Bristol Valley Theater's 'new normal' begins

L. David Wheeler
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

NAPLES — Bristol Valley Theater’s summer season gets under way this Thursday — and, after changes wrought by COVID-19 the past couple years, it’s looking like a normal summer season. 

“We’re very excited to be back indoors,” Executive Artistic Director Karin Bowersock noted, after the 2021 slate of shows were all held outside on the Naples theater’s 151 S. Main St. property. (Live shows were canceled in 2020, when BVT presented multiple online offerings.)

BVT will be presenting some shows that were originally planned for the 2020 season, and will start the season with its traditional musical revue, the first since 2019. Bristol Valley is also back to a full complement of personnel, in cast, crew, set designers and so forth — last year, they kept to shows with modest casts of two at the most, to promote social distancing. This year there are casts of three, four, and as many as 13. 


As part of its Fall for the Arts series, the Bristol Valley Theater in Naples is hosting A Taste of the Finger Lakes.

“We’re returning to performing with the ‘new normal’ — which will be a lot closer to normal than the past couple years,” Bowersock said. 

While Bristol Valley has dropped its proof-of-vaccination requirement for patrons following Broadway’s lead, according to Bowersock — there will be a mask requirement this season. In addition, Bristol Valley has installed an ultraviolet-light filtration system to kill airborne viral particles. 

"Heartbeat of America" opens June 16.

 The season gets under way Thursday, June 16, with “Heartbeat of America: The Classics of Country,” a musical revue featuring four singers presenting country music through the ages, from classic artists like Tammy Wynette and Johnny Cash to modern hitmakers like The Band Perry. Courtney Nolan Smith and Martin Flowers return to the BVT stage – Flowers was in the theater’s last musical revue, the 1960s-themed “So Happy Together” in 2019 – joined by new-to-BVT singers Hannah Jane and Kyle Waterbury, plus a pit band comprised of Susie Jolink (piano), Rick Constantino (drums), Sadie Frederick (fiddle) and Chaz Gagliano (guitar). Performances are at 8 p.m. June 16-18, 2 p.m. June 19 and 22, 2 and 8 p.m. June 23, 8 p.m. June 24-25, and 2 p.m. June 26. Tickets range from $19 to $40; information and ticket link can be found at bvtnaples.org. 

The remainder of the season is as follows: 

“Cowboy vs. Samurai” (June 30 through July 10), a romantic comedy by Michael Golamco, is a modern retelling of the Cyrano de Bergerac story. Patrick Elizalde plays Travis, a Korean American high school English teacher falling for the new English teacher Veronica (Christine Fang), also Korean American – but who is only interested in Caucasian men, particularly Travis’ friend Del (Michael Weese), described by Bowersock as "kind of a doofus and kind of a cowboy.” Like Cyrano, Travis finds himself helping his friend and rival, writing letters to Veronica for Del. (Anthony Leung also appears as a comic-relief character.) 

“Once” (July 14-24), a musical based on the 2007 Irish film, will feature 13 actors, all playing their musical instruments onstage in the story of several musicians in Ireland, in particularly the love story between a down-on-his luck Dublin street musician and a lively Czech immigrant. The original film won a 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song (“Falling Slowly”). 

“The Book Club Play” (July 28 through Aug. 7) is a comedy by Karen Zacarius. “It is about a book club in a suburban neighborhood that has the opportunity to be the subject of a documentary,” Bowersock said. “… Of course they learn a little bit about themselves and they say a few things they shouldn’t have, as the wine flows and so do the faux pas. ,,, It’s sort of a comedy of bad manners among book club members.” 

“It’s a Small World (or The Robot Play)” (Aug. 11-21) is by former Bristol Valley intern Amber Palmer. It’s a road trip story with the oddest of companions -- Anne, an engineer, and Cyrus, a poetry-spouting robot made from a coffee machine – as they travel from Disney World to Canandaigua.  

“Amy and the Orphans” (Aug. 25 through Sept. 4) is about another road trip and the dynamics between three adult siblings – one with Down syndrome -- as they travel to their father’s funeral and learn how much they don’t know about one another. “It’s a really interesting story, and we’re really proud to be able to present an actress on our stage who is developmentally disabled,” a first for BVT. 

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FRONT-ROW SEAT is a column that showcases the area’s art, music, theater, film and general all-around creative scene. If you’re a musician with an upcoming live online performance or album release; or if you have any information in the arts/entertainment sphere to report, please send your information to L. David Wheeler at dwheeler@messengerpostmedia.com