Approaching the finish line

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We’re approaching the end of the 2016-2017 seasons for a number of southern Maine’s performing arts organizations, with several wrapping up their calendars within the next week.

The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn drops the last curtain this weekend with a comedy revolving around a pair of parachuting grandmothers.

Portland Ovations says sayonara on Saturday with a national touring production of “Pippin,” a Broadway musical that includes high-flying acrobats.

Opera Maine wraps up its “off-season” activities on Saturday with a concert by Maine-born mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich.

Portland Symphony Orchestra reaches the finish line on Tuesday with a program that features two big blockbuster works and two guest artists.

The DaPonte String Quartet puts an emphatic punctuation mark on its 25th season with a special (non-subscription) concert on May 18 in Brunswick.


Rivalry between very different personalities is a common dramatic device, but the final show of the 2016-2017 season at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn takes the concept to a ridiculous extreme. Two grandmothers in a retirement home vie with each other for supremacy and take their dispute to literal heights, including a skydive.

“Ripcord” is the latest comedy by David Lindsay-Abaire, currently one of America’s hottest playwrights and a Pulitzer Prize winner. He has crafted a wonderful story that begins with lots of belly laughs and ends with a very thoughtful denouement.

Abby, a cantankerous and curmudgeonly lady, is forced to accept outgoing, gregarious Marilyn as a roommate in the senior living center. That’s the starting point. I loved Cecelia Riddett and Maura O’Brien in those two roles; both are veteran actresses who milk the obvious comic situation for all it’s worth.

Director Chris Schario – who’s been the head honcho at this company since 1993 – gets stellar performances from both, plus four other actors playing a variety of lesser parts.

Kudos also to scenic designer Amber Callahan for her realistic apartment, the place where most of the action develops.

The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, presents “Ripcord” with 7:30 p.m. performances May 11-13 plus May 13 at 3 p.m. and May 14 at 2 p.m. Call 782-3200.


“The quest” is frequently used as the central story line for stage works, and so is the play-within-a-play. These two ideas are artfully combined in “Pippin,” the Broadway musical that wraps up the 2016-2017 season at Portland Ovations on May 13.

The central concept of “Pippin” is that a young actor is hired by a traveling performing troupe to play the part of a young medieval prince – son of Charlemagne –in a quest for the meaning of life. The show exhibits intentional artificiality and often breaks the “fourth wall” that separates actors and audience.

With a score by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, “Pippin” debuted on Broadway in 1973 and won five Tony Awards.

This Saturday’s production is based on the 2013 Broadway revival, which re-imagined the original performing troupe as a circus, thus adding an enormous amount of high-flying acrobatic action. That production ran nearly two years on Broadway and copped another four Tonys.

Portland Ovations presents “Pippin” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall for two May 13 performances: 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Opera Maine

When I first met Kate Aldrich in 2005 she was in rehearsal for PORTopera’s summer production of “Carmen.” Born in Damariscotta, the young mezzo-soprano was rising in the opera world, little known outside her home state but definitely moving up.

Twelve years later, Aldrich is an established star, a globetrotting singer who is much in demand for a variety of roles – especially “Carmen.” And, as of 2017, PORTopera has a new name: Opera Maine.

This Saturday Opera Maine will host Aldrich’s return to her home state in a concert of favorite arias from a variety of different composers. She’ll be accompanied by pianist Martin Perry, a longtime fixture of Maine’s classical music community.

“All of us at Opera Maine are thrilled to welcome Kate home to Maine to perform music she loves to sing,” commented Opera Maine artistic director Dona Vaughan. “The different genres of music represented in this concert reflect the incredible range of emotions that Kate has brought to opera and concert stages all over the world.”

Opera Maine presents Kate Aldrich and Martin Perry at 7:30 p.m. May 13 at the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St. on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. Call 879-7678.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

It’s coda time for the Portland Symphony Orchestra, which will exit with a concert featuring two classical blockbusters under the direction of guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger, a former associate maestro of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and currently music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan.

The first big item is Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, which evinces the German Romantic period in music and gives plenty of virtuosic opportunities to the soloist. Performing the difficult solo part will be another guest artist, violinist Alexi Kenney, who won an Avery Fisher Career Grant last year.

The second big item will be Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, subtitled “Pathetique.” It’s the last major work the composer finished, and it brims with tragic emotion, particularly the first and fourth movements.

Catch the Portland Symphony Orchestra May 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

DaPonte String Quartet

This year the DaPonte String Quartet celebrates its 25th anniversary. Originally formed in Philadelphia, the DaPontes have been a fixture of the Maine music scene since the mid-1990s.

I have heard the DSQ dozens of times since then, and I always anticipate their concerts with enthusiasm.

Shortly after wrapping up the 2016-2017 subscription season, the four – violinists Dino Liva and Lydia Forbes plus violist Kirsten Monke and cellist Myles Jordan –will get together for a special celebration concert at Bowdoin College on May 18.

Curiously, the four have decided to play an entire program of piano quintets, with Awadagin Pratt as the guest keyboard artist. Pratt, who first gained wide acclaim in 1992 as the first African-American to win the prestigious Naumburg International Piano Competition, is a professor at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He has guested with many orchestras, including the Portland Symphony, and is eagerly sought as featured artist for chamber music performances.

Catch the DaPonte String Quartet’s 25th anniversary celebration concert at 6:30 p.m. May 18 at Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 529-4555.

“Ripcord,” a comedy centered on a pair of grandmothers whose rivalry goes sky high, wraps up the 2016-2017 season at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.