FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – Peninsula Players Theatre will present 18 performances of N. Richard Nash’s “The Rainmaker” to open its 87th season. Info.

Performances in the company’s Theatre in a Garden are June 14 to July 3 – Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m.; except for Sunday, July 3, at 2 p.m. 

According to a news release: A road trip Nash took through the American west and a real-life rainmaker inspired him to write the story. 

During the hard years of a drought, the Curry family finds its cattle ranch on the verge of failure. Hardworking and plain, Lizzie is the only woman in a family of men who is trying to find her husband. New horizons open up for Lizzie when a charismatic traveler, Starbuck, promises to save the drought-stricken farm by summoning rain from the skies. The smooth-talking Starbuck turns his magic onto the clouds, Lizzie, and the entire Curry family. 

Peninsula Players Theatre veteran Sean Fortunato returns to the theater as the passionate and self-confident dreamer, Starbuck, while newcomer Ayanna Bria Bakari portrays the strong, yet insecure, Lizzie.  

Also making Peninsula Players Theatre debuts are Sean Blake as H.C., Lizzie’s wise and loving father; Kai A. Ealy and Xavier Edward King, who portray her two very contrasting brothers, Noah and Jim. Ryan Hallahan, another newcomer, is File, the local deputy who is secretly smitten with Lizzie. The theater’s veteran performer, Greg Vinkler, rounds out the cast as the introspective sheriff.  

The cast is under the direction of Linda Fortunato, Peninsula Players Theatre’s artistic director.

Nash first wrote “The Rainmaker” as a one-act play for television, then adapted it into a two-act play that made its Broadway debut in 1954 with Geraldine Page and Darren McGavin.  In 1956, the play was adapted into a film featuring Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. Nine years after its Broadway debut, Nash collaborated with Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, creators of “The Fantasticks,” to create “110 in the Shade,” a musical version of Lizzie and Starbuck’s star-crossed romance.

Though Nash wrote “The Rainmaker” in the 1950s, the story of a struggling, yet very loving family still resonates. One brother wants to marry, the other to have a thriving cattle ranch. They support, bicker and squabble, as all families do. But Lizzie’s dreams have run as dry as the barren landscape around her. After all of Lizzie’s prospects have seemingly blown away, Starbuck arrives, filled with promises – the hope, happiness, and love Lizzie and her family crave. But, will Lizzie allow herself these things? 

Linda Fortunato’s credits with Peninsula Players Theatre span 17 seasons of acting in dramas such as “Wait Until Dark,” to directing comedies such as “Lend Me a Tenor” and “The Fox on the Fairway,” and choreographing musicals such as “A Little Night Music” and “Chicago.”  She was previously the artistic director of Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana, where she directed “Cabaret,” “Big River,” “The Tin Woman” and “Steel Magnolias.” She also choreographed “42nd Street,” which earned her a Joseph Jefferson Award, and was Jeff-nominated for her choreography of “White Christmas” and “Crazy for You.” This is her first season as artistic director of Peninsula Players Theatre.

Ayanna Bria Bakari’s (Lizzie) recent Chicago stage credits include “Relentless” at TimeLine Theatre Company and Goodman Theatre. She is the recipient of the Black Theater Alliance Award for her work in “The Niceties” with Writers Theatre, and she is a governing ensemble member of The Story Theatre. Her television credits include “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” (Hulu), “The Chi” (Showtime), “Empire” (FOX), “61st Street” (AMC) “Holiday Heist” (BET), and NBC’s “Chicago PD” and “Chicago Fire.”

Sean Fortunato’s (Starbuck) performances at Peninsula Players Theatre include Matt Friedman in “Talley’s Folly,” Black Stache in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” George in “Sunday in the Park with George,” Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” Father Flynn in “Doubt” and the Emcee in “Cabaret.” His stage credits include Off-Broadway, regional theater, and many of Chicago’s stages, including Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Writers Theatre, Goodman Theatre, and Northlight Theatre. He has received an After Dark Award and eight Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for his stage portrayals. His television credits include Antoon Dumini in “Fargo” (FX), “Chicago Med” (NBC), “Chicago PD” (NBC), “Chicago Fire” (NBC). Fortunato will also appear in “Write Me a Murder.”

The entire cast has extensive Chicago stage credits at such theaters as Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company, to regional theaters such as Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Paper Mill Playhouse, and various national tours including Hal Prince’s “Show Boat” and “Bounce.” 

The creative team of “The Rainmaker” includes Evelyn Danner, costume design; Joe Court, sound design; Jessie Howe, scenic design; and Guy Rhodes, lighting design. 

The theater’s season also includes the suspenseful thriller “Write Me a Murder” by Frederick Knott; “Ripcord,” a spirited comedy by David Lindsay-Abaire; the heartfelt “I and You” by Lauren Gunderson; and the madcap musical mystery, “Murder for Two,” by Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian.

The side panels, doors, and vents of the audience pavilion will remain open throughout the performances this season. Patrons should dress for the weather and be prepared for shifting temperatures or breezes off the bay. For the most current safety protocols employed at the theater, visit peninsulaplayers.com before attending a performance. 

Peninsula Players Theatre is America’s oldest professional resident summer theater and is unique in the country for its diverse productions, continuing loyalty to a resident company, and its beautiful setting of 16 wooded acres along the cedar-lined shores of Green Bay. The theater has become a Door County landmark and its cornerstone arts institution, attracting audience members from throughout Wisconsin and across the country.