GLENS FALLS — The Adirondack Theater Festival, informally known as ATF, has returned to its iconic blackbox in Glens Falls, New York. The summer theater is about to stage the largest musical in its history this August with “Tuning In,” which features a 10-piece orchestra and 25 musical numbers.
“Tuning In” is set in a retirement community in the early 1960s, where the former stars of the golden age of radio run their nostalgia-infused station, WLK. When a corporate bad guy threatens to shut them down, the retirees team up with college radio students to save their community through their shared love of music.
While the show’s score is original, it’s a recognizable tribute to the golden age of radio. Think Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Every song will come with choreography that also dips into the treasure trove that is the big band era, from soft shoe to ballroom to tap.
Through an agreement with the Actors’ Equity Association, The Adirondack Theatre Festival sources its casts and crews from New York City and abroad to develop, produce and stage new work each year, much of which ends up on Broadway.
The theater was founded in the 1990s by Broadway manager David Turner and his wife Martha Banta, who grew up in nearby Lake George.
“ATF is sort of a unicorn,” said Producing Artistic Director Miriam Weisfeld. “There aren’t many summer theaters that are entirely devoted to developing and producing new work.”
Over the years, the former-Woolworth’s-turned-theater space has become the beating heart of downtown Glens Falls. What was once an economically depressed business district at the southern end of the Adirondack region is now buzzing with small businesses and a vibrant artistic community.
“A couple of generations have now grown up on this steady diet of new work and you can tell this contributes something really electric to the culture of Glens Falls,” Weisfeld said.
It’s likely a big reason why subscriptions have surged 38% in the last year.
ATF’s 2023 season began with “The Last Wide Open,” a love story between an American waitress and an immigrant dishwasher. When its playwright, Audrey Cefaly, shared the version she had developed through ATF with her publishers, a bidding war ensued. It was bought before the play even opened.
Weisfeld describes this season as “magical,” especially given the COVID-era challenges they faced in years past.
“Everyone is adjusting to the new dynamic of audiences behaving differently and costs skyrocketing, but we’ve been so fortunate to have a community that rallies behind us,” Weisfeld said.
They’ve most recently wrapped “Pump Up the Volume,” based on the 1990 Christian Slater film. That cast was a mix of New York City actors and local talent, many of whom were ATF apprentice program alumni. Now, not only is the show on track for Broadway but its lead, Liam Pearce, has just been cast to star in the Broadway musical “How to Dance in Ohio.”
“When you come to see us, you get to learn about the show alongside the team and help shape their careers, and that’s such a unique opportunity,” Weisfeld said.
Get tickets to “Tuning In” through the Adirondack Theatre Festival’s website. Performances began Aug. 3 and run through Aug. 9.