BWW Review: MSMT Closes Its Season with Another First
Just when you thought the excitement of the Maine State Music Theatre season was drawing inevitably to a close, the company delivered one last smashing surprise of an evening: its first free concert on the Brunswick Mall. Playing to a huge crowd that spanned some four blocks of the town green on a perfect late summer evening, MSMT performed a program of highlights from its 2017 repertoire. Partnering with the Brunswick Downtown Association and receiving generous funding from the Maine Arts Commission, the company launched yet another of its many outreach projects designed to bring Broadway to Brunswick.
The hour-long concert featured a cross-section of current season performers and repertoire and was designed with to capture the flavor of the main stage as well as the carefree fun of a summer's evening. Not only was the array of talent noteworthy, but given that this was the first large-scale outdoor event MSMT has undertaken, it is all the more remarkable how well the company acquitted itself in technical terms with a well-balanced, undistorted and vibrant sound design from Nate Dickson.
The highlights of the eclectic evening were numerous. Accompanied by Curtis Reynolds, members of the Newsies cast came by before their call for the evening performance to sing a rousing "King of New York" and Angela Grovey, Medda Larkin in Newsies, reprised her stirring rendition of "That's Rich" mesmerizing the large crowd just as easily as she does in the Pickard each evening. Other fine soloists included MSMT company members from current and previous seasons, Cameron Wright in a sultry rendition of "The Lady Is a Tramp," Raymond Marc Dumont and Sara Sargent in a touching duet from Little Shop of Horrors, "Suddenly Seymour," and Birdie Newman Katz in a gutsy "This Time" from Cabaret.
Adding to the community flavor of such an event, the Falmouth-based vocal-instrumental ensemble who perform on yukelae and banjo, The Flutes, delighted with some American classics like Oh, Susannah and a Broadway medley that included titles like "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
A standout of the evening was the return of The Tafettas - Natalie Nicole Bellamy, Rebecca René Kelley, Tracy Sokat, and Sara Sargent, all MST interns. These four super talented young artists rerps8ed a good portion of their hit main stage performance in which they reinterpreted the music of the1950s girls' groups. The show, which played the Pickard on August 14, (2 performances) and went on to visit Lewiston's Franco-American Hall for two more sold-out performances in addition to appearances at the Harpswell Bandshell on August 22 and the Brunswick Mall on August 23, has proved to be one of MSMT's little projects that has turned mega success and with good reason. The four performers, accompanied by their Music Director, Evan Cuddy on keyboards, are superbly talented and charismatic; they have mastered the vocal style and tight four-part harmonies perfectly, and with the benefit of a longer-tan-usual-run, this Mall performance had a special vibrancy and identification with the material.
As a pilot effort, this first MSMT Concert on the Mall proved to be an artistic, as well as community success. The two producing organizations, the BDA and MSMT share a vision of a vibrant, rich cultural tapestry of events for Brunswick. MSMT's entry into the lineup of Music on the Mall adds immeasurably to this vision. Building new audiences is a priority and a necessity for all who love theatre, and apparently this Mall concert has made a significant contribution to that effort. In glancing around and photographing the crowd, there were some familiar faces, but most were new - families, young childen....
And while any initial endeavor has so many more re-imaginings ahead, one little scene caught my eye and perhaps embodied what MSMT is striving for: a small group of very young children - obviously interested in dance and music and completely transported by what they saw - danced along to most of the songs, creating their own choreography and occasionally pausing to stare in wonder at the stage.
This is what live theatre at its best - at its most generous and beautiful best - can do. Thanks to MSMT for a stellar season and for a sense of community caring!
MSMT appeared as part of the Brunswick Downtown Association's series of Music on the Mall on Augustb23, 2017. They have promised to return in 2018. For more information: www.msmt.org or brunswickdowntown.org