Out & About: ‘Best of Broadway’ is Portland’s best show

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As the middle of May approaches on the calendar, the fall-winter-spring phase of the year’s arts and entertainment offerings is drawing to a close. But there’s still plenty of time to catch a few quality acts.

Portland’s biggest event of the weekend happens Saturday: the “Best of Broadway” fundraiser for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center. This annual event has been a personal favorite of mine for years.

The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn is wrapping up its 2011-2012 season this weekend with a fully professional production of “On Golden Pond,” Ernest Thompson’s wonderfully warm play about growing old on a Maine lake.

The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra wraps up its season with a pair of concerts this weekend in Lewiston and Topsham.

In a preview of summer, the Portland Chamber Music Festival presents its annual off-season concert on Friday in Freeport.

‘Best of Broadway’

Why mess with success? When a fundraising event such as the annual “Best of Broadway” consistently connects with audiences and clicks at the box office, there’s no need to change the successful formula. Now in its 21st annual edition, the “Best of Broadway” song-and-dance show earns about $35,000 for a terrific cause: The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.

As readers of “Out & About” know well, I’ve been going to “Best of Broadway” nearly every year since the inception and I count it among my personal favorites.

The show is co-directed by the husband-wife team of Steve and Jane Filieo of South Portland, and their formula hasn’t changed much over the years: Assemble a few dozen actors, actresses, musicians and dancers from all over southern Maine, then create a stirring Broadway revue of about two dozen hits.

All the performers are volunteers who give up many hours of their time to rehearse the show, beginning in February. The format revolves around an ensemble of five men and five women, all veterans of Maine musical productions.

This year’s ensemble comprises Todd Daley, Larry Jones, Jeremiah Haley, Kammy Marcotte, Jennifer McLeod, Marilyn Minsky Melton, Bethann Renaud, Tim Salce, Karen Stickney and John York. Two dance companies join forces for the evening, Maine State Ballet and Portland Ballet.

Kim Block and Doug Rafferty, known for their years at WGME, are co-hosts. Beth Barefoot, another “Best of Broadway” veteran, is music director.

I love the Filieos’ eclectic selection of numbers and shows. Old-time Broadway shows include “Babes in Arms,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “I Do! I Do! and “She Loves Me.” Newer classics include “Hairspray,” “Drowsy Chaperone,” “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Lion King.”

There’s one 7:30 p.m. performance May 12 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘On Golden Pond’

One of the most moving plays of modern times is Ernest Thompson’s “On Golden Pond,” a 1979 Broadway depiction of an elderly couple’s summer at their rustic lakeside camp in Maine.

It’s especially poignant, with many personal connections for many people in this state. On a personal note, my parents spent 58 happy summers at their Golden Pond in Oxford County.

The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn is ending its season with a wonderfully warm, fully professional (Equity contract) production of “On Golden Pond.”

I loved this show in all its many aspects. Two veterans of the Public Theatre, both familiar faces on television and movies, have the lead roles. Mike Genovese plays the 80-year-old retired professor, a lovingly curmudgeonly and acerbically witty character. Ellen Crawford (his wife in real life) plays his longtime wife and mother of their one child, daughter Chelsea, played by Beth Hylton.

Longstanding generational conflicts provide the emotional horsepower that drives the stage drama, and James Alexander provides the wonderfully evocative set, complete with pine paneling, hand-me-down furniture, broken screen door, fishing paraphernalia and other emblems of casual summer living in the Pine Tree State.

Catch this show at The Public Theatre (corner of Maple and Lisbon in Lewiston) at 7:30 p.m. May 10-11, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. May 12 and 2 p.m. May 13. Call 782-3200.

Midcoast Symphony Orchestra

The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra wraps up its 2011-2012 season this weekend with concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Maestro Rohan Smith will conduct the orchestra, and he’s invited oboe virtuoso John Ferrillo to be the MSO’s guest artist.

Ferrillo, best known as a first chair player with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, will play the demanding solo part in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C Major. It’s an elegant, melodic piece that shows the virtuosic potential of this woodwind in a cheerful, gallant style.

Two other works are on the program. Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” is a brilliantly colorful, acerbic and rhythmically riveting ballet score. Some of the tunes are reminiscent of Russian folk material, but everything is exaggerated, often to a point of grotesqueness. Stravinsky’s overall idea is to portray Old Russia as exotically colorful and deliciously chaotic.

Leonard Bernstein’s overture to “Candide,” a 1956 Broadway musical, boasts sparkling orchestration and witty rhythmic play.

The program will be presented twice: May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s Church in Lewiston and May 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Orion Performing Arts Center at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham. Call 846-5378.

Portland Chamber Music Festival

Over the course of two decades, the Portland Chamber Music Festival has established itself as one of Maine’s foremost summer events. So why has artistic director Jennifer Elowitch slated a concert for mid-May?

One good reason is that May is National Chamber Music Month. All over America small ensembles and performing arts organizations are scheduling special concerts to mark the occasion.

This Friday’s concert features five musicians: Elowitch and Gabriela Diaz will play violin, with Stephanie Taylor on viola and Marc Johnson on his 1730 Stradivarius cello. New York clarinetist Jo-Ann Sternberg will be the lone non-string player. Composers include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonin Dvorak, Rebecca Clarke and Charles Wuorninen.

Clarke is currently enjoying a posthumous revival, spearheaded by the Massachusetts based Rebecca Clarke Society. The British-born composer lived her later years in New York. Wuorninen is a contemporary American and a Pulitzer Prize winner who currently lives in New York.

The Portland Chamber Music Festival is also straying from its namesake city for this concert, which is slated for 8 p.m. May 11 at the Freeport Performing Arts Center, 30 Holbrook St. Call 888-702-7730.

Sidebar Elements

Mike Genovese and Ellen Crawford star in the Public Theatre’s season-ending production of “On Golden Pond,” Ernest Thompson’s warm play about growing old on a lakeside camp in Maine.