Out & About: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ thrills in Brunswick

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Musical theater, opera and old-time music are all on this week’s menu of summertime entertainment treats.

Top ticket is “Beauty and the Beast,” the Walt Disney Co.’s stage version of its animated movie of the same name, which is in turn based on French fairy tale. This superb show runs through July 14 at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick.

Opera Maine returns with its annual mid-July small-scale production. This year it’s “Three Decembers,” to be presented four times in four venues, beginning July 11 in Portland.

Open the Door for Three is a trio of all-star Irish musicians slated to visit Harrison on Friday.

Deep Blue “C” Studio Orchestra is a 17-piece pops ensemble that’s giving a pair of concerts, July 7 in Harrison and July 9 in Arundel.

‘Beauty and the Beast’

Beauty is only skin deep, the saying goes. And sometimes the same goes for beastliness.

That’s one of the take-home messages from Maine State Music Theatre’s current production, “Beauty and the Beast.” With music by Alan Menken, book by Linda Woolverton and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, “Beauty and the Beast” was one of the Walt Disney Co.’s most successful Broadway productions, running nearly 5,500 performances over 13 years. It was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning one.

It’s based on a medieval French fairy tale, and the tale concerns a handsome prince who falls under the spell of an enchantress who transforms him into a hideous beast. Only true love can break the spell (sound familiar?), but how is someone that ugly going to find love? That’s his quandary.

Since you know it’s a fairy tale, the end is fairly predictable. But “Beauty and the Beast” is still a lot of fun to watch, and MSMT’s production is magnificent in every detail.

The cast is led by Darick Pead as the beast, Lexi Rabadi as the beautiful young outcast who sees beyond his ugliness, and Matthew Ragas as the epitome of a self-absorbed, self-anointed hero.

There’s a fine supporting cast, many of them appearing in spectacularly over-the-top costumes designed by Ryan Moller.

Maine State Music Theatre presents “Beauty and the Beast” through July 14 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-8769 or visit MSMT.org.

Open the Door for Three

They don’t call themselves an Irish all-star team, but that’s what they are. Three musicians who mostly play with well-known Irish acts – Riverdance, Cherish the Ladies, String Sisters, Secret Garden, Anuna – periodically tour as a trio. The tour takes them to Deertrees Theatre in Harrison this Friday.

They call themselves Open the Door for Three, and they comprise fiddle wiz Liz Knowles, uilleann piper Kieran O’Hare, and singer and bouzouki player Pat Broaders. (Uilleann pipes are the Irish national version of bagpipes; the bouzouki belongs to the guitar family.)

As a trio, they have played to a wide range of audiences in venues large and small, from Irish festivals, to concert halls, house concerts and pubs. Open the Door for Three has been recently featured at the Kennedy Center’s Ireland 100 festival and the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton.

“I’ve seen their videos, and they’re incredible,” commented Carole Harris, Deertrees’ assistant manager. “They play all over the world, and it’s so hard to believe that they’re actually coming to our little town.”

Catch Open the Door for Three at 7:30 p.m. July 6 at Deertrees Theatre, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Call 583-6747 or visit Deertrees-Theatre.org.

Deep Blue ‘C’ Studio Orchestra

Seventeen musicians made up of woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings – as in a symphony orchestra – plus a rhythm section of guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and drum set (as in a jazz combo). Plus four vocalists. That’s the formula for the Deep Blue “C” Studio Orchestra, which will be playing twice in Maine within the week.

Music director and founder is David Vose, a former Columbia Pictures executive and current professor at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Most of the musicians come from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Vose’s original goal was to present the catalogue of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, but he has since broadened the scope to embrace a wide range of modern popular composers and lyricists.

These include Henry Mancini, John Williams, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin and Smokey Robinson. Well-known songwriting teams include John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller plus Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

The Deep Blue “C” Studio Orchestra plays twice in Maine within the week. The first is July 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Deertrees Theatre, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Call 583-6747 or visit Deertrees-Theatre.org. The second is July 9 at 8 p.m. at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre, 53 Old Post Road in Arundel. Call 985-5552 or visit VinegarHillMusicTheatre.com.

‘Three Decembers’

For nearly a quarter-century Opera Maine (nee Portland Opera Repertory Theatre and later known as PORTopera) has been a July fixture on our state’s cultural scene. For most of those years the company has mounted two professional productions, a chamber opera in mid-July and a mainstage show near the end of the month.

This year’s small-scale opera is “Three Decembers,” written by Jake Heggie, a contemporary composer, and the setting is the AIDS crisis that began in the 1980s. The libretto is by Gene Scheer, based on Terrence McNally’s unproduced play, “Some Christmas Letters.” It was originally written as a vehicle for aging American operatic superstar, Frederica von Stade.

“Three Decembers” runs 90 minutes in one act. It relates the story of a famous stage actress and her two adult children. The drama unfolds across three decades of the AIDS crisis (1986, 1996 and 2006), each section recalling the events of one December as the characters struggle to connect as family secrets are revealed.

Opera Maine’s production will feature a guest artist, mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, in the lead role, while the two supporting parts will be performed by Opera Maine studio artists. Bryce-Davis is a rising star in the opera world with experience in San Francisco, New York, Austria and Holland.

Four 7:30 p.m. performances are slated: July 11 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. in Portland; July 13 at Deertrees Theatre, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison; July 15 at The Temple, Temple Square in Ocean Park, and July 16 at the Camden Opera House, 29 Elm St. in Camden. Visit OperaMaine.com.

“Beauty and the Beast” is at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick.