

SUMMER STOCK

Not all of Door County’s world is a stage, but visitors still have ample opportunities to enjoy theatrical performances of all kinds.

At 78 years, Peninsula Players in Fish Creek claims to be America’s oldest resident summer theater, offering a wide range of summer stock from its large “auditorium in a garden.” This season includes the world premier of Joe Foust’s comedy “Once a Ponzi Time” (July 3 – 21), Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park With George” (July 24 – Aug. 11), Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot” (Aug. 14 – Sept. 1) and “Miracle on South Division Street” (Sept. 4 – Oct. 20). Details are at www.peninsulaplayers.com.

American Folklore Theatre, located in Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek, offers original musical comedies with a distinctly Wisconsin flare. Three shows are performed in repertory throughout the summer. This year, AFT hosts the world premier of “Windjammers,” “Loose Lips Sink Ships” and the return of perennial favorite “Muskie Love.” Details are at www.folkloretheatre.com.

If the Bard is your boy, Door Shakespeare in Bailey’s Harbor offers two productions in repertory: the tragedy of “MacBeth” and the comedy of “Love’s Labours Lost.” Details are at www.doorshakespeare.com.

The Stage Door Theatre Co., housed at Sturgeon Bay’s Third Avenue Playhouse, is one of Door County’s most intimate venues. Productions this season include Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” (June 26 – July 9), “Greater Tuna” (July 24 – Aug. 14), “House of Blue Leaves” (Aug. 21 – Sept. 14) and “The 39 Steps” (Sept. 18 – Oct. 20.) Details are at www.thirdavenueplayhouse.com/stage-door-theatre.

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