For those who are itching to see live entertainment again, but don’t yet feel it wise to spend time in crowded indoor spaces, Bristol Riverside Theatre is providing the perfect solution.
This year, with support from William Penn Bank, it is presenting the Summer Music Fest – an annual series of snazzy pop- and show-tunes concerts – outdoors at the spanking new Bristol Township Municipal Park Amphitheater.
The term “amphitheater” is a bit misleading – as it’s really just a big, only-slightly-sloped lawn with a raised-platform stage at one end – but the concert-going experience it facilitates is fabulous. There’s plenty of parking, clean indoor bathrooms, and a concession stand that sells inexpensive snacks and beverages. It also sells lawn chairs and blankets, but it is recommended that you bring your own “seats.”
While traffic noise is sometimes noticeable, the bordering road nicely separates the venue from the nearby forest, thus keeping mosquitos at a minimum.
For the opening performance of the “Broadway Memories” program on June 18, the physical environment proved exquisite: There was a delicious breeze, a modest-sized, enthusiastic crowd, and a captivating view of the half-moon in the sky directly above the stage.
The performance platform is covered by a softly curved wooden roof that a friend of mine said reminded her of the Bristol wharf. Yet despite the somewhat rustic environment, the show exuded the sophisticated, fancy-nightclub atmosphere we’ve come to expect from these slick concerts, with four top-notch singers (most with Broadway credentials) dressed to the nines and accompanied by a tight combo of exciting instrumentalists led by musical director and emcee-keyboardist Keith Baker.
The concert’s title led one to expect an evening of beloved chestnuts from shows of the mid-20th century, the Golden Age of the Broadway musical. Yet while we did hear classic tunes by songwriters such as George Gershwin and Rodgers & Hammerstein, as well as numbers from such well-known shows as “Hello, Dolly!” and “The Music Man,” some of the program’s most enjoyable performances were of lesser-known material from relatively recent Broadway musicals.