Summer Stages Maine: A Sampling of Best Picks
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.
Maine State Music Theatre is a leading regional Equity company that ranks among the best in the country. Following on the heels of its sold-out 2016 season, seats for the 2017 lineup promise again to be the hottest tickets in town! This venerable music theatre's 59th season of "Bringing Broadway to Brunswick" boasts a roster of four main stage shows at the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus and one co-production with Portland Stage in Portland, as well as two children's shows and two other concert stagings, together with a host of ancillary events that all add up to an ambitious and exciting summer experience.
The main stage productions include Always... Patsy Cline (June 7-24), Guys and Dolls (June 28-July 15), Grease (July 19-August 5), and Disney's Newsies (August 9 -26) in Brunswick and The All Night Strut at Portland Stage (August 15-September 10). The Monday Night Concert Series features the Who's Tommy (July 31) and The Taffettas (August 14), as well as a guest concert by the Hank Band (July 10). The two Theatre for Young Audiences productions are Robin and Clark's musical versions of Sleeping Beauty (June 14) and Alice in Wonderland (August 21), which, thanks to a grant from the Anna Maria Moggio Foundation, will offer an additional sensory friendly rehearsal performance of each show (June 10 and August 20).
Besides its regularly scheduled post-performance talkbacks, the company continues its fourth year of the popular Peek Behind the Curtain Series of panel discussions with actors, creatives, and company on Wednesdays at noon at the Curtis Memorial Library (June 14, July 5, July 26, August 16). And they will host Summer Blast, a special gala evening of fifties fun at the Brunswick Golf Club on July 24 with music by the Flat Tops.
Remaining single seats go on sale April 26th, and patrons might want to run - not walk- to the box office in order not to miss any of this year's performances. Tickets: 207-725-8769 or www.msmt.org
Ogunquit Playhouse, another of Maine's highly esteemed summer theatres, presents its 85th season in 2017 with a lineup of familiar and new titles, among them the blockbuster hit Mamma Mia! (May 17-July 1), Bullets Over Broadway (July 5-July 29), Ragtime (August 2-August 26), Heartbreak Hotel (August 30-September 30), From Here to Eternity (October 4-October 29) and White Christmas at Portsmouth's Music Hall (November 29-December 17). The theatre's auxiliary activities include performances by children in their theatre camps, backstage tours, and post-performance talkbacks. Tickets: 207-646-5511 or www.ogunquitplayhouse.org.
Theater at Monmouth, Maine's professional state Shakespeare company, offers a thematic roster of classic and contemporary plays in repertory from June 24 to September 24. This year's organizing concept is Power, Passion, and Privilege and features Shakespeare's Othello and Macbeth, Moliere's The Learned Ladies, Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain, Lolita Chakrabarti's Red Velvet and Richard Elice's Peter and the Starcatcher. The family performance is My Father's Dragon. Then, in addition to the intriguing program, the venue, beautiful Cumston Hall is worth a visit in and of itself, as is the delightfully idyllic setting of this rural village tucked away just south of Augusta. Tickets: 207-933-9999 www.theateratmonmouth
Lakewood Theater, a more than century old dinner theatre nestled in Madison in Maine's western mountains, mounts its 117th season in 2017. The repertoire features Arsenic and Old Lace (May 25-June 3), Some Sweet Day (June 8-17), Shout! The Mod Musical (June 22-July 1),Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner (July 6-15), Avenue Q (July 20-29), The Savannah Sipping Society (August 3-12), Bullets Over Broadway (August 17-26), Baskerville (August 31-September 9), and Comedy of Tenors (September 14-23). Tickets: 207-474-7176 www.lakewoodtheater.org
Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor produces The Full Monty this summer with performances from June 15- July 9 and then goes on with its regular season in the fall. Tickets: 207-942-3333 www.penobscittheatre.org
Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, ME will present two straight plays and two musicals, beginning with She Loves Me (June 16-July 1), The Buddy Holly Story (July 5-22), Steel Magnolias (July 26-August 12), and The Fantastiks (August 16- September 2) Tickets: 207-698-1807 or www.hackmatack.org
Biddeford City Theater concludes its 2017 calendar with the musical The Wixard of Oz in that city's elegant, gilded Salle de l'Opéra from July 21- August 6. Tickets: 207-282-0849 www.citytheatertix.org
Other companies with fall-winter seasons will be beginning or finishing the summer with some interesting possibilities as well. Lyric Music Theatre of South Portland closes its season with Catch Me If You Can ( June 2-18) while Lewiston-Auburn's Community Little Theatre presents Prelude to a Kiss (June 9-18) and Shrek The Musical (August 11-20). And among the single events worth seeing: the Good Theater's Artistic Director Brian P. Allen brings his witty autobiographical one-man show, Blueberries, Broadway, and Brian to the Strand Theatre in Rockland July 13 and to Nasson Community Center in Springvale on July 14.
Photographs courtesy of MSMT, Ogunquit Playhouse