Bay Street Theater’s Under the Stars outdoor series kicks off at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor August 25 and 26 with Kiss Me, Kate starring Melissa Errico and Richard Troxell.
Kiss Me, Kate portrays the conflicts on and off-stage between actress Lilli Vanessi and her co-star, director and ex-husband Frederick Graham, during a production of The Taming of the Shrew.
Errico will star as Vanessi, a role she was relatively unfamiliar with, “Once I started to train for the part, I realized it’s a very high voice. It’s a beautiful mezzo-soprano role, with lots of high notes.”
Cole Porter wrote the score, and the show won the first-ever Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949.
Errico, a Tony-nominated actress who has starred in classics like My Fair Lady, Anna Karenina, and Dracula, previously appeared in the Porter musical High Society on Broadway, and she was the one who proposed the idea for Kiss Me, Kate at Bay Street.
After her one-woman concert Funny, I’m a Woman with Children at Bay Street last summer, Errico says that the theater approached her and asked what was on her bucket list.
“I said ‘my bucket list in life…is to live on the Greek islands and sell jewelry with my three daughters and Patrick can come and go as tennis allows,’” she says, referring to her husband, former tennis player and current ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe. “The Greek islands are calling me one day, but before I get there, there are things [I want to do] like Kiss Me, Kate.”
The outdoor concert presents a different kind of theatrical challenge, but Errico has plenty of experience performing outside the friendly confines of a theater.
Errico has performed many times at the Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor amphitheater in Hollywood Hills that seats 17,500 people.
Performing outside is “more difficult because of the sounds,” Errico says. “Sometimes, the people in the back hear things later than people in the front because you don’t have an enclosed space. When you’re outside, the sound disappears. Musical theater is so much about being understood, and you have to be loud.”
Luckily, Errico’s co-star Richard Troxell is an experienced singer from the Metropolitan Opera.
“One thing I can say about him, other than that he’s handsome and funny, is that he’s loud,” Errico says. “He’s going to be loud and clear and make this music soar.”
While Errico readies for a musical role that she’s been cultivating for years, she recognizes that the outdoor setting under the stars will also be a chance to let loose a little bit.
“It’s a different kind of situation. People come to a theater dressed up and the expectations are very clear,” Errico says. “Whereas outdoors, people come with picnic blankets on a starry night and we already have agreed that the main goal is to have a great summer night. Outdoor theater should be fun and relaxed for everybody.”
However, Errico is no stranger to the Hamptons theater scene and its sophisticated taste.
“As much as I say the Hamptons is relaxed, people have high standards and I want to give them a great show,” she says.
This summer marks 21 years that Errico has been performing at Bay Street, and the theater holds a special place in her heart, which is one of the reasons her family rents a house in Sag Harbor every summer.
When Errico debuted at Bay Street as Betty Comden in Make Someone Happy, she says, “That was the summer that I fell in love with my husband. The summer of the Bay Street is the iconic summer. My performance there has a glow about it. We had the summer of our lives. He was training and playing in the U.S. Open that year and I was singing and dancing every night. The Bay Street Theater got stuck in our life story in the happiest summer ever and that’s where it got branded for me.”
Bay Street Theater’s Under the Stars series plays at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor at 7 p.m. on August 25 and 26. Free admission. For more information visit baystreet.org.