It is the winter doldrums here in North Country, but what better way to combat those blues than to take in an entertaining, moving, or inspiring evening at one of Maine's fine theatre companies? And if not in winter, why not plan ahead by subscribing to some of these companies or buying seats for one of the many exciting upcoming events for 2019?
To assist you in your planning, BWW offers these picks of the ten productions and company repertoire to which we look forward most.BWW Review: Portland Stage's Venerable CHRISTMAS CAROL Gets New Scrooge December 23, 2018
Anita Stewart's staging of Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been a beloved fixture on Portland's Christmas scene for quite some time now, and, indeed, despite changing casts, much of its appeal resides in its familiarity to audiences. On the December 23rd matinee, the venerable production got a fresh new uplift in the performance of Dustin Tucker as Scrooge.BWW Review: Valerie Perri Headlines BROADWAY AT THE GOOD THEATER December 7, 2018
In what has become a delightful Portland holiday tradition, the Good Theater presented its annual musical revue, created and directed by Brian P. Allen, starring an incandescent Valerie Perri, together with Daniel Patrick Smith and a fine ensemble of Maine talent. The program, which featured twenty-nine musical theatre classics as well as lesser-known songs of the 1980s, was woven together by Allen with his comprehensive knowledge of the repertoire and his customary wit and performed with relish and commitment by the entire ensemble.BWW Review: Broadway World Critic's Choice Maine 2018 November 23, 2018
Maine seems to be enjoying a theatrical renaissance with large and small companies vigorously engaged in producing a wide range of repertoire throughout the state. Several of the leading professional theatres have become destinations in and of themselves - (witness the inclusion of Maine State Music Theatre and Ogunquit Playhouse in Scott Andrews' upcoming book, Vacationland) - while venerable community groups continue to raise the bar for their work. I am privileged to get to sample these performances as Broadway World's Maine editor and to be able to compare many of them favorably with shows I see across the country, in New York and London. These are my personal choices of the best in Maine for 2018, grouped by theatre company and show.
MAINE STATE MUSIC THEATRE delivered a 60th anniversary season that redefined the meaning and substance of 'gala.'BWW Review: Loveable Characters and Lots of Laughter in Good Theater's HOMER BOUND November 12, 2018
For the second offering of the Good Theater's ambitious 2018-2019 season and its one hundredth production in the company's existence, Brian P. Allen has mounted the world premiere of a new play by Maine writer Karmo Sanders. Homer Bound is a rollicking, folksy comedy populated by loveable characters and guaranteed to have the audience split its sides with laughter. Directed with panache by Sally Wood and performed by six excellent actors, Homer Bound is a romp from start to finish!BWW Review: REFUGE MALJA at Portland Stage Explores the Refugee Experience November 11, 2018
In mounting Bess Welden's new play Refuge Malja, Portland Stage seeks to tell the story of contemporary Syrian war refugees in the context of history, the Holocaust, and personal conflict. Set largely in Greece and the Middle East, it intertwines the story of two journalists, their failed romance, and the struggles they have in coming to terms with past demons and the present suffering they witness. The intersection of these dramas is laden with potential for fine storytelling, but somehow Welden never manages to weave the threads into a coherent tale. Admirable in its intent, Refuge Malja remains a puzzling, under developed theatrical experience.BWW Review: THE HAUNTING 2.0 Proves To Be Sophisticated Sequel October 31, 2018
Dustin Tucker's THE HAUNTING 2.0, presented in the Studio Series at Portland Stage, proves to be a sophisticated and fascinating sequel to last season's inaugural Halloween event. Shaping six horror stories by Maine writers into an imaginative, often chilling dramatic sequence, Tucker's piece explores the psychological dimensions of terror with a combination of visceral fear and dark humor.BWW REVIEW: Minimalist and Intense CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG Packs Maximum Punch October 15, 2018
