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Musical theater is one of my passions in life, and seldom has this passion been more perfectly satisfied than with Ogunquit Playhouse’s current offering. “Nice Work If You Can Get It” is belly-busting funny and the music is brilliantly melodic and witty.
Two of Maine’s top classical music festivals are in the waning days of 2015. Let’s take a look at the remaining concerts of the Bowdoin International Music Festival, which wraps up Aug. 7, and the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, which checks out Aug. 11.
Two factors make these occasions especially interesting. In the case of Bowdoin, the final few concerts wrap up the festival’s first season under the co-artistic directorship of brothers David and Phillip Ying. At Sebago-Long Lake, these final weeks represent Laurie Kennedy’s coda as music director.
Musical comedy has two elements, and seldom have they been so brilliantly combined as in “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” the current show at Ogunquit Playhouse.
With a scintillating score excerpted from the Broadway songbook of George Gershwin (music) and brother Ira Gershwin (lyrics), “Nice Work” has a contemporary book by Joe DiPietro, inspired by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse’s 1926 script for “Oh, Kay!”
The dramatic genre is farce. The setting is the Roaring Twenties, when Prohibition was in full force. The eponymous “work” is bootlegging liquor, an occupation that engaged a vast swath of American society, from wealthy socialites to criminal lowlife. These antipodal segments collide, with hilarious results, in “Nice Work.”
The action progress around an improbable romance involving an oft-married socialite (Joey Sorge) and the tomboy leader (Amanda Lea LaVergne) of a rough gang of smugglers. Both Sorge and LaVergne give show-stopping performances, immensely aided by eight comic characters, played by James Beaman, Steve Brady, Elyse Collier, Aaron Fried, Valerie Harper, Valton Jackson, Breighanna Minnema and Sally Struthers. The show is brilliantly directed by Larry Raben.
Ogunquit has obtained the rights to the Broadway sets and costumes, adding much glamour to the big ensemble numbers, which include five dashing men and five gorgeous chorines.
Ogunquit Playhouse, a mile south of the village on U.S. Route 1, presents “Nice Work If You Can Get It” through Aug. 15. Call 646-5511 or visit ogunquitplayhouse.org.
The Bowdoin International Music Festival, Maine’s largest and most diverse classical offering of the summer, is approaching the end of the beginning of its new era.
For the first time in its half-century of existence, the festival has been under new leadership: brothers Phillip and David Ying, violist and cellist of the Ying Quartet.
After co-founder and artistic director Lewis Kaplan retired at the end of 2014 (he’s still very active as a BIMF teacher and performer), the Yings inherited a big and complex operation that comprises a triad of parts: training aspiring professional performers, composition of new art music and numerous public concerts.
The week of Aug. 3-7 represents the finale of the Yings’ first season, and its three main public concerts represent a sampling of the festival’s strengths. The Monday Showcase series concludes with an appearance by the Miro Quartet. Under the Yings, the 2015 Monday series has focused on string quartets, including their own.
The Wednesday Upbeat! series concludes with a concert featuring three works, one by a famous 19th-century German composer, one by a 20th-century Englishman and one by Kevin Puts, an American Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who is a guest artist at BIMF this season.
The final Festival Friday concert brings many elements together. Members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra will join top BIMF faculty and graduate students in a variety of works, including one by Puts. The concluding piece for 2015 will be Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” which ranks as the most popular and approachable American classical composition.
All concerts are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with Mondays and Wednesdays held at Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin College campus and Fridays at Crooker Auditorium at Brunswick High School. Call 725-3895 or visit bowdoinfestival.org.
We’re going to miss her. After 30 years as music director of the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, Laurie Kennedy is stepping down at the end of this season.
Kennedy, a prominent and popular figure amongst our state’s cultural community, is also well known as the longtime first violist of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and as the driving force behind the Maine Mountain Music concert series in Farmington. After retiring from the festival’s top job, she hopes to continue as a player.
I’ve been a regular attendee at this festival for the past 15 years, and I deeply appreciate Kennedy’s ability to select a season of works that appeal to me and to assemble a cadre of performing artists from symphonies and conservatories all over the U.S.
There’s no clear plan to name a successor. Carol Madsen, president of the festival’s board of directors, says that the group is evaluating a number of options for continuing sans Kennedy. “We’re open to considering any plan that’s possible,” she told me a couple of weeks ago. Madsen hopes to make an announcement by September.
Meantime, the final two concerts of this season are worthy of a classical coda.
On Aug. 4 the centerpiece will be Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Trio in B Flat Major, commonly known as “Archduke.” The trio, first performed in 1814, represents Beethoven at his apotheosis as a composer. Often characterized as “noble” and “grand,” it was fittingly dedicated to the composer’s generous patron, Archduke Rudolph Rainer of Austria. The “Archduke” also represents the mid-point of the festival’s commitment to present all seven of Beethoven’s piano trios over a three-year period.
For Kennedy’s final program on Aug. 11, the best-known selections are a pair of string sextets, by Antonin Dvorak and Felix Mendelssohn. But the opening item is very characteristic of Kennedy’s ability to inject unexpected and delightful variety into her concerts: Carl Reinecke’s Trio in A Minor for Oboe, Horn and Piano is a piece for an unusual combination of instruments written by 19th-century Romantic composer whose name is largely forgotten.
Concerts of the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival are held in historic Deertrees Theatre, a subtle masterpiece of sylvan architecture that was built in 1936 and has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. Find it at 156 Deertrees Road, Harrison. All concerts are held at 7:30 p.m. Call Deertrees at 583-6747 or visit sebagomusicfestival.org.
Joey Sorge, center, stars as the romantic lead in “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” a wonderful musical comedy that runs through Aug. 15 at Ogunquit Playhouse.