Bristol Riverside Theatre’s curtain will rise virtually during the pandemic

A snapshot of a previous Broadway Summer Spectacular performance.

At Bristol Riverside Theatre, even despite an ongoing pandemic, the curtain must still rise—just in a virtual way now. 

The Bucks County organization has been providing Philadelphians and beyond a place to enjoy and view over 200 performances annually over the past 33 years including five Mainstage productions, special events and a summer music fest series. The latter is exactly what audience members can enjoy over the course of August and September, although 2020’s summer music fest series will look a bit different than years past. 

“We wanted to find a way to keep a connection to our audiences,” said BRT Artistic Director Keith Baker in the release. “I hope audiences continue to enjoy our Summer Music Fest — this time from the comforts of wherever they are. This will be an adventure. I wish I could have everyone in the room. Our performers are super talented. I can’t wait to see what they do with this format. The show must go on and we can’t thank everyone enough for their ongoing support of our work.” 

This beloved event will allow not just those who live near the theatre to experience what many consider a highlight of the sunny season, it will also allow a new virtual format to raise money to keep the theatre operating after COVID-19 closed their stage down. 

According to the release, tickets for the virtual Summer Music Fest are on sale now for August and September shows, which includes ‘A Night at the Movies’ on Aug. 5, 7 and 9. The series will conclude with the grand finale, the Broadway Summer Spectacular on Sept. 2, 4 and 6. The first date for each show will feature a live performance, and the additional two dates are recorded broadcasts from the first live performance, and performers for all shows will feature a who’s who from the local stage and from Broadway.

“The new virtual format for Summer Music Fest will be like watching a live show on television with pre-recorded video segments,” said incoming Co-Producing Director Ken Kaissar in the release. “Think Saturday Night Live — the host is live, but then the cast may do a music video that was recorded beforehand. The concerts are designed to bring people together for a live, shared experience of beloved songs and fun spectacle. Since we can’t host a show in person this year, we wanted to create a live, shared, fun spectacle — and Keith as host will definitely help make it a memorable night for everyone.”

First up is a true celebration of Hollywood with some the most popular songs from some of Tinsel Town’s most celebrated films including ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Goldfinger.’ A Night at the Movies will premiere Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m. featuring a live performance then pre-recorded performances on Friday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 9, at 3 p.m. The star-studded event will feature the musical and theatre talents of Bristol Riverside Theatre favorites Demetria Joyce Bailey, Rebecca Robbins and Sean Thomspon.

Demetria Joyce Bailey. Provided

According to the release, Demetria Joyce Bailey is a veteran of the Summer Music Fest and many shows at BRT and other regional stages. She last appeared at Bristol in ‘The Sunshine Boys,’ while Rebecca Robbins was part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ on tour and on Broadway. She last appeared on the BRT stage in ‘Triumph of Love.’ Sean Thompson, another BRT veteran, was Cliff in ‘Cabaret,’ the last show on the BRT stage before the pandemic shut them down. Thompson is also a Broadway veteran, who appeared in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and played Raul in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Love Never Dies,’ the sequel to ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ 

Every series needs a finale as well, and Philadelphians are really in for a treat. Closing off the extravaganza on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m. will be the Broadway Summer Spectacular, featuring a live performance, followed by pre-recorded performances on Friday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 6, at 3 p.m. Viewers can expect an evening filled with some of the greatest composers whose work have hit the stage on Broadway including Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Bristol Riverside Theatre’s Artistic Director Keith Baker will be hosting Summer Music Fest live from his own living room, while also conducting, acting as bandleader and playing the keyboard. Baker’s band consists of Robert Garguillo on bass, Kathy Goff on percussion, Neil Nemetz on guitar and Claudia Pellegrini on violin.

“We’re so proud to bring this music tradition back and lift everyone’s spirits,” added Baker in the release. “When our most recent show Cabaret was cut short at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and theatre stages everywhere went dark, we lost a bit of joy, creativity and hope in the world. We want to bring back the sound of music to theatre lovers everywhere and keep the 25-year-old tradition alive. I hope the Summer Music Fest continues as long as we have audiences to see them.”

Tickets are now on sale and act as a $35 donation to Bristol Riverside Theatre. Philadelphians can purchase tickets at online at or over the phone at 215-785-0100.


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