Out & About: Ah, summertime

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The astronomical calendar switches to summer this week, but it’s only catching up to the performing arts datebook, which switched seasons a couple of weeks ago.

This week’s picks of the tix are totally seasonal, ranging from straw-hat theater to music festivals.

Ogunquit Playhouse, which bills itself as “Broadway at the Beach,” opened its second show of 2018 last weekend. It’s a spectacular production of the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II: the irrepressible “Oklahoma!”

The Portland String Quartet is holding its annual Maine Festival of American Music up in New Gloucester’s Shaker Village; it runs through Saturday.

The 54th season of the Bowdoin International Music Festival – formerly called the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival – gets underway on Monday.

And the inaugural Bach Virtuosi Festival wraps up this weekend.


Oh, what a beautiful evening! That was my thought on Saturday after attending a performance of Ogunquit Playhouse’s second Broadway musical of 2018.

The celebrated show was the first collaboration of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II: “Oklahoma!” It was first produced in 1943, and the playhouse is honoring the 75th anniversary this summer.

“Oklahoma!” rewrote the creative rules for Broadway musicals and also rewrote the record book for longevity, lasting five years with over 2,200 performances.

A simple love story set in 1906, “Oklahoma!” captures the American spirit in ways that continue to amaze audiences, and Ogunquit’s superb production nobly and notably continues that tradition.

The cast is led by Stephen Mark Lukas as a cowboy who ardently woos Taylor Quick, playing a farm girl who’s also playing hard to get. Both are fine actors with beautiful voices.

Plus there’s Colby Dezelick as a comic cowboy wooing Chessa Metz, who plays very easy to get with several men. Timothy John Smith rounds out the principals as the cowboy’s leering, evil rival.

Scenery, costumes and choreography are based on the 2002 Broadway revival, which was produced by Cameron Mackintosh. I was particularly taken with Michael Allen’s scenic design, so evocative of an iconic time and place in American history.

I’ve seen many productions of “Oklahoma!” over the years, and this is definitely tops.

Ogunquit Playhouse, a mile south of the village on Route 1, presents “Oklahoma!” through July 7. Call 646-5511 or visit OgunquitPlayhouse.org.

Maine Festival of American Music

What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? The answer is “none;” it’s a question of performance style.

That difference in style will be reflected in the final two concerts of the 13th annual Maine Festival of American Music, slated for Friday and Saturday in New Gloucester.

The festival is a yearly collaboration between the Portland String Quartet and the iconic Shaker Village, with PSQ violist Julia Adams as the driving force.

Friday evening concertgoers will hear a fiddle virtuoso. Franco-American fiddler Don Roy is the aural signature of the Pine Tree State: a crisp, straightforward style that is born and bred in Maine’s French Canadian mill towns. Roy will perform a variety of mid-20th century folk and fiddle music with vibrant step dancing by his wife, pianist Cindy Roy, and bassist Jay Young. Admission is free for this concert.

On Saturday, the PSQ will perform “Negro Folksongs in Counterpoint” by Florence Price, an early 20th-century African-American composer who is currently being rediscovered as a national treasure. “In this work, Florence Price is exploring both counterpoint and dissonance within the context of her beloved folksongs,” Adams explains. “And the results are sometimes both shocking and sublime.”

The middle piece on the concert will be a work by Charles Ives, Price’s very well-known contemporary. Concluding will be a string quartet by Johannes Brahms.

Both concerts are scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Old Shaker Meeting House, old Route 26 in New Gloucester. Call 926-4597 or visit MaineShakers.com.

Bach Virtuosi Festival

Go out with a flourish. That’s the idea behind the final concert in the Bach Virtuosi Festival, which is slated for Sunday evening in Portland. I expect that it will be one of Maine’s top classical concerts for 2018, and I’ve already reserved my tickets.

The title of the program is “Two Giants,” and it refers to the two biggest names in the pantheon of 18th-century composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. The conductor will be festival founder Lewis Kaplan, a longtime Juilliard School violin professor and Bach scholar.

Bach will be showcased in two pieces, the Double Harpsichord Concerto and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. The former represents an exceptionally rare scoring: two harpsichords plus orchestra. The latter is one of the most enduringly popular works in the classical canon.

Handel, who is best known for his oratorio “Messiah” will be highlighted with selections from four lesser-known vocal works, “Esther,” “Solomon,” “Jephtha” and “Samson.”

Catch “Two Giants” at 7:30 p.m. June 24 at St. Luke’s Cathedral, 143 State St. in Portland. Call PortTix at 842-0800 or visit BachVirtuosiFestival.org.

Bowdoin International Music Festival

Among the many classical music festivals in Maine (and I’ve attended nearly all of them) the biggest by far happens on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick.

This year’s 54th edition of the Bowdoin International Music Festival runs from June 25 to Aug. 3. It’s both a public concert series – numbering about 50 each summer – and a music school attended by about 250 students from all over the world.

There are three regular concert series. Mondays are devoted to string quartets, both resident faculty foursomes and invited guests. On July 2 the Ying Quartet will perform. Violist Phillip Ying and his brother, cellist David Ying, are the festival co-directors. They are both professors at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Wednesdays and Fridays feature a variety of programming by faculty, guests and a few of the top students – typically those in post-conservatory programs.

The fifth weekend of the festival is devoted to contemporary music by living composers, who usually include one or two faculty members and a couple of students.

Most concerts take place in Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin campus. A pair that require large orchestras are held in Crooker Auditorium in Brunswick High School. Plus there are a dozen or so public concerts held in a variety of Midcoast locations. Many of these are free.

There are other interpretive events that are free, including many master classes and interviews with two distinguished contemporary American composers, Samuel Adler and John Harbison.

For tickets and other info, call 855-832-3393 or visit BowdoinFestival.org.

A love story revolving around a farm girl and a cowboy is the second show of 2018 at Ogunquit Playhouse. “Oklahoma!” runs through July 7.