There are plenty of reasons to make Maine your summer destination: the breathtaking coastline, beautiful beaches, pristine trails to hike, waterways to sail, and wildlife to observe. But Maine also has a long history of being home to respected summer theatres, and in recent seasons the wealth of performance offerings has not only increased in number, but also in quality. Maine can proudly say that it boasts some of the finest regional theatre companies in the country. Here are my editorial picks among the many possibilities for theatre-lovers.BWW Review: Genuine Voices and Situations in Portland Stage's STRING AROUND MY FINGER April 16, 2017
Portland Stage's latest production is an engaging staging of Brenda Withers' new play, String Around My Finger, which had won the 2015 Clauder Competition and then been developed through the theatre's Little Festival of the Unexpected. The four-character play, set entirely in a hospital where a young couple finds themselves coping with the miscarriage of their child, resonates with a genuineness of dialogue, character and situation.BWW Interview: A Desire To Be the Absolute Best We Can: MSMT Launches Its 2017 Season April 6, 2017
'At the end of last summer I told myself that we were not going to try to top the 2016 season. I was going to think of 2017 as a completely separate and unique adventure, but the end result is that we are already topping our previous metrics in terms of ticket sales.' The speaker, Curt Dale Clark, Maine State Music Theatre's energetic and charismatic Artistic Director, is reflecting on the sold out 2016 season which garnered the company lavish critical and audience acclaim and made an MSMT ticket one of the hottest items in the region.BWW Review: Searing LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT at Mad Horse April 2, 2017
In one of its largest, most ambitious productions in recent seasons, Mad Horse Theatre has mounted a searing account of Stephen Adly Guirgis's riveting drama, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The sixteen-member cast under the direction of Stacey Koloski forms an intense, cohesive ensemble to recount this imaginary narrative about the fate of Christ's betrayer and to grapple with huge questions about guilt and salvation, doubt and faith, blame and forgiveness.BWW Review: Good Theater Closes Season with Luminous and Lyrical TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL April 1, 2017
Good Theater Artistic Director Brian P. Allen chose to close the season with a lovely, lyrical production of Horton Foote's platy, The Trip to Bountiful, in which Louisa Flaningam's luminous interpretation of Carrie Watts is surely one of the Portland theatre calendar's highlights.BWW Review: Maine State Ballet Mounts Impressive SWAN LAKE March 26, 2017
Maine State Ballet opens its spring season with an ambitious full-length production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake that offers a compelling account of the timeless Romantic classic and demonstrates how this Maine company continues to grow artistically. Presented several times in the past decade in shortened versions, the current production uses most of the original Marius Petipa choreography with some additional dances by artistic director Linda MacArthur Miele and features lavish and lovely scenic drops and costumes by Gail Csoboth.BWW Interview: Holding a Mirror Up to the Audience: Director Stacey Koloski Discusses THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT March 22, 2017
"Superficially the play is a courtroom drama with judge, jury, and attorneys, but really it is a universal exploration of the themes of forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and the willingness to accept others."
Portland-based theatre artist Stacey Koloski is talking about her latest project, directing Stephen Adly Guirgis's play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Mad Horse Theatre in South Portland. The drama with a cast of sixteen comprised of company regulars and guest artists opens Friday, March 24.BWW Review: Brave, Bold, and Beautiful SPRING AWAKENING at Lyric Music Theater March 20, 2017
South Portland's Lyric Music Theater is taking a bold and daring step in presenting the 2006 musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's 1891 provocative play, Spring Awakening. The wrenching musical drama explores with a piercing honesty the lives of teenagers and their adult authority figures locked in a lethal struggle as the young men and women search for freedom of expression, sexual liberation and fulfillment, and the embrace of their true identities in a dark, corseted world of repression and convention.
