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Summer Stages in Maine: A Sampling

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With miles of pristine coastline, picturesque villages, excellent dining and shopping, Maine is a summer mecca for tourists. But beyond sightseeing and outdoor recreation, Maine's summer theatre landscape is a rich and colorful one, making it a major cultural destination as well. Here are my editorial picks among the wealth of this summer's theatrical offerings.

Maine State Music Theatre is worth the trip to Maine in and of itself! This venerable music theatre's 58th season of "bringing Broadway to Brunswick" promises to be a record-breaking one with a calendar that features four main stage musicals at the Pickard Theatre in Brunswick and one additional co-production with Portland Stage in Portland, as well as two shows for Young Audiences and two gala concert evenings. The season opens on June 8 (-June 25) with the East Coast Regional premiere of Ghost in a new chamber version developed by MSMT and the Fulton Theatre, followed by Evita (June 29 - July 16) and Fiddler on the Roof ( July 20-August 6). The Brunswick season ends with the fresh off Broadway hit, Mama Mia (MSMT is one of three theatres nationwide to get the rights) (August 10 - August 27), but audiences can then travel half an hour south to catch The Irish and How They Got That Way (August 16-September 4) in Portland. Other notable summer performances include the company's family series featuring Robin & Clark's original musicals, Jack and the Beanstalk (June 15, June 18) and Aladdin (August 22); Rodgers and Hammerstein A Grand Night for Singing (June 20) and Footlight Follies (August 15). Selected as BWW's Critic's Best in Maine for the past three seasons and winner of ten BWW Audience Choice Awards this past summer, MSMT consistently produces shows with exciting talent and dazzling production values in a warm, welcoming ambiance. The popular Peek Behind the Curtain Series of panel discussions with theatre personnel, moderated by BWW, enters its third season on Wednesdays at noon (June 15, July 6, July 27, and August 17) at the Curtis Memorial Library, and this summer the company will mount a major retrospective exhibition about MSMT's history, featuring memorabilia, costumes, props, and video - also at Curtis Library, opening July 6 through August 27. Tickets are selling exceptionally fast, so to plan your visit call 207-725-8769 or visit www.msmt.org.

Ogunquit Playhouse also boasts a storied history of presenting professional musical theatre in southern Maine in the beautiful seaside town of the same name. They open the 2016 season with Let It Be, (May 18-June 11), Anything Goes (June 15-July 9), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (July 13- August 6 ), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (August 10-September 3), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (September 7- October 1), Million Dollar Quartet (October 5 - November 6), and Disney's Beauty and the Beast (November 30-December 18) The theatre's ancillary 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 is Maine's professional state Shakespeare company, but in recent years they have broadened their repertoire and presented thematically programmed seasons with great success. This year's theme is Vive la France! It features Shakespearean plays connected to France and classical French dramatists in alternating repertory running from June 25 - September 25. The offerings include Cyrano de Bergerac (Rostand), The Barber of Seville (Beaumarchais), Love's Labors Lost, Henry V (Shakespeare), The Illusion (Corneille), and Boeing Boeing as the fall closer. Puss in Boots is the family show. Tucked away in the idyllic country village of Monmouth and performed in the beautiful Cumston Hall, a visit offers an enchanting afternoon or evening. Tickets: 207-933-9999 or www.theatreatmonmouth.org.

Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, ME will present two straight plays and two musicals, beginning with Noises Off (June 17 through July 2), On the Town (July 6- July 23), Once Upon a Mattress (July 27-August 13), and Almost Maine (August 17- September 3) Tickets: 207-698-1807 or www.hackmatack.org

Biddeford City Theater concludes its 2016 calendar with West Side Story in that city's elegant, gilded Salle de l'Opéra from July 22- August 7. Tickets are available online at citytheatertix.org or by calling 207-282-0849.

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 Spamalot ( May13- May 28) while Portland Players presents Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party (May 20- June 5). MadHorse Theatre ends with Stupid F**King Bird (May 19- June 5), while Lewiston-Auburn's Community Little Theatre presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast August 19-28.

Photographs/logos courtesy Maine State Music Theatre and Ogunquit Playhouse.


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