Comfort zone

With a new tent in the offing, Sacramento Music Circus abandons the idea that success is 99-percent perspiration

The Swedes have their saunas. Native Americans have their sweat lodges.

In Sacramento, we have the Music Circus—the popular series of summer musicals founded back in 1951. The shows are presented in what’s sometimes a steamy canvas tent on H Street, and the performances leave audiences perspiring but happy on summer evenings through July and August (the tent’s too hot for matinees). The performers—many with some Broadway experience—tell colorful tales about how they managed to sing and dance to the final bow without becoming dehydrated.

Music Circus regulars—some loyal patrons for decades—come prepared: shorts, cotton shirts, water bottles and hand-held fans. They’ll tell you that you get used to the heat under the big top. And on an ordinary evening, it’s fairly pleasant.

But don’t let the hot-weather bravado fool you. When producing director Leland Ball and managing director Richard Lewis told last summer’s opening-night audience that by 2002 there would be a new tent, with permanent seats and (pause for dramatic effect) air conditioning, the response was a thunderous ovation. The new, permanent “tent,” which should start rising sometime in the fall, will be made of sturdy, teflon-coated fabric similar to that used in the roof of the new Denver Airport.

So this is very likely the last year to enjoy “the-tent-as-we’ve-known it” over the past 50-odd years. It’s a tradition, and as Tevye will relate in Fiddler on the Roof come August, traditions are not to be taken lightly. Appropriately enough the Music Circus will see out the era by offering a lineup of classic musicals, starting with The Music Man (July 9-15), Into the Woods (July 16-22), Mame (July 23-29), Annie (July 30-August 5), My Fair Lady (August 6-12), Fiddler on the Roof (August 13-19), and Show Boat (August 20-26).