by Joanne Rochman

Summer and theater go together like picnics and parks. Happily, many of our theaters provide just the right outlet for doing just that. Pack a picnic, but don’t let the fun end there. Pack up the cooler and a basket full of goodies and head for the nearest theater to make a summer outing totally complete. Can’t stand the heat? Then head to one of our area’s fully air-conditioned and entertainment-packed theaters. Whether you choose indoors or outdoors, summer theater provides just what you’re looking for in comedy, drama, and musical entertainment. Here’s what you can look forward to this summer.

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam: If you want the best of both worlds, picnicking and air conditioning, then The  Goodspeed Opera House is the place to go. Spread out your picnic along the beautiful Connecticut River, then head indoors for a delightful summer show. “Good News!” plays through June 22. This is an oldie-but-goodie, fit for the entire family. “Hello, Dolly!” is always a crowd-pleasing musical and runs from June 28 through Sept. 8. Last, but most definitely not least, is the return of “The Most Happy Fella,” which originally opened at Goodspeed before moving to Broadway. You can catch this musical from Sept. 20 to Dec. 1. Box office: 860-873-8668.

Landmark Community Theatre at The Thomaston Opera House, Thomaston: Landmark Community Theatre at the Thomaston Opera House presents “Les Miserables” from Aug. 3 – 18. The epic musical that has come to be so well known that it is referred to as “Les Miz,” will be directed by Foster Evans Reese with Dan Ringuette as music director.  Box office: 860-283-8558.

Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven: Those who like their summers cool on the inside but with steamy good entertainment should make their way to Long Wharf’s “Smokey Joe’s Café,” which plays July 10-28. This musical revue features more than 30 classic rock and roll and rhythm and blues songs including “Stand by Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” Yakety Yak,” “Poison Ivy” and many more. It’s no wonder this show won a Grammy.  Box office: 203-787-4282.

Musicals at Richter, Danbury:  If you like your theater fun outdoors, then you definitely want to pack that picnic and bring along a couple of lawn chairs for this summer’s line up at Musicals at Richter. First on the boards is “Some Enchanted Evening,” which features the music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. What could be more romantic than a production of “Some Enchanted Evening” under the stars? This show plays from July 5 to July 20. If you’re in the mood for some serious laughter, than you won’t want to miss “9 to 5,” with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton.  There’s always a bittersweet ending to summer, and Neil Simon’s “Sweet Charity” fits that bill perfectly. It wraps up the summer with Cy Coleman’s music and Bob Fosse’s choreography, July 26-Aug. 10. Box office: 203-748-6873.

Phoenix Stage Company, Naugatuck:  “The Red Velvet Cake War” is a delicious summer offering and runs from June 15 to June 29; while “Strange Bedfellows” plays July 19-27. “Suite Surrender”  takes center stage  Aug. 10 – 24 and “Sweeney Todd” will have you shying away from meat pies by the time fall comes around. It plays Sept. 14-28. Box office: 203-632-8546.

Shakespeare on the Sound: This summer, for its 18th season, Shakespeare on the Sound will present “As You Like It” June 13-30 at Pinkney Park in Rowayton. Celebrating its 18th season, this outdoor venue knows just how its audience likes it. Free to the public, donations are welcome. A limited number of reserved seats are available for $50 each. If you want to reserve a seat call: 203-299-1300 or

Sherman Playhouse, Sherman: The Sherman Players are going to usher in summer with “Anne of Green Gables.” Here’s a rite-of-passage story about a young girl who grows into a charming woman. It plays from June 28 to July 7. Next for summer entertainment is “Book of Days” by Lanford Wilson. Sometimes what seems to be a tragic accident turns out to be cold blooded murder. Considered one of Wilson’s best plays, this show runs from Sept. 13 to Sept. 22. Box office: 860-354-3622.

Summer Theatre of New Canaan: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” opens the summer season in New Canaan. Previews are June 15 – 20; the run is from June 21 to July 13. “Grease” follows from July 20 to Aug. 11. Three shows guaranteed to delight the children are “The Little Mermaid,” “The Cat in the Hat,” and “Pinkalicious.” These productions run on selected weekends mornings and afternoons. Check with the box office for  details or visit Box office:  203-966-4634

TheatreWorks, New Milford:  There’s something special coming this summer to TheatreWorks in New Milford. From July 11 to Aug. 3, it’s a world premiere production. You’ll find that there’s a lot in a name, especially when it’s “Earnest or What’s in a Name?” This is a musical adaptation in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Box office: 860-350-6863.

The Gary – The Olivia Performing Arts Center, Bethlehem:  The Abbey of Regina Laudi is the perfect setting for  outdoor theater in Connecticut. With a roofed but open theater  you can enjoy the show even if there’s a hot summer sun or sudden evening shower. This summer, the theater is offering two productions that have not been selected by other local theaters. The first is “The Pitmen Painters,” written by “Billy Elliot”’s Lee Hall and focusing on a group of miners in Northeast England in the 1930s who take an art appreciation class. This is a play filled with humor as well as being thought provoking. It plays from June 14 – 23. “Fiorello” tops off the summer season 2013. This Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical focuses on the career of Fiorello La Guardia and there’s plenty of excitement and great music in this show. It plays from Aug. 1 to Aug. 11. Box office: 203- 273-5669.

Tri-Arts Sharon Playhouse, Sharon: Here’s a theater that has been expanding its horizons as well as its theater. Now, Tri-Arts has a second stage at the Bok Gallery, which is adjacent to the main stage. Thus there are two summer seasons. On the Main Stage, you will get to see “The Way You Wear Your Hat…The Music of George Gershwin,” which plays  June 7-9; followed by “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which is directed and choreographed by Jennifer Werner, assistant director of “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway. “Spamalot” plays from June 26 to July 7. As a tribute to the late Mavin Hamlisch, “They’re Playing Our Song” by Neil Simon, with Mavin Hamlisch’s music, will take the stage July 19-28. “Damn Yankees” rounds off the Main Stage season Aug. 14-25. On Stage II, audiences will be riveted by John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable,” which features local actress Noel Desiato as the main character and runs from July 11 to July 14. Also on Stage II is “Next Thing You Know,” a musical about New Yorkers who eat, drink, love, and laugh as they tackle the big questions in life. This show runs from Aug. 8 to Aug. 11. Box office:  860- 364-7469.

Warner Theatre, Torrington:  “Shrek: The Musical” takes over the Main Stage at the Warner from July 27 to Aug.4. If ever there was a show meant for the entire family, it is “Shrek.” Not only do the children love this adorable green creature, but adults will catch all of the subtleties that have been woven throughout. At the Nancy Marine Studio Theater, “Forever Plaid” will delight audiences with music and comedy from June 14 – 23 and “Damn Yankees” plays from July 12 to July 21. Box office: (860) 489-7180.

Wesport Country Playhouse: George Kelly’s “The Show Off” is a hilarious comedy that is perfect summer fare. Aubrey Piper is not only a show off, but a liar. When  his fiancée brings him home to meet the family, the fun starts. This show plays June 11 to June 29. “Loot” is another comedy guaranteed to tickle your funny bone as a couple of crooks show that it’s not always easy to rest in peace, even if you’re dead. This show plays from July 16 to Aug. 3. “Oblivion” finds a 16-year old testing her parents as she delights the audience. This play runs from Aug. 20 to Sept. 7.  This summer season wraps up with “Room Service” from Oct. 8 to Oct. 26. Box office: 203-227-4177.