The issues raised by Frank Wedekind's play remain as potent and relevant today as they did in the late 19th century, and the Steven Sater book and lyrics and Duncan Sheik music remain true to the essence of the piece. Wedekind's world - the world of Freud and nascent psychology - is a bleak place where adults abuse their children psychologically and physically, where creativity is stifled, and love - as a total expression of body and soul - is forbidden. In this dark universe, the young villagers long in secret and search for a path through the pain.VIDEO: Theatre Miniatures No. 4: Dustin Tucker March 18, 2017
Actor Dustin Tucker is a critically acclaimed and popular figure on the Portland, Maine, theatre scene. Known especially for his work at Portland Stage and the Theater at Monmouth, Tucker's artistic journey began in Amarillo, Texas, continued at Interlochen Arts Academy, and then on to Broadway, off-Broadway, and the national regional theatre scene. In recent years he has come to call Maine his home base.BWW Review: PUMP BOYS & DINETTES Serves Up Nostalgia with a Smile March 11, 2017
For those wishing to take a trip back to a simpler era, Biddeford City Theater's production of Pump Boys & Dinettes serves up a wistful, warm slice of nostalgia together with a foot-tapping country musical score that is guaranteed to leave the audience smiling and singing along.
The 1980s juke box musical written by members of the band of the same name (John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel, Jim Wann) is set in a small North Carolina town on Highway 57 where four men who work at a gas station and two waitresses who run the adjacent Double Cupp Diner tell stories and jam on guitars, piano, bass, and kitchen utensils. The tunes are vintage country rock, filled with humor, heartache, a longing for the adventures of the road, and the flavors of small town southern life. Anchored by the show's remarkable music director, Kevin Smith, on piano, the seven-person cast sings, dances, and plays their heart out.BWW Interview: A-Five, Six, Seven, Eight: MSMT Local Auditions Sparkle March 6, 2017
The hallways are jammed with bright, expectant, luminous faces wearing their most eye-catching outfits, laden with dance bags, juggling binders with music and resumes, scanning their ever present iPhones, and searching for a place to sit or stretch or warm-up as they await the call. The energy is palpable and the spirits high. Many have come together in groups and chat excitedly, while others search for a quiet corner to gather their thoughts. Some 300 actors ranging in age from children to seasoned adults have checked into Maine State Music Theatre's offices and rehearsal studios at 22 Elm Street on February 25, 2017, to try their luck at the company's annual open call local auditions for the 2017 season which opens June 7.BWW Review: Dustin Tucker Scores a Tour de Force in Portland Stage's BUYER & CELLAR March 5, 2017
Portland Stage's current production, Jonathan Tolins' one-man, bitter-sweet comedy, Buyer & Cellar, offers Maine audiences a chance to revel not only in the protean talents of Dustin Tucker, who gives a compelling, engaging, irresistible ninety-minute virtuosic performance, but also in Tolins' agile sense of situation and ear for subtle character interaction. That all the characters (some five) are played by Tucker with the uncanny ability to make each unique is no small part of the charm and appeal of this production.BWW Interview: MSMT's MAGIC TIME Draws Capacity Crowds February 26, 2017
Are you ready for some fun and fairytales? We're going to need you to use your imaginations to help us. The preschoolers in the front rows giggle and squeal in anticipation.
