Celebrating 50 Years of Summer Place Theatre

From the “Sound of Music” to “Footloose,” the Summer Place Theatre has brought the tunes of the times right here to Naperville.

recently their “50 Years of Musicals” show captured their first five decades through Broadway hits.

“The show is a compilation of the most famous songs of musicals we have done in the last 50 years, grouped into big medleys and grouped by decade. Act one is the years where we performed in the circus tent and under a metal roof pavilion and act two are the years when we moved into Naperville Central High School auditorium,” said Cynthia Lauren-Grant, Director of the show.

The group got its start back in 1966 when it was founded by the dean of theatre at North Central College, Donald “Doc” Shanower.

He saw it as a way to give his students a venue to perform over the summer and continue to sharpen their skills.

“It provides another opportunity to express oneself in such a way that you learn how and why it’s different,” said Doc during an interview in 2015.

Doc passed away just shy of the 50th anniversary, leaving behind a legacy to which the theatre has dedicated its show.

“Well that’s our whole reasoning is to have Doc, to carry on Doc’s dream and to keep that community spirit going and it was a great joy,” said Steve Zeidler, Board President of the Summer Place Theatre.

And as members of the theatre have come to realize, it’s the community and cast members who’ve kept the organization going strong for 50 years.

“Summer Place is kind of unique because it feels like a professional theatre, although it’s a community theatre. It has a good group of people in a tight-knit community and I think that’s what you find, you can really find people coming from all over the place to audition for it,” said Bobby McNeily, a cast member.

Several veteran and original cast members came back for the 50-year show, finding the same joys in performance in those who’ve followed.

“It’s really honestly an honor to be a part of something like community theatre where you get people from all walks of life. They all come to be a part of this one cohesive group and just perform on the stage. They throw all of their reservations out the door, they become a completely new character on stage,” said Jenni Barber, a first-time cast member with Summer Place.

Writing their own line in the history of a summer tradition.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.

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