Under the tent for the Music Circus’ latest season

The 2016 Music Circus season promises a pup, new shows and Dr. Seuss

Check out <i>Hello Dolly </i>(June 28-July 3) at the Music Circus.

Check out Hello Dolly (June 28-July 3) at the Music Circus.

Photo courtesy of the Music Circus

All Music Circus productions start at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $45-$88. The Music Circus is located in the Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H Street. Learn more at www.californiamusicaltheatre.com or by calling (916) 557-1999.

When Legally Blonde opens the 66th Music Circus season on June 14, the production will have a real Broadway star in the cast. Chico, who appears as heroine Elle Woods’ pet, Bruiser, played the role in the original production on Broadway. His understudy, Roxy, is also a Broadway veteran of the show. Both dogs were trained by Tony award-winner Bill Berloni, a longtime associate of the Music Circus.

“He connects us with great trainers and great animals,” says Music Circus’ Executive Producer Scott Klier of Berloni’s work with the company.

The dog will be in good company this season. In addition to Legally Blonde, four other productions (out of six total) will make their Music Circus debut this season. As always, this year’s lineup choices followed a democratic process.

“Audience input helps make the selection,” Klier says, explaining Music Circus patrons have the chance to fill out a questionnaire with choices for the following year’s shows.

For the uninitiated, the Music Circus is a Sacramento institution, bringing musical theater hits to the area for generations. Over the years, it’s staged productions of more than 180 different musicals, many performed more than once, with The King and I, Oklahoma!, South Pacific and Show Boat leading the pack at 13 different productions each.

The Sacramento company dates back to 1951 when Eleanor McClatchy, then president of The Sacramento Bee and arguably one of the city’s staunchest theater supporters, decided the region would eagerly support professional quality theater, according to the Music Circus website. She met with producers Russell Lewis and Howard Young, who’d already launched their circus-tent styled production in New Jersey a few years before.

Years later, the company boasts deep community roots. In addition to bringing in troupes of touring professional actors, it also has a large volunteer program with participants who run the scenery and work as dressers.

“The offstage team is exceptional,” Klier says, noting the way timing and other constraints can make for big challenges. “[The volunteers] don’t join the show until a couple of days before we open and only get maybe three rehearsals. What they are able to pull together and the work they do is nothing short of miraculous.”

And they’ll have plenty of miracles to pull off this season.

Legally Blonde, which runs through June 19, will be followed by the audience favorite Hello, Dolly (June 28-July 3), which chronicles the story of matchmaker Dolly Levi.

Seussical, which makes its debut this year (July 12-17), should be especially fun for children, who’ll likely love watching all those Dr. Seuss characters come to life.

Another crowd favorite, Cabaret (July 26-31) makes its seventh appearance. The stage version is different from the 1972 Liza Minnelli movie, but still packs a wallop, both musically and emotionally.

George and Ira Gershwin fans won’t want to miss Nice Work if You Can Get It (August 9-14), a frothy jazz-age musical rich with bootleggers and bathtub gin. Its score features 30 Gershwin tunes, including familiar ones like the title song and “Lady Be Good.”

Finally, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (August 23-28), closes out the season with its tale of the tortured hunchback Quasimodo and his unrequited love for a beautiful woman. This production is based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo, as well as the 1996 Disney film.