Opening its 17th season, the Good Theater's stirring production of Simon Stephens' The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time takes the company to new heights of achievement. In a long roster of excellent work, this brilliant staging stands out as one of the company's finest accom;ishments. Minimalist in its staging, eschewing the bells and whistles of the original London and New York productions, Curious Incident packs a maximum punch with its intense narrative and stunning, star- quality performance of Griffin Carpenter in the central role.BWW Review: Portland Stage Opens 45th Season with BEN BUTLER September 30, 2018
Marking its 45th season Portland Stage opened with Richard Strand's 2014 drama about the Union General Benjamin Butler's unintentional, but heartwarming sheltering of fugitive slaves during his command of Fort Monroe, Virginia, at the start of the Civil War. In a well-cast, elegantly produced staging the company offers a quirky, witty, often whimsical look at four characters who cross ideological swords and skirmish for high stakes not on the battleground but with a war of words, cleverly turned logic, solipsisms, and wittybadinage - all of which result in a remarkable turn of events that defies stereotypes, race, and convention.BWW Review: Sprightly, Sassy PIRATES OF PENZANCE Closes TAM Season September 16, 2018
The Theater at Monmouth resumed its tradition of a fall Gilbert and Sullivan production with a sprightly, sassy, clever new take on the beloved chestnut, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. In a significantly trimmed score and re-imagined concept, the work comes alive with a freshness, energy, and new slant to the humor, while retaining the silliness of the script and the appeal of the songs.BWW Review: Becoming a Real Live Boy: MSMT Closes Young Audiences Series with PINOCCHIO August 20, 2018
In an enchantingly fresh take on Carlo Collodi's classic tale, Robin and Clark's musical version of Pinocchio explores the inner journey of the wooden puppet who must learn the meaning of truth, compassion, and courage in order to become 'a real live boy.' MSMT closes its Theatre for Young Audiences series with a colorful, amusing, and tender retelling of this touching story, directed and choreographed by Raymond Marc Dumont and entirely produced and performed by MSMT's Educational Fellows.BWW Interview: 'What a Glorious Feeling': MSMT Panel Celebrates SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and Anniversary Concerts August 18, 2018
In the midst of what has proved to be an extraordinary week for the company, Maine State Music Theatre fans turned out in a capacity crowd at the Curtis Memorial Library's final Peek Behind the Curtain panel to celebrate the concluding events of this Diamond Jubilee season. In the Brunswick season's penultimate week, MSMT presented nine performances of its smash hit, Singin' in the Rain, as well as two sold-out gala 60th anniversary concerts and a free Concert on the Mall that drew close to 2500 people. The panel, moderated by BWW's Carla Maria Verdino-Sullwold, featured Nicolas Dromard, Kate Fahrner, Brian Shepard, and Kim Sava, the stars of the production, two returning stars closely associated with MSMT's history, Sue Cella and K.K. Preece, as well as Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark. The resulting discussion, which focused on the joyful new staging by Marc Robin of Singin' in the Rain and the special anniversary events, was filled with warmth, laughter, and substance.BWW Review: Timeless Laughter: Dan Goggin's NUNSENSE Delights in Portland August 18, 2018
It is so seemingly simple and yet so irresistibly infectious. The thirty-five year-old show envelops the audience in a haze of nostalgia and a cocoon of laughter that makes for a delicious theatrical evening. And in this delightfully fresh, colorful, exuberant, and touching co-production presented by Maine State Music Theatre and Portland Stage, Dan Goggin's original Nunsense story makes clear why this musical has remained a timeless phenomenonBWW Review: MSMT Throws Big, Beautiful 60th Birthday Bash August 14, 2018
Anniversaries are times to reflect, to evaluate, but also to celebrate. Yesterday with its 60 Years of Musical Theatre: The Best of Maine State Music Theatre gala concert, the Brunswick theatre pulled out all the stops with a big, beautiful Diamond Jubilee gala that proved a stunning culmination to this milestone season. And indeed, six decades after Victoria Crandall launched her dream at the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus, MSMT can boast numerous reasons to celebrate its history, as well as its present accomplishments and future aspirations.
