Connecticut is absolutely lush once spring spreads its verdant cover over the state’s forests and meadows and along its ever-changing seascapes. With gorgeous natural backdrops that defy even the most talented scenic designers, outdoor theaters in Connecticut rank among the finest anywhere.
Musicals at Richter
100 Aunt Hack Road
Danbury, CT 06811
Located on the lawn of the Richter Arts Center and flanked by the Richter Park Golf Course, Musicals at Richter is a well-established outdoor theater celebrating its 29th season this year. This is a theater that draws audiences from far and wide and brings families closer together as they not only share the entertainment, but the fun of spreading out blankets on the lawn for bona fide picnics. This community theater offers young and old alike the opportunity to participate on stage, behind the scenes and in all phases of creating theater. The lineup for this season includes “Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” Dolly Parton’s new musical “9 To 5” and Neil Simon’s “Sweet Charity.”
The Gary- The Olivia Performing Arts Center
At the Abbey of Regina Laudis
273 Flanders Road
Bethlehem, CT 06751
The Gary-The Olivia Performing Arts Center is set like a precious gem and strategically placed in the most beautiful of settings. Located on the grounds of the Benedictine nuns, theater productions here make the most of its thickly wooded location and incorporate nature into its scenic designs. Unlike many other outdoor theaters, this one features a roof that protects the audience from rain. With productions such as “The Pitmen Painters” and the musical “Fiorello,” season 2013 is sure to draw large audiences.
Connecticut Free Shakespeare
999 Broad St.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Last year, Connecticut Free Shakespeare greeted an audience of more than 1,300 people on the grounds of the famous Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut. With the talented Ellen Lieberman at the artistic helm, she was so delighted with the response she received there last year that she is thrilled to present “A MidSummer Night’s Dream.” Not only will this unique theater group present shows on this beautiful and historic site, but the outdoor theater group will also present performances on the McClevy Green in Bridgeport. Just as the Stratford site is perfect for this theater group, so too is its central Bridgeport location. After all, this theater was born in Bridgeport.
Shakespeare on the Sound
P.O. Box 15
Norwalk, CT 06853
If you’re looking for a Shakespearean production with a sea breeze, then you’ll definitely want to experience an outdoor performance of Shakespeare on the Sound. Here, sailboats dot the background showing off Connecticut’s Long Island Sound treasures. Performances are held at Pinkney Park close to the water’s edge. This year as the sun goes down, the curtain will go up on “As You Like It.” Locals and tourists alike stream into the park with chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. Don’t be surprised to find yourself seated next to a couple with a picnic basket filled with imported cheeses and champagne or a couple with animal crackers and milk for the little ones.
Summer Theatre of New Canaan
70 Pine St.
New Canaan, CT 06840
You won’t have to run for cover if it rains at this theater. It has an “all weather open-air tent,” which protects the audience from rain and sun. Offering “South Pacific” and “Grease” this year, this outdoor theater also features a whole line-up of children’s theater productions. Not only are the audience’s seats under the tents, but so are the picnic tables. So do feel free to pack a yummy picnic and enjoy some outstanding performances.
Joanne Greco Rochman is the arts editor of The Fairfield County Review, a columnist, critic, feature story writer and English professor. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Republican-American and Hersam-Acorn Publications. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.