Maine State Music Theatre's Artistic Director, Curt Dale Clark knows how to energize young audiences, and he clearly relishes the opportunity top perform for this morning crowd of over 160 ranging in age from several months to grandparents who have come to hear the special program of story and song, MAGIC TIME at Brunswick, Maine's Curtis Memorial Library. The two free forty-minute interactive programs, which featured readings, video, and live performances of the Robin and Clark musical versions of Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland, were created by MSMT in partnership with the Curtis Memorial Library with the help of a generous gift from the Maine Humanities Council and drew almost 300 people for both sessions. The idea, born of MSMT's desire to expand its outreach efforts, nurture young audiences, and draw a new diverse public to live theatre, began as a successful mini-grant proposal to Maine Humanities Council and by virtue of the enthusiasm of the MSMT and CML staffs and the community response mushroomed into something of a maxi event with lines cued up and out the library doors before the start of each show.BWW Review: Portland Stage Serves Up a Delightful Vintage Cocktail with a Twist February 5, 2017
With its winter production of Joseph Kesselring's classic comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace, Portland Stage's serves up a delightful vintage cocktail - complete with more than one amusing twist. The 1947 play, people with a cast of loveable, zany misfits who cheerfully engage in murder and mayhem retains its appeal seven decades later in this stylishly directed and colorfully acted production.BWW Review: Good Theater's THE MAY QUEEN Journeys from the Mundane to the Poetic February 4, 2017
Good Theater's Executive/Artistic Director Brian P. Allen has a remarkable sixth sense about choosing plays whose situations and characters resonate with originality and empathy. The latest production, Molly Smith Metzler's The May Queen, is an engaging portrait of five small town characters who all work in the local insurance agency and whose lives and paths remain interconnected because of their shared high school past. Metzler's comedy explores the surface banality of these characters, as it slowly and skillfully makes its way toward revealing some deeper poetic truths.BWW Review: Mad Horse's THE NETHER Is Bold and Beautiful January 22, 2017
'Bold, beautiful, brilliant' even are perhaps the first adjectives that come to mind to describe Mad Horse Theatre's latest production of Jenifer Haley's provocative play The Nether. And these words are quickly followed by 'difficult, disturbing, and dense.' The eighty-minute dark psychological drama with sci-fi thriller overtones, directed by Christine Louise Marshall, invites the spectator into a seductive and frightening world of obsession, compulsion, and perverse desire, and yet, by the time the wrenching evening has run its course, both characters and audience have found a measure of catharsis and truth that is its own ray of light.BWW Interview: Embracing the Face to Face: A Conversation with Mad Horse Theatre's Christine Louise Marshall January 16, 2017
'It's so wonderful to hear a playwright's voice and think 'I have never heard that said in that way. It's a lovely thing!' The Artistic Director of South Portland's Mad Horse Theatre Company is talking about the theatre's upcoming Maine premiere of Jennifer Haley's dark and riveting drama, The Nether, which opens Thursday, January 19, 2017. Marshall, who has also directed the play and created the props and costumes, is undaunted by the disturbing themes of Jennifer Haley's sci-fi thriller which raises provocative moral issues, because she says, ' Despite the gravity of the situations it deals with, it is a beautiful piece that I find absolutely bewitching.'BWW Photo: BroadwayWorld Regional Awards Awards Presented January 11, 2017
It's just about a week now since the Broadway World Audience Choice Awards were announced, and here in Maine, we are happy to report that all the certificates have been sent and the individual winners congratulated. In Brunswick, the home of Maine State Music Theatre Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark and Managing Director Stephanie Dupal received a special plaque to congratulate the theatre for having swept the Audience Choice awards two years in a row, garnering 10 in 2015 and 11 in 2016 and for having been selected Critic's Choice for the past three seasons. Among the other companies with multiple winners in 2016 were Portland Players and Portland Stage. A toast to 2016 and on to another great Maine theatre season in 2017!BWW Review: Good Theater's LOVE LETTERS Plays Like Fine Chamber Music January 8, 2017
A two character play in which the actors sit behind a desk and read from letters for eighty minutes poses a series of challenges to any director. What is it then that makes Brian P. Allen's new production of A.R. Gurney's 1989 drama, Love Letters, so completely mesmerizing? Not only is Gurney's writing poetic and poignant, but the production, which opened at Portland's Good Theater this past week starring Kathleen Kimball and Brian Allen (his role later assumed by Tony Reilly and then Steve Underwood), is so perfectly calibrated, so subtly interiorized that it resembles a fine chamber music performance.BWW Interview: Maine Celebrates with BWW Winners January 5, 2017
There was a buzz of excitement in theatres across the country on Wednesday, January 4, as Broadway World Regional Managing Editor Christina Mancuso announced each region's winners in the 2016 Broadway World Audience Choice Awards. Here in Maine within seconds of the postings, congratulations and comments poured in on social media and websites. Hoping to get a measure of the reaction, we contacted all the winners and took a sampling of responses to share with everyone.