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The Season That Was

Lakewood Playhouse’s John Munn looks back on a daring year of theater

Lakewood Playhouse managing artistic director braves the rain to change the marquee. Photo credit: Facebook

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Lakewood Playhouse's Little Shop of Horrors may have two more weekends of shows before it ends its run, but once it does, that will mark the end of the theater's 79th season. Save for some classes over the summer, Lakewood Playhouse has nothing to do but begin preparation for its 80th season, beginning in the fall with Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs.

We thought it fitting to look back at the year that was, for Lakewood Playhouse: the unexpectedly gritty opener of Wait Until Dark; the complex and vivid family productions of Alice in WonderlandA Christmas Carol, and Peter and the Starcatcher; the left-field pop-punk opera of American Idiot; the lavish poise of The Glass Menagerie; and the giddy, ambitious technical feat of Little Shop of Horrors. Lakewood Playhouse's 79th season was eclectic, challenging, and frequently inspired. We spoke with Lakewood Playhouse Managing Artistic Director John Munn about the past season and how it reflected a more daring direction they'd been heading for the past few years.

"We're respecting an audience that's been supporting us for decades, while trying to build an audience for the future," said Munn. "When we first presented the season, a lot of people that know theater said, ‘Wow, that's dark. That's got a real dark theme to it.' And if you look at it, I guess, it's there. All of the shows seem to have a protagonist that's overcoming a lot of obstacles, to show that the strength of the individual can rise above it. That was the quiet theme of the year. I don't think a lot of people noticed it, but it's there. If you allow yourself the ability to change, you can."

Not resting on their laurels, Munn and Lakewood Playhouse have planned out another batch of formidable shows that will continue to test their mettle -- the most immediately striking of which is the sprawling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America

"That one stands out because it seems like we're climbing Everest," said Munn, while noting that there are unique and difficult challenges posed by all of the shows they've got coming up in the next season. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, Munn points out, has as many or more moving parts than Angels in America, and The Producers is another big musical that some said would be impossible for Lakewood Playhouse to stage - yet both shows are slated for the new season.

"This past season allowed us to take our theater into the black for the second year in a row," said Munn. "We had our highest fundraiser in four years. So, if that doesn't speak to community supporting what we're doing, I don't know what does. We're trying to be the type of theater that shows the depth and breadth that's on Broadway. You can have Wicked on Broadway, but down the road you still get Avenue Q; you've got a Frozen on one avenue, and you've got The Iceman Cometh up the street. This is what we're trying to do."

For tickets and a full list of upcoming shows, visit

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