In a matinee and evening stagings that featured musical performances by twenty-one soloists and an ensemble of ten, as well a number of spoken tributes, Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark architected a program that was classy, heartfelt, and rich and deep in the talent it showcased. As with any commemorative event, the program tapped into nostalgia and memory but blended these with a strong sense of the vigorous, energetic, imposing presence this company has become - not only in Midcoast Maine but also as a force in national regional theatre.BWW Review: MSMT Brings Glitter of Hollywood's Golden Age to the Pickard Stage August 10, 2018
As its main stage finale in this Diamond Jubilee season, Maine State Music Theatre chose to present the stage version of one of the most beloved musicals of all time, Singin' in the Rain. With its book by Betty Comden/Adolph Green, and songs by Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed), based on the famed MGM musical, this iconic classic receives a production that recreates the glitter of Hollywood's Golden Age on a dazzlingly grand scale. MSMT's staging, directed/choreographed by Marc Robin, sparkles with the effervescence of fine champagne, bubbles with energy and originality, exudes sunshine and joy, and offers its audiences an exhilarating, entirely magical entertainment experience.BWW Interview: Brian Shepard: I Never Had a Fallback August 8, 2018
Replying to a question about how he has chalked up such an impressive performance roster, Broadway triple threat actor Brian Shepard, who plays Cosmo Brown in Maine State Music Theatre's new production of Singin' in the Rain, smiles and says," Good fortune, a lot of hard work, and I LOVE this! I am doing what I have always wanted to do. It was this or bust. I never had a fallback."BWW Interview: Make 'Em Laugh, Make 'Em Cry with Joy: A Conversation with Nicolas Dromard August 5, 2018
'I think the audience is going to eat up Singing' in the Rain. It is live theatre where anything can happen, and the talent in this cast is really amazing,' enthuses the star of Maine State Music Theatre's new production of the beloved classic, which begins its run at Brunswick's Pickard Theater on August 8th. For Nicolas Dromard, the opportunity to play Don Lockwood is a dream come true. 'It's taken me thirty-one years, but here I am,' he says with a big grin.BWW Interview: Laughter That Cures All Ills: Dan Goggin and the Enduring Phenomenon of NUNSENSE August 1, 2018
' 'If laughter cures all ills, Nunsense will make doctors obsolete.' That is one of my favorite all time review quotes,' says Dan Goggin. 'Hearing an audience laugh and knowing you had something to do with it is one of the most rewarding experiences I can think of.' Despite the enduring international sensation Goggin's brainchild has become, the writer, director, and creator of a thirty-five-year musical theatre phenomenon and franchise that embraces seven musicals, three spin offs, television specials, a possible upcoming new television series, recordings, and an entire line of merchandise remains a bit bemused and amazed at his runaway success.BWW Review: We Love You Conrad: MSMT's Stylish Revival of BYE BYE BIRDIE July 31, 2018
It has been fifty-eight years since the Tony-award-winning Michael Stewart/Charles Crouse/Lee Adams musical Bye Bye Birdie first opened on Broadway, and while the topicality of the material is no longer au courant, still this fresh, charming Maine State Music Theatre revival, directed/choreographed by Raymond Marc Dumont, retains its humor, humanity, and universality.BWW Review: Delightfully Outrageous and Incorrect: The PRODUCERS at Biddeford City Theater July 29, 2018
It is almost fifty years since the original Mel Brooks film and seventeen since the Broadway stage version of Mel Brook's hilarious and outrageously funny, totally incorrect musical, The Producers, hit the stage. And despite it, or perhaps because of the contentious climate in which we live, this glorious tonic of laughter and colorful characters still rings true and commands a wrapt audience. Biddeford city Theater's production, directed by Linda Sturdivant, provides a glorious afternoon escape into the world of parody, spoof, and Broadway innuendo.
The production is a large one for this ambitious community theatre, and they rise admirably to the challenge. Sturdivant directs and produces with a sure hand and a very balanced sense of humor - Mel Brooks requires a deft touch, despite the overt quality of his comedy. She expertly captures the iconic moments, keeps the stage pace, moves the action, and helps the cast establish the colorful characters.