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LI summer theater highlights

Ken Page stars as Old Deuteronomy in

Ken Page stars as Old Deuteronomy in "Cats" at the Gateway Performing Arts Center, Bellport, starting May 16, 2012. Photo Credit: Handout

The return of two stars from a former Broadway champion, an American premiere of a British import and the 20th anniversary revival of an East End drama that launched one of Long Island's leading theater companies highlight the upcoming summer season.

GATEWAY PLAYHOUSE

631-286-1133, gatewayplayhouse.com

Gateway opens its 63rd season May 16 with "Cats," the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that was the longest-running show in Broadway history before Sir Andrew's other mega-smash, "Phantom of the Opera," supplanted it in 2006. Gateway, incidentally, closes its season Aug. 22-Sept. 9 with a revival of an alternate musical version of the imitable Paris Opera house tale -- titled simply "Phantom."

"Cats," which runs through June 2 at the Bellport theater, features two stars from the 18-year Broadway run: Ken Page, who originated the role of Old Deuteronomy, and Jacob Brent, who, as Mister Mistofelees, is one of the few actors to appear in "Cats" on Broadway, London's West End and the 1998 video.

Meanwhile, Gateway's summer offerings following "Cats" include the Long Island premieres June 27- July 14 of "The Rat Pack Is Back," inspired by the Vegas nightclub "summit" starring Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop, and the Dolly Parton musical "9 to 5," July 18- Aug. 4 -- the latter at the Patchogue Theatre.

Back at Bellport, "My Fair Lady" stages its timeless musical linguistics June 6-24.

BAY STREET THEATRE, SAG HARBOR

631-725-9500, baystreet.org

Bay Street, which observes its 20th anniversay this summer, presents the American debut of Geraldine Aron's poignantly funny one-woman show, "My Brilliant Divorce," May 29-June 24.

It's followed July 3-29 by Joe Pintauro's "Men's Lives," the Sag Harbor author's play that takes its title from the Sir Walter Raleigh quote: "It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives." Based on the book by Peter Matthiessen, the play centers around the pressures on Hamptons watermen as their catch and livelihood are threatened. "Men's Lives" was the inaugural production at Bay Street in 1992. (This week, the company signed a lease extension on its current space at the entrance to Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.)

"What better way to celebrate our 20th year," says artistic director Murphy Davis, "than with the play that started it all?"

"I'm hoping that bringing it back will let people who don't really know where they are realize who made this place so beautiful and meaningful," says Pinatauro, adding, "But who can afford to live here anymore?"

A world premiere musical, "Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues," starring Tony winner Lillias White as the almost literally larger-than-life singer Maybelle Smith, closes Bay Street's season Aug. 7-Sept. 2.

JOHN W. ENGEMAN THEATER AT NORTHPORT

631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

The year-round theater's 2012-13 season opens July 5 with the hit Off-Broadway collection of musical vignettes, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," which runs on the Northport stage through Aug. 19. It's followed by the naughty but cute musical "Sweet Charity" Sept. 6-Oct. 28. "A Christmas Carol" haunts the holiday season Nov. 15-Jan. 6, with the taut thriller "Wait Until Dark" (Jan. 24-March 10), the high-flying farce "Boeing Boeing" (March 21-May 5) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic "South Pacific" (May 23-July 14, 2013) rounding out the Engeman schedule.

Meanwhile, "42nd Street," running through June 17, closes out the current Engeman